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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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Feeding our family of four

IMG_0980I suppose it’s not terribly surprising to hear a farmer say that she has food on her mind. But, oh I do. Food is, of course, a pretty common subject of thought around here. We grow it, harvest it, sell it. I’m sure we think about food (especially vegetables) more than most people! But these days, the topic is closer to home.

Specifically, I’ve been pondering this: how to feed our family. I’m sure that from reading our newsletters, it sounds like we’ve got this feeding ourselves things all figured out. And, yeah, we have lots and lots of years of practice with cooking scratch recipes from fresh, seasonal vegetables. But, you know, it’s still hard. It can be challenging to cook delightful, fresh, seasonal meals three times a day every day.

We face all the usual challenges that other families will relate to: trying to figure out what to feed a slightly picky kid, full schedules without a lot of wiggle room for food prep, the challenge of cooking food while simultaneously keeping kids from getting into trouble, and general boredom from repeating the same meals over and over again.

Lately the challenge has increased as Dottie no longer naps during lunchtime (oh, how easy it was to prepare lunch when the toddler was asleep!), and both kids have increased appetites as they grow. I used to be able to cook enough food that we’d consistently have leftovers for lunch, but no more! It almost always gets all gobbled up by these four hungry eaters. This means that lunch requires more creativity and work than it used to — it’s another meal! Bigger appetites for more people is just more work! I suppose it’s no surprise — for most of human history, growing and preparing food has been the basis of human activity (and especially for women!).

Anyhow, when I find myself in these challenging periods lacking in obvious inspiration (or just feeling in a rut), the changing seasons of our diet can be such a delightful way to revive my interest and enthusiasm for making food. As the season shifts, new foods necessarily make their way onto our plates, and I can find myself rejuvenated by those new colors, textures, and flavors. For example, roasting fava beans and whole green garlic together was a big hit this week — so easy, so tasty, and so very spring.

Alas, there were no leftovers from tonight's delicious dinner of kale and pork roast simmered in tomato sauce with green garlic, sweet onions, peas (from the freezer), and dried mushrooms!

Alas, there were no leftovers from tonight’s delicious dinner of kale and pork roast simmered in tomato sauce with green garlic, sweet onions, peas (from the freezer), and dried mushrooms! We scraped that pot clean!

I also find that making lists and meal rotations helps me a lot. When I feel stymied by what to make, working from a pre-planned list of ideas helps me a lot. I don’t make it complicated, it can just be as simple as “roasted meat + cooked greens” or “egg dish + salad + roasted veggie” Just having those basic formulas on a schedule helps to insure that I have a starting idea and that we eat a balance of meal types over the week (thus helping to eliminate some of the boredom that can come with eating the same thing too many times in a row!). I generally begin to stray for my meal plans within a few weeks, but getting back to a rhythmic foundation can really help me get over the humps. I’m working on a new meal plan for our family right now that better accounts for our new lunch reality of rare leftovers, hungry eaters, and two kids up and awake. For me, this new plan also includes making more time in my day to cook, since having more time to prep so often results in a more delicious, interesting (and less stressful to prepare) meal. I’m still trying to figure this out and am hoping to make better use of our slow cooker for full meal preparation (we use it a lot to cook meat, but then I still spend a lot of time turning that into a meal after the fact!).

Some of our newer farm products are also inspiration to me. For the prior two years of animal product on our farm, we had access to plenty of high quality meat, but it wasn’t ground (because we would have to do that ourselves, which we did … on occasion). Now that we too have access to ground beef again, we’re branching out beyond our staples of roasts into old favorite foods like meatloaf, hamburgers, and tacos!

I’m excited to try some of the new pork products we’re picking up from the butcher tomorrow: ham, Bratwursts, and pancetta (Italian style bacon) — all “uncured” with celery salt (no nitrates added!). I’m already thinking of how good it would be to pair chard, fennel, green garlic, and ham … mmmm, I’m getting inspired already!

So, this week I’ll keep fine tuning my lists and meal rhythms and as spring brings more new foods to our menu I will delight in the changes! I hope you too are enjoying the shifts and keeping up with your own unique challenges! Food can be such a joy — let us be intentional about building a life that makes room for food enjoyment through mindful preparation and eating. Food sustains us and can nourish our bodies and souls. May you find whatever tricks and practices you need to help you find peace and love in the work of feeding yourself and your family!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

CSA payments due tomorrow! Many of you have already brought us checks for this CSA payment, but if you haven’t yet here’s another reminder! Check your emailed statement for the amount, or you can ask me at pick-up. Thank you, friends!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Strawberries — They are even sweeter this week! And there are more of them! Hoorah!
  • Lettuce
  • Fava beans — Did you try them? I’ve heard at least one report of success with roasting (as I described in last week’s newsletter). We’ve eaten roasted fava beans several times this week. Our favorite combination is roasted fava beans and green garlic! Put whole green garlic on the pan with the fava beans, and it becomes delicious — all the way out to the crispy greens.
  • Fennel — Roasted fennel is pretty awesome too. Just sayin’.
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Celery leaf
  • Potatoes — I know I mentioned recently that my new favorite potato treatment is the old fashioned baked potato. I’ve been keeping a few baked potatoes in the fridge at all times lately. I reheat them by slicing them into thick rounds and then pan frying these in butter (liberally salted). The kids love them, and they’re practically instant food (since they are pre-cooked of course).
  • Leeks
  • Green garlic
  • Garlic

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm: Remember to bring containers when appropriate! Especially for eggs!

  • Corn flour  — $5 lb
  • Walnuts — $5 lb
  • Eggs — $4 dozen
  • Lamb — We’ve got more lamb! Prices vary depending on the cuts. We have roasts of all kinds and ground lamb available as well. This is going fast, so if you want lamb, I recommend checking out the selection this week. We’ll take more animals soon.
  • CANADIAN BACON! — The Canadian-style bacon was a big hit last week! We sold over half of our inventory already and expect to sell out this week. Get it while it lasts! $12/lb
  • More pork products — In addition, this week we’re adding more new pork products: BRATWURSTS, HAM, and PANCETTA (Italian-style bacon). Prices vary! Check it out!!!!!!
  • Fresh pork roasts & belly — $8 lb. These are cuts that haven’t been cured at all, so “fresh.” We have lots and lots of roasts that make for delicious crock pot meat.
  • Pork fat & skin — $3 lb
  • Ground beef — Everyone’s favorite staple meat! $7 for 1/lb packages
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Spring beauties

Caption here

A wild rose growing in our hedge.

As the kids and I were riding bikes this week, I was struck by the sight of a few blooming rose bushes amidst so many willows and blackberries. Although the blackberries were definitely not planted by us, the willows were — back in early 2010, when two other prior attempts to plant a hedge had seemingly failed. The first attempt happened in 2007, when Casey and I cut dormant twigs from native plants we liked and stuck them in a line along our road. Without water or tending (plus a few aggressive mows by the county), that first hedge hardly grew at all. Except for these handful of rose bushes that apparently quietly stuck around and then made a home amidst the new hedge.

And, now they are blooming: bright pink blossoms greeting us as we make our way. Although the rose bushes are now taller than me, given their location on the roadside, I doubt anyone in a car or truck would even notice them. But at the speed of foot and bike travel, they make for a breathtaking sight — so many pink buds, offering a delicious fragrance if you do indeed take time to stop. I’m smitten.

But, the whole world is offering us such gifts right now. May is such a drop dead gorgeous month. As the rain returned this week, it brought with it cleaner air again and lovely light. As the clouds come and go, shafts of sunlight make the green pastures glow with the most vibrant color of the year. That spring green just screams “life!”

And flowers abound in more places than just the hedge, of course. Flower gardens are in full glory — the kids and I visit my mother’s garden regularly to see what new delights are arriving. The snowball has passed its peak and left white blossoms all over the ground (blown by the spring winds everywhere), but the poppies are in full glory, and just in the last few days all the tame cultivated roses are opening. Some of them (the tea varieties) are much more chaste than the hedge roses, but others offer us a more voluptuous blossom to lower our noses into. Oh, this season!

Oh, and that rain? Aside from the beauty and the air cleaning, I should mention that it was also very welcome for its watering properties as well. If you haven’t driven out in the county lately, Yamhill County farmers are already in full irrigation mode. Coming on to the island last Friday evening, we counted five reel guns just by looking one direction. So, the rain was welcome. We need it. The season is so far progressed that rain does not mean we can take much of a break from irrigating, but it sure gives us some peace and a nice boost to all the plants (and pastures especially!).

We hope you have been enjoying this beautiful May and its gifts of flowers and green. Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Reminder! CSA payments due by May 21! I sent out emailed statements and payment reminders to everyone who owes their next CSA installment. If you have any questions about your account or payment amount, please let me know! Otherwise you can bring us cash or check to pick-up or mail it to us: Oakhill Organics, P.O. Box 1698, McMinnville, OR 97128. Thank you!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Strawberries — To Casey, the arrival of strawberry and fava bean season marks the true beginning of “the growing season” (as opposed to the shoulder seasons). Weather vagaries and such still abound through the whole summer, but abundance is here and we’ve begun that awesome parade through the main season crops. Need it be said? These strawberries are the earliest we’ve ever picked (you’ll likely hear that refrain a lot from us this year). We do very little to encourage earliness in this crop — no plastic mulch or greenhouses. So, seeing red fruit in early to mid-May is surprising to us! Nonetheless, we are glad to welcome these gems, as we had just last month run out of our stored apples and the gap in fresh fruit felt rough on our farm family. But now we are rejoicing in strawberry goodness. And, friends, not only are these strawberries — they are Hoods. Which if you are from Oregon you know means flavor-packed! The flavor should only get better over the next few weeks too as temperatures go back up.
  • Fava beans — Are you new to fava beans? Welcome to this new eating experience. I had certainly never eaten a fava bean until we grew them for our farm, but years later we’re totally hooked. Also known as broad beans, fava beans are a legume native to the “old” world and with a long history of cultivation. They can be used in many different culinary applications. As they get older and more mature, the tender bright green beans inside grow a slightly tougher white skin (inside the pod) that is often removed before cooking, making it a two-step process. It’s a bit laborious, but worth it a few times every spring (and good work for little hands!). I’ll write more about that in later weeks when the beans have reached that stage, but for now I’ll invite you to enjoy fava beans in a different way. At this stage, the beans inside are still quite tender and fresh, and we have learned to enjoy eating the whole bean, pod and all. You definitely need to cook these — they are only distantly related to snap beans after all. Our favorite way to cook whole fava bean pods is to roast them on a pan in the oven. This is a time when you definitely do not want to overburden the pan so as to miss out on the roasting magic (too many beans and you’ll end up steaming rather than roasting). First toss the beans in oil and then lay them on a pan and liberally salt. Roast at 425° until turning brown and getting crispy/soft. Serve whole! You can also BBQ for similar results.
  • Fennel bulbs — Remember that I posted about fennel bulbs in this prior newsletter.
  • Lettuce
  • Mustard greens
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Potatoes
  • Leeks — The leeks are beginning to bolt (put out seed heads). You’ll be able to see the bolts coming out of the tops of some of the leeks. That top part is super delicious — chop it up and throw it in the pan with the rest of your leeks (and remember that we even like the greens finely chopped too!). But I find that sometimes as it goes down into the leek, the bolt can become fibrous (this varies a lot from leek to leek). To check my leeks, I slice them in half and then pull out the bolt and check it separate with my knife. If it slices just beautifully, I put it in the food. If not, I’ll just put in the compost and chop up the rest of the leek. I must say, I love seeing so many vegetables harvested at different stages of their life cycle (such as eating young fava beans and then more mature beans later). Since leeks are “biennial” plants, they flower and develop seeds after a winter of being in the ground. We’re now in that part of their life! But next year’s leeks are already in the ground too (including some we’ve planted specifically for late summer harvest). This is a crop that overlaps on our farm — we always have leeks growing somewhere!
  • Green garlic
  • Garlic

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm: Remember to bring containers when appropriate! Especially for eggs!

  • Corn flour  — $5 lb
  • Walnuts — $5 lb
  • Green garlic & chard stalk pickles — Did you know that in some European culinary traditions, chard is actually cultivated for its stalk? I’ve heard that in some places, the greens are actually tossed to the animals as cooks focus their attention on the stalk (for uses such as delicious gratins). And yet in the U.S. so often we make the opposite mistake and put our attention on the leafy bit with some disregard for the stalk! The stalk is indeed a delicious vegetable, with the greens or on its own. This time of year as the chard also begins to “bolt” (see my comments about leeks above), those chard stalks grow extra thick and meaty. A deliciously cooked chard stalk reminds Casey and me of cardoons (another European specialty). For this week’s fermented offering, Casey chopped up chard stalks and mixed them with green garlic. We think this is going to be awesome. $8/pint, $5/half pint ($1 more for our jars)
  • Eggs — $4 dozen
  • Lamb — We’ve got more lamb! Prices vary depending on the cuts. The chops go fast, so if you want them, get them this week! We also have roasts of all kinds and ground lamb available as well.
  • IMG_0976BACON! — Oh, yes! We sent hogs to the butcher a few weeks ago with directions to ‘make us some bacon’ (among other things like ham and sausage as well). Some of those tasty products are still in progress (smoking and such does take time), but today Jasper went and picked up the first installment: Canadian-style slab bacon from three different cuts (shoulder, loin, etc). This is technically “uncured” pork, meaning that it was “cured” using celery seed rather than nitrates. The result is delicious goodness. $12/lb
  • Fresh pork roasts & belly — $8 lb. These are cuts that haven’t been cured at all, so “fresh.” We have lots and lots of roasts that make for delicious crock pot meat. Pulled pork anyone? Yes, please!
  • Pork fat & skin — $3 lb
  • Ground beef — It’s back!!!!! $7 for 1/lb packages. “And, there was much rejoicing.”

Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

The community season

Last Friday, one of our youngest CSA members supervised as Jasper cut potatoes for seed. In the background, you can see folks dropping cut seed into furrows. On the far left is Casey riding our little orange tractor, covering up those seeds with hilling discs.

Last Friday, one of our youngest CSA members supervised as Jasper cut potatoes for seed. In the background, you can see folks dropping cut seed into furrows. On the far left is Casey riding our little orange tractor, covering up those seeds with hilling discs.

Last Friday, we welcomed May Day, also known as Beltane. In the turning of the year, this is the halfway point between the darkest parts of the year and the lightest parts. We are now in the half of the year with the greatest photosynthetic potential — a time that brings almost unbelievably rapid growth to all green leafy things in our fields and beyond.

This is the time of year when we have to completely change our mental calculations for upcoming harvests, because growth is not at all linear. The lettuce that only grew 50% between last week and this may well double size by next week. Strawberries that were green two days ago will ripen before we know it (and, yes, we have eaten the first of the ripe Hoods this week — in early May!).

This half of the year is exciting, bringing with it the bulk of our work and activity. Given the precocity of this particular season, we’ve already done a ton of planting and other work that might otherwise be crammed into May (see my post-script for an update on our new transplanter!).

But, our personal activities also seem to pick up in pace this time of year. It feels very much as though all that sun energy shifts our bodies into higher gear too. Already, Casey and I feel ourselves waking with more energy than we ever do in winter (regardless of amount or quality of sleep). Days are exciting, and we find ourselves filling non-work moments with visits and celebrations with friends and our wider community. Our family home is relatively small, and these sunny days also become the setting for most of the gatherings we host (since it is easier to be outside!).

Just last week, we launched the busier social season with our farm potato planting and potluck. The gathering was so lovely. Given the afternoon start time, we understood that most of our CSA members just couldn’t join us, but a few did, along with some other community members who wanted to visit and check out the farm (including two new farmers from outside of McMinnville — they joined us after a long day of work at their own farm!). The planting went off without a hitch, putting those potato seeds in the ground perfectly timed with the biodynamic planting calendar. Last year’s potatoes were planted similarly synched to the planets, and the harvest results were stupendous, so we’re excited to see how this year’s crop does as well. After we finished planting, everyone gathered by our house for a perfect potluck dinner — everyone brought complementary elements, and we feasted on baked potatoes, salad, pork, and banana bread muffins as the gold evening light descended on the fields.

The next day, our family headed off the farm to a friend’s homestead for a truly magical May Day gathering — flower-bedecked children, May pole, and all! After several hours of visiting, dancing, and playing in the mud (the children, that is), we headed home feeling so very sun-kissed (but, miraculously, not actually sun burnt).

I love this time of year. I love the energy we have for our work and the excitement of each coming harvest. Before we picked the first ripe strawberries this week, our family tasted the first of the ripe wild salmonberries on a walk in the woods. And, so it begins: that rolling thrill of successional harvests. Our children delight in knowing that every week of late spring and summer will bring something new. They eagerly anticipate the arrival of each new harvest and rejoice in first fruits of all kinds. Watching the progress of ripening fruit makes for good farm walks for us — I hardly need to prod the kids out the door if the destination is to “check on the plums.”

And, I must mention again, that of course all these first fruits are expected to arrive much earlier than usual. For us to eat ripe salmon berries and Hood strawberries in early May is exceptional. All signs point to all harvests arriving so early through the year. I hope we don’t get burnt out on summer’s glory too soon! But we’re choosing to not worry too much about the vagaries of this particular season. It is proving to be an interesting one, and I’m sure we’ll all talk and talk and talk about how it goes, remarking regularly on the earliest of each and every harvest. It’s not bad, this talking about the weather. We share our experience of the weather, so I like to think of it as important common ground in our community.

This evening, the clouds are rolling over the farm, bringing ever-changing qualities to the light. When the sun hits, wow it is warm. But this morning, we still put on our sweaters to leave the house. Oh, May, how lovely you are with your sweet sunshine, green growth, and [relatively] mild warmth. Thank you for joining us again this year!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

P.S. The new transplanter got more use this week, once again allowing Casey and the crew to get a lot of starts in the ground in dribs and drabs of work over Monday (a day also filled with other things, like delivery of animals to the butcher and friends visiting for lunch). This time, I got a photo, so you can see what it looks like behind the tractor:

Little plants going in the ground!

Little plants going in the ground! No one is bending over! Hoorah!

~ ~ ~

Farm news:

  • First, for those of you who still want to attend a farm event this year, I want to remind you of two more opportunities this season: We will have a farm dinner on Saturday, August 15, and our Pumpkin Patch open house in the afternoon of Sunday, October 25. Put those dates on your calendar!
  • And, if you’re thinking a CSA payment must be coming soon, then you are correct! The next payment is due in two weeks, on May 21. I will send out email statements with exact amounts and account history next week. If you have any questions after receiving those, please email me! Thank you!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Head lettuce — Yes, I’ll mention it again: our family is eating lots of salad lately. At least one salad every day. Always dressed with our new favorite “creamy” dressing (scroll down to find that “recipe” in last week’s newsletter).
  • Stinging Nettles — I’m guessing that the nettles are winding down for the season. It’s been a solidly good run, and we are grateful for how much we’ve been able to eat this spring!
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Parsley
  • Celery leaf
  • Potatoes — I felt sort of ridiculous last week, when I put a big load of potatoes in a pan to bake for our CSA potluck. It was such an easy way to feed a lot of people at once that I remarked on it several times! Why baking potatoes felt like such a revelation is a mystery to me. I suppose our default is always to chop and roast — it’s certainly much faster, and I love all those deliciously crunchy edges. But with a bit of lead time, baking potatoes certainly beats many other cooking options for easy feeding of the masses. Mothers of countless generations before me have known this to be true. And, so, I am finding myself repeating that simple choice more. Even the leftovers are great, since our yellow potatoes don’t turn mushy when baked. I can slice them and reheat the already cooked potatoes on a baking sheet (and, yes, then we get those deliciously crunchy edges too).
  • Leeks
  • Garlic
  • Corn flour
  • Some extra treats too … !

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm: Remember to bring containers when appropriate! Especially for eggs!

  • Corn flour  — $5 lb
  • Oat flour — $5 lb
  • Walnuts — $5 lb
  • We are still taking a break from the fermented veggies — we’re just in a lull between obvious “fermentable” options! Chard stalks, pickled, next week!
  • Eggs — $4 dozen
  • Pork cuts — We’ve got shanks, pork belly, fresh ham roasts, and lots kinds of roasts! Prices vary.
  • Pork fat & skin — $3 lb
  • Lamb — More lamb coming next week!
  • Ground beef — More beef coming next week! (Including bones!)
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | 1 Comment

Making technology work

Newly planted transplants being watered in our fields this afternoon. These went into the ground SO FAST.

Newly transplanted starts getting watered in our fields this afternoon. These went into the ground QUICKLY.

We bought a new tool for the farm this week. Such acquisitions always bring with them equal amounts of excitement/hope and anxiety/worry. Now that we are in our tenth season, we have a thorough understanding of how technology can be time-(and back-)saving, but also how new tools can bring new complications to existing systems (along with their own mechanical quirks to figure out).

This week’s new tool was a biggie in terms of money outlay and potential for the farm. We bought a two row mechanical transplanter. We resisted buying a mechanical transplanter for a long time (ahem, we are in our tenth season after all!). We were hesitant because they require at least two people to operate (one in the tractor driver seat, one on the transplanter); they generally require specific soil prep conditions; they require specific start conditions; and they can generally impose a more rigid set of planting circumstances because it becomes more onerous to adjust in-row plant spacing, bed spacing, planting depth, etc.

None of this creates insurmountable obstacles, but we knew that technologies such as this remove flexibility. It just becomes harder, even if the technology only creates a psychology barrier to changing things rather than creating a true obstacle. For example, if changing bed spacing requires adjusting the planter, how often will we do it? Or, will we just choose an average mostly-good bed spacing and stick with it for all of our planting? Experiences tells us that the latter option is most likely amidst a busy farm.

Until now, we’ve planted by hand. We walk down the row “laying out” starts at the appropriate spacing, and then another person follows behind planting — quickly scooping a divot in the ground and packing the start in. We do this quickly, giving each start just a few seconds of attention. The movement becomes automatic very quickly. However, need we say that this is hard work? Not so hard in the first five minutes. Or even the first hour. But a whole morning/afternoon/day of planting can be exhausting and lead to aching back and legs. Even the laying out process can be tiring because one needs to slightly lean over to avoid hurting the plant by dropping it from too high.

Casey planting with the Drängen back when we first acquired it in 2008. We bought ours used from another farm, who imported it from Europe. Now they can be purchased domestically.

Casey planting with the Drängen back when we first acquired it in 2008. We bought ours used from another farm, who imported it from Europe. Now they can be purchased domestically.

Many years ago, we acquired a nifty tool/tractor that we used to help ease the back ache from this work. It’s called a “Drängen” work cart, and it’s a self-propelled platform that allows a person to move over the field in a face-down prone position. These types of tools were developed in northern Europe, where high labor costs mean that owner operators and their families still do quite a lot of field work themselves (much like Casey, who does physical work all day). These farmers need body-saving mechanisms to avoid early burn out! I think it’s a really neat design, and we have used our Drängen with off-and-on success over the years. We learned that it does require a typical northern European body to use effectively (i.e. long arms), and that it does require patience to adjust it to one’s body shape (otherwise it creates other body problems). But when used effectively, it definitely helped with the planting process (at least with the planting; the laying out was still done in the old way), and we like that it didn’t impose any particular bed or row spacings onto our system. It felt very flexible.

But the Drängen wasn’t a perfect solution, and we’ve continued to ponder mechanical transplanters, since so many of our farmer friends have employed them with great success (albeit with modifications to their plantings systems to make them work!). When a certain type of transplanter showed up for sale locally on craigslist, we jumped on it. The seller let us borrow it this last week to give it a try. And, yes, there was a lot of tinkering to be done to get the adjustments right for our starts and spacing and such. Oh, yes. Plenty.

The new transplanter, a two-row Mechanical 4000, parked in our pole building for now. Note the SEATS. Cushy. The starts get dropped in the little rotating cones and then tamped in as the transplanting rolls along.

The new transplanter, a two-row Mechanical 4000, parked in our pole building for now. Note the SEATS. Cushy. The starts get dropped in the little rotating cones and then tamped in as the transplanting rolls along.

But, then. Then there was planting. Lots and lots of planting. The owner actually came out to help one afternoon, and he, Casey, Jasper, and our friend Duncan planted in three hours what would have probably taken two days to plant using our old methods. And, I should add, these were three hours of sitting down in comfortable positions. This trial demonstration was very compelling, and need I add that we wrote our new friend a check the very next day?

Again, we know that this new tool will likely bring us headaches. There will be more mechanical blips and weird things where we find that our starts are falling through the chute right and breaking on the ground. Such things will happen. But sometimes those minor headaches are totally worth the payoff. Sometimes technologies really can bring new levels of efficiency to the farm! We are excited to see that be true with this new tool.

The irony, of course, is that with the increased speed of planting time, our transplanter will likely sit unused for big chunks of the year! I think this is how many of our friends’ farms have grown and grown and grown in acreage over the years — they adopt new efficient technologies and find themselves with the time to plant/weed/do more. I’m hoping that we can instead just feel grateful for the efficiencies and allow them to bring ever more sanity to this farm — to grow those luxurious-feeling buffers of time around our work. For sure, we will be grateful to any tool that gives us more comfortable bodies as we do our work on the farm. We are very aware that our bodies (and those of our employees) need to be part of the farm’s long-term sustainability vision!

And, are you wondering what we planted? Cabbage! Cauliflower! Chard! Lettuce! Leeks! Onions! (Leeks and onions are notoriously the hardest, most laborious, frustrating transplants of the year — getting those in with this machine was a great test of exactly why we’d been wanting it. What a relief to have those big plantings already in the ground, without the usual accompanying back ache!)

This Friday, we do more planting — potatoes on May Day! Again, if you are planning to join us for the planting/potluck (or one or the other), please RSVP at pick-up this week (or email me if that works better). We need to know how many people to expect! You can find directions and more information in last week’s newsletter here. The weather is supposed to be perfect! (And, again, if you can’t join us this time, no problem! We hope to have you out another time this year!)

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Salad mix — We have been eating lots of salads in our house this spring. We add meat on top and call it an easy meal for these busy days. I always make a salad dressing fresh for each salad. It’s super simple using an immersion blender, and we love the results. I mix up my preference, but lately I’ve been making a really satisfying variation on mayonnaise. I use a wide-mouthed pint mason jar and add one raw egg and a bit of vinegar (maybe equal proportions to the egg itself — I mix up what kind of vinegar, switching between Red Wine, Balsamic, and Apple Cider). I add some salt and pepper and a clove of garlic if I’m up for peeling it. Then I put it my immersion blender and start blending while drizzling in olive oil. When the dressing reaches about the one-third mark, it starts getting thick and emulsifies. The more oil, the thicker it gets. I usually stop when the jar is about half full, which in my experience results in a nice creamy dressing (I like using less oil so that you can better taste the vinegars, but more oil would make it stiffer and more like mayo). We dress our salad liberally just before serving. I always dress it in a large bowl, using my hands so that all the leaves get coated evenly. Like I said, we eat meat on top to make it a meal, but you can add all kinds of filling toppings to achieve this effect (perhaps varying the vinegars/oils to nicely complement flavors): cubes of cheese, nuts, smoked fish, dried fruit, chopped veggies, sliced hard-boiled eggs, etc.
  • Stinging nettles
  • Red Russian kale
  • Mustard/kale bunches — These are mixed bunches of mustard greens and “dinosaur” kale, picked from our greenhouses. Dino kale goes by many names: lacinato, black kale, black palm, tuscano. It’s probably the most favored kale of the restaurant world, but it is harder to grow than other varieties (of course!). In some times of the year, the ribbing gets tougher, but this spring greenhouse kale is tender all the way through. I chop it finely (chiffonade), ribbing and all, to cook for our meals. The mustards can be cooked with it. A delicious blend of flavorful cooking greens!
  • Chard
  • Parsley
  • Celery leaf
  • Beets
  • Potatoes
  • Leeks
  • Green garlic
  • Walnuts

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm: Remember to bring containers when appropriate! Especially for eggs!

  • Corn flour  — $5 lb
  • Oat flour — $5 lb
  • Walnuts — $5 lb
  • Sauerkraut — $5 pint / $3 half pint ($1 for our jars). We still have some cabbage sauerkraut. We decided to take a week off of fermented veggies for now as we figure out the next direction for our crock (what comes next?).
  • Eggs — $4 dozen
  • Pork cuts — We’ve got pork! Lots of pork! Have you ever tried braising pork belly? This is the same cut that gets used to make bacon. Bacon is delicious, and it’s not just because of the curing. Try it fresh! It’s a revelation!
  • Pork fat & skin — $3 lb
  • Lamb organs — We’ve got organs left, and we are taking more lambs to the butcher next week. Since they will be aged before cutting, lamb will be back in full force in two weeks.
  • Ground beef — $7 for 1 lb package ~ Almost out! Just like the lamb, we’ll have more in two weeks.
  • Bacon, ham, sausageComing soon! We delivered four hogs to the butcher this week, with instructions for all of the meat to be turned into various yummy things: bacon, ham, sausage — all of it using the natural “celery seed” method for “curing” (technically, they call the results “uncured,” but don’t let this lead you astray, because the bacon is most definitely bacon, etc.). These should be ready in a few more weeks, and we are so excited to share them with you!
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | 2 Comments

Plan your summer

Sugar snap peas growing and growing!

Sugar snap pea vines growing and growing! Much to look forward to this spring!

This week on the farm seemed to bring more of the same good stuff we’ve been seeing all spring: good work weeding, planting, sowing. Warm sunny days punctuated by little squalls and drizzles. Growth all around.

Perhaps you’d like to come and see some of this goodness firsthand? Our CSA Potato Planting Party is next week! We’ve decided that it would helpful for us to know how many people to expect for this event, so Please RSVP if you are coming! To make RSVP’ing easy, I’ll have an RSVP sign-up sheet at pick-up the next two weeks that you can just write your name and number of people on. The planting will happen Friday, May 1. We’ll gather at 3 pm to plant and then eat a potluck meal at 5 pm (or earlier if the planting goes quickly enough! We’ve already been planting some of the seed, so this will be the last of it!).

Directions to the farm: Take HWY-18 to the Dayton exit. Drive straight through Dayton and keep heading south on Wallace Rd/HWY-221. In about seven miles, turn LEFT onto Grand Island Rd. After the bridge, turn RIGHT onto SE Upper Island Rd. Our driveway is immediately on your LEFT. Please park somewhere on the right side of the driveway or in the back by the white pole barn. We will be out in the field to the south, past our greenhouses and house (ours is the 2-story wood house on the back right of the driveway). If you get lost or have questions, you can call me: 503-474-7661. Remember to let us know to expect you! Thank you!

Can’t make it this time? No problem! This is mostly just for the fun of it — the potatoes will get planted either way, but we love including you in the farm. We’ll have two more CSA farm events this season as well:

  • Saturday, August 15, 5 pm — CSA dinner (with farm tours before)
  • Sunday, October 25, 2-4 pm — CSA pumpkin patch open house

The pumpkin patch event is always super fun — we have a tradition of having live music at the event, and we often even get good weather! More details on those events to come as we get closer. We’re curious what your thoughts might be for the dinner. Would people be willing to pay to come to a catered event? We did that once upon a time, and it was exhausting but amazing (that time we didn’t charge, but realistically we’d need to!). Or we could just do a friendly potluck! If you have thoughts on that, share them with us! We hope you can join us for one event this year! We love being able to share this beautiful place with our community of eaters.

And, while you’re planning for summer, we’ve been asked to share our thoughts for home gardeners. Yes, many of our CSA member also keep a garden! What things would be good to plant this year to complement your CSA options?

As usual, we are planting a wide range of items — loads of annual vegetables, of course. You can expect to see regular supplies of all the veggies we consider staples: greens, roots, summer fruits (zucchini, beans, etc.), onion-y things, etc. All year-long we’ll have a diverse range of offerings available, just as we do now (what’s available will just shift with the seasons). We’ll also have seasonal fruits available: strawberries, cherries, raspberries, melons, plums, apples, pears, etc. For those of you who like to can and freeze, we aim to have extra quantities of the classic “putting up” foods available for you to purchase (tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, beans, berries, etc.). We’re also growing flowers and will have bouquets for sale at pick-up during the summer!

So, where does that leave you? I say, grow what you love to grow! And certainly grow staples that your family just loves. There are also a few small fruited items that we either aren’t growing at all this year (such as cherry tomatoes) or that people just seem to want more than we can ever seem to grow or pick (peas! broccoli!). So I always recommend those for home gardens too. If there’s something specific you’re wondering about, feel free to ask us at pick-up. Hopefully that helps you get started!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Salad turnips — Smooth, sweet flavor for crunchy snacks or salad toppings! I always make sure to save the greens too. I love adding them to other cooked greens dishes. They cook super fast, so I generally add them toward the end.
  • Fennel bulb — This is probably the #1 confusing vegetable for people. I think we get the most questions about how to use it of anything. Makes sense, because it doesn’t obviously fit into any clear cooking category — it’s not clearly a root or a green. It’s a vegetable! Generally speaking, I just add the fennel bulb to whatever cooked greens we’re eating. I trim the butt and chop it fine up through the stalks and add to the butter with my onions/leeks/garlic. Let me tell you, folks — that smell is going to knock your socks off. For me, the smell of fennel sautéing is a powerful trigger for physical memories of past seasons. I.Love.It. The fennel addition will change the flavor of your whole dish — fennel pairs well with tomatoes, fish, white wine, pepper, lemon (you don’t need to do all of those at once! I just want to help you “place” it “culinarily”). The leafy fronds are the part that looks more familiar to many people. We enjoy these too, but they have a strong flavor (they are more akin to the herb fennel), so I recommend using them sparingly in salad dressings or on meat or mixed into cooked greens. Adjust your volume to your taste preference.
  • Chard
  • Stinging nettles
  • Kale
  • Parsley
  • Carrots
  • Kohlrabi
  • Beets
  • Potatoes
  • Leeks — Here on the farm, we’ve all been experimenting with “full leek usage.” Jasper, Casey, and I all agree — leeks greens are delicious! Yep! How awesome to discover that the entire leek can be used in a meal. Here’s how: first, I clean and chop the base of the leek like normal (split and chop into half moons). Then I carefully clean and finely chop the greens (removing any yellowed bits) and put them in with the other leeks to cook. In the final resulting food, the leek greens have a texture like any other cooked green, but they impart more of that delicious leek flavor to it all! (Meanwhile, the base of your leek will likely have all but disappeared into your food — they are so good at cooking away their texture!)
  • Garlic
  • Corn flour — Wanted to try our corn flour but haven’t had a chance yet? Here’s your opportunity! We love this stuff. We grew it on our farm (of course), from organic non-GMO seed stock. We grind it ourselves too. Our favorite applications for eating is to make pancakes, but it’s useful in any kind of “quick bread” recipe (muffins, etc.).
  • Eggs

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm: Remember to bring containers when appropriate! Especially for eggs!

  • Corn flour  — $5 lb
  • Oat flour — $5 lb
  • Walnuts — $5 lb
  • Fermented garlic paste! — Back again, by popular demand! This is some potent stuff. Spread it on a slice of fresh baguette. Put it in salad dressing. Each it by the spoonful. So amazing. $9 / half pint (it will already be in jars).
  • Eggs — $4 dozen
  • Pork cuts — We’ve got chops, ground pork, pork belly, and lots of roasts! Prices vary.
  • Pork fat & skin — $3 lb
  • Lamb — We’ve got one lamb shoulder and one deboned leg of lamb left (and organs! Lamb organs are the best!). We’ll take some more lambs to the butcher soon, but for now the lamb lovers better act fast!
  • Ground beef — $7 for 1 lb package
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | 2 Comments

Kids of all kinds

Sowing sunflowers before daybreak.

Sowing sunflowers before daybreak.

This morning brought fun activity on the farm. First of all, a slightly sick Dottie awoke for the day at 5 am (too early!), so — ever the creative farm father that he is — Casey suggested that she help him sow some sunflowers. Before breakfast. And, so it happened!

Kid!

Kid!

At breakfast itself, we found ourselves all staring out the window to watch our goats. All but one had come out of their shed to graze, and given that two does were due today we wondered if that meant the last one was inside with babies. Eventually we confirmed that hunch through binoculars, and later in person. Our first kids born on the farm! (Besides our own, that is!)

Um, by the way, goat kids are seriously cute. Like, ridiculously floppy, adorable, over-the-top CUTE.

So, now we’ve got two kids on the farm (besides our own!) and a doe in milk, with more on the way.

Which begs the question of why we have goats. I mean the answer is obvious: goats are awesome, and goat milk is amazing. Yes, really — I’m sorry for you if you’ve never had good goat milk, but trust me that good goat milk exists, and it is divine — just hard to come by. Our family is totally hooked on goat milk everything — yogurt, cheese, milk (in coffee — heaven).

When we purchased these goats last fall, the idea was to transition from being an “exempt” raw cow milk dairy to a licensed raw goat milk dairy. We had lots of really fun conversations with our local ODA inspector about how to make this dream a reality, including continuing our favored practice of milking on fresh pasture every day (very clean!). Amazingly enough, the ODA was game and was willing to work through tricky logistics with us. Between all of us, we had some pretty good plans in place.

In the meantime, we dried off our cows and goats (who we’d been milking just for our own family at that point) — and for the first time in two and a half years, we had no active dairy component to our farm. No daily milking. No big routine of cleaning all the milking equipment. No employees on the farm seven days a week.

I’ll tell you what: it has felt really good to take a break. And, in that time, the farm has really turned a (very positive!) corner in our profitability. The years that we operated our dairy and our prior “Full Diet” CSA program (an older manifestation of what we’re doing at the storefront now) were pretty lean years around here in every sense. We always felt pinched for time and money. Thankfully we had many years of farming before those years to know that our farm does not have to feel that way!

So, we made some big and little changes, and today we are so glad. Our days have more breathing room in every sense. Smiles come easier. This precocious spring has certainly helped too (have you looked at the forecast for the coming week? Wowza, it’s going to be awesome here in the Willamette Valley).

One of the lessons for us from recent years is that we really can’t do everything out here. We can do a lot, but adding additional enterprises can often add stress without adding much profitability. Given that our family depends on the farm for our full livelihood (and have done so since the first year! Hoorah!), basic profitability is not negotiable!

Which brings us back to goat milk. Goats are awesome. Goat milk is awesome. But, but, but — with a farm that’s grooving along happily this spring, we question whether re-adding a micro dairy component to our already very diverse offerings would re-add more stress to our days and budgets. Dairying is hard. We have deep and profound respect for the farmers who make their livelihood this way, committed to their animals and dairies for decades. It’s a type of farming with little to no built-in rest. We bow to you dairy men and women.

Tomorrow Casey plans to go out to milk Belle. Our family will enjoy her milk. But the plan beyond that is still up in the air. Sell milk under the exempt raw milk laws here on the farm? Maybe? Or just keep these goats for the farm — possibly. The next few days and weeks may help clarify.

Dottie checking the growth of our plums.

Dottie checking the growth of our plums.

It’s clear though that we want to sustain what we have gained out here with some of 2015’s changes — all that breathing room is just too wonderful to give up (and of course the main summer growing season itself will take up some of it!). What does that breathing room give us? It means that today — the middle of our busy work week — Casey got to host a tour for a class of Chemeketa students, helping explain to them how and why we grow our food organically. It means that even though Casey works seven days a week right now (because of animal chores on the weekend), we get very quiet weekend afternoons to hang out, work on house projects and inoculate mushroom logs. It means that I can focus more of my days on being with our kids, helping them to grow and learn through the methods we enjoy best (such as taking walks around the field to harvest and building stick tipis on a sunny afternoon!).

Stick tipi! Pruned branches from our orchard can be fun we learned!

Stick tipi! Pruned branches from our orchard can be fun we learned!

I definitely don’t want to suggest that our days are all carefree idyllic sunshine around here. We still work plenty hard! Oh boy! But there is a sense of space around all that work that brings great pleasure into to our daily purpose. At the end of 2012, Casey and I both had some close scrapes with our health, and it gave a renewed sense of urgency to live now. To not defer enjoyment, because tomorrow may just not be. And, we love this work. When we have the space to enjoy it, it brings great, deep joy to our days.

So, we’re pondering still. For the most part, we understand and love the shape of our farm and where it is headed this year and beyond. But then there are these goats and their milk. Something to ponder.

But you know what we don’t doubt? At all? The awesomeness of vegetables. This time of year is traditionally the leanest for annual vegetables — as the storage and over-wintered crops begin to run out but the spring planted crops aren’t quite ready yet. We keep bracing for what we call “the pinch point,” but then the list of CSA items flows from Casey’s pen like magic. We call it “alchemy,” because honestly it is hard to see the abundance this time of year (except in the greenhouses!). But even though the volume of hay and stored veggies are reduced from their full fall glory, they are still here. The over-wintered crops are still pumping out new leaves. The fields are providing. Living so intimately with these miracles is a heady thing, my friends. An overwhelmingly amazing and awesome experience. Alchemy.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Head lettuce — Thank you to our greenhouses for this extra special treat!
  • Salad/chicory mix — This salad mix features all kinds of greens from our fields, including chicories (relatives of radicchio), rapini, kale and parsley. We recommend chopping this fine and dressing it with a mild or sweet dressing.
  • Chard
  • Kale & mustards — These are mixed bunches of greenhouse kale and mustard greens. They can be cooked together with delicious results. The mustards will taste slightly spicy when raw (although these are relatively mild), but the spice mellows out with cooking.
  • Stinging nettles
  • Celery leaf
  • ParsleyThis week’s share offers two very unique opportunities for making pesto. First, you can use garlic and walnuts from this week’s share for either preparation, but then you have to choose your green: nettles or parsley? Both are amazing, but they have very distinct flavors. Process your chosen green with olive oil, walnuts and garlic (salting to taste). Eat on everything!
  • Kohlrabi
  • Potatoes
  • Beets
  • Green garlic
  • Garlic
  • Apples
  • Walnuts — If you haven’t tried our walnuts yet, here’s a great opportunity! These are English walnuts and they have a great sweet flavor. They also have a fun special feature — you can open [most of them] with just your fingers! They twist open! This makes them extra fun treats to eat with kids. Ask us to demonstrate at pick-up.
  • Eggs

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm: Remember to bring containers when appropriate! Especially for eggs!

  • Corn flour  — $5 lb
  • Oat flour — $5 lb
  • Walnuts — $5 lb
  • Sauerkraut — More traditional cabbage sauerkraut. $5 / pint or $3 / half pint (our jars are $1 each, but you can bring your own).
  • Eggs — $4 dozen
  • Pork cuts — We’ve got chops, ground pork, pork belly, and lots of roasts! Prices vary.
  • Pork fat & skin — $3 lb
  • Lamb — Prices vary. We’ve got all kinds of delicious roasts! If you want a special treat to feed a crowd, try buying one of our deboned legs of lambs.
  • Ground beef — $7 for 1 lb package

 

Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | 2 Comments

Seasonal notes

A curious sight: rain clouds passing by while sprinklers run (simply because they are connected to the line running to our greenhouse).

A curious spring sight: rain clouds passing by while sprinklers run (they are connected to the line running to our greenhouse).

We had a cozy lunch today. Just before Casey came in to join us at the table, a dark storm front rolled in, bringing with it pounding rain and eventually a few claps of thunder too. The weather outside the window just made our little meal feel warmer inside.

These spring storms have been blowing through a lot lately. We can see them coming from the west before they arrive — dark walls that march toward us with swirling wind and rain.

It's just not that big of a woodstove! Or that big of a house! Or that cold! But, thanks kids!

It’s just not that big of a woodstove! Or that big of a house! Or that cold! But, thanks kids!

After such a warm and dry winter, early spring, it has been a lovely break to have all this wet weather. We had to build fires in the woodstove again this week for the first time in many weeks. Apparently the act of building a fire to heat our house is now a fun novelty, and the kids have really gotten into bringing in fire wood. Quite a bit more than we need in fact, since our two fires were really just needed to cut the chill in the air. Alas, we now have a giant pile of fire wood by the stove that will likely sit there unused again until October! (Ok, I’ll probably eventually move it outside again.)

I’ve begun thinking about finishing up last year’s food in the freezer as well. This time of year it’s always interesting to see what we have left — some items are left simply because we put up so much of them, but we also find ourselves sometimes with things that just weren’t as useful or desirable as we anticipated. This year both Casey and I feel pretty “done” with tomatoes, which is a big surprise! We both wish we’d frozen more tomatillos (which add such a nice complex flavor to cooked meat), so next year we’ll put up more of those! We’re happy to remember that we’d frozen quite a lot of strawberries and raspberries and are trying to make use of these now since the next berry season is really not that far off. We’ve been making berry “pancakes” every week, and I’ve shared the recipe with you here (it’s actually an egg recipe!).

In contrast to what we expect from this season, we are thick in the middle of weeding already. Normally we’d just be beginning the planting process, so this is a surprise! Honestly, it’s hard to really know what we should be doing some days out here, with so much already in the ground and yet so much that still needs to be sown and planted.

As to be expected, however, leaves are showing up on more and more trees. Our Linden is leafing out, and the kids are excited for buds to appear (although we still have more time before that happens). The Linden flowers make our favorite tea (with nettles in a close second). We recently checked out a Northwest foraging book from the library and are looking forward to trying new treats this spring. Our landscape is full of more food than we imagined! Nettles, Linden blossoms, yet so much more too! This weekend’s experiment with wild foods will be the inner bark from a cottonwood tree (I will report back whether it is as sweet and delicious as the book promises). Alas, we have no Camas on our property. Oh, how amazing this valley must have been when it was rich with Camas fields!

Busy active kids can eat a lot of food! Rusty enjoys the slackline Casey set up on our porch. A great spring activity.

Busy active kids can eat a lot of food! Rusty enjoys the slackline Casey set up on our porch. A great spring activity.

But, food abounds. As our kids get older and eat more food, we are appreciating new benefits of being farmers. That whole “another mouth to feed” line is not just verbiage. These kids can now eat a lot of food! Just tonight, they each ate two relatively large pork chops each (along with a whole lot of sweet corn from our freezer stash). How wonderful to have a ready supply of so many good quality foods to share with these growing kids. We are grateful for our farm home as much as ever for so many reasons these days!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Reminder: Potato Planting & Potluck on May 1! Now that we’re in April, I wanted to remind folks that our first on-farm CSA event is coming up in just a few weeks. Join us on May 1 to help plant potatoes and then enjoy a potluck meal together. We’ll gather at 3 pm to plant (and you can come out earlier if you like, but please let us know to expect you). Then we’ll potluck at 5 pm. Come when you can! I’ll post more details, reminders, and directions as we get closer to the event.

~ ~ ~

The berry pancake that’s NOT a pancake (an egg recipe): We’ve formed a new Thursday morning snack tradition around here. We make what we call a “berry pancake.” We got the basic recipe from a cookbook and have quickly memorized it because it is so simple. It is, at its essence, a soufflé, but if I say that you will get scared and I want you to try this, because it is SO good! The results are fluffy and delicious, just like a pancake, but it’s all eggs! I love this because the kids happily eat it up (and we do too).

Preheat your oven to 350°.

Begin by putting a handful or two of berries into a 10″ (or so) saute pan. More or less berries doesn’t really matter — it will just affect how many berries end up on your “pancake” when you flip it out of the pan after baking. We have a freezer full of strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries — the strawberries are the kids’ favorite for this recipe. I like to rinse the berries first with hot water to melt off any freezer ice (so the pan doesn’t get too watery). Then add a liberal amount of butter to the pan and let the berries simmer a bit. I let Rusty be in charge of stirring them.

Meanwhile separate five eggs. Ok, if you’ve never done this (which I hadn’t until a few years ago), it’s NOT HARD when using our eggs! I really thought this was some kind of special chef trick, but when you use a good farm egg, the yolk and white separate SO easily. Crack your egg in half and then hold the egg contents in one half of the shell. The yolk will stay in as they white slips out. Pass the yolk back and forth between your two eggshell halves a few times and all the white will come out. Put the yolks in another bowl.

Next, add some cinnamon and vanilla extract to your yolks and whip that up. This is a good job for Dottie in our house. When all of that is done and the berries are looking nicely cooked (again, how cooked is a matter of preference), it’s time to address your egg whites. You need to whisk them until they are stiff with peaks. Again, language that I used to dismiss as being “advanced” cooking or baking, but with the right equipment, this is just so easy. We have a Kitchenaid mixer with a whisk attachment. I use that to whisk the eggs, and it is easy peasy. Apparently it helps to use eggs that are room temperature (we don’t refrigerate our eggs, so that’s easy too!). I read that it works best to start with a low speed and move up to high speed, but I just turn the mixer onto high and watch. Eventually the eggs turn opaque white (rather than transparent) and start to form stiff peaks. This is when I stop. Beaten egg whites need to be used quickly!

Carefully fold the yolk mixture into the whites quickly but without losing too much volume of the whites. Then spread the combined egg mixture (which will be big and fluffy) onto the pan with the berries. Continue cooking on medium heat for two more minutes, then transfer the pan into the preheated oven and cook for an additional ten or twelve minutes.

When the pancake is slightly golden, pull out your pan. Depending on the timing of it all, you may have a nice fluffy pancake. Or it may have risen in the oven and fallen again. Don’t worry! It will still taste delicious!

Next, CAREFULLY place a plate on top of the pan and flip your pancake out. Two notes here: First, remember that your pan handle is hot and use a towel or mitt. (Unfortunately, I made this mistake a couple of weeks ago. Um, serious ouchies.) Second, you may need to use a paring knife to loosen the edges of your pancake from your pan. No big deal, but do all of this carefully since that pan is hot!

I usually find that my lovely cooked berries stay in the pan, so I scrape them out and spread them across the pancake. Slice it into wedges and serve! The kids love maple syrup on theirs, but Casey and I enjoy it with just the vanilla and berries for sweetening. So good!

And, by the way, in just a few months we’ll have berries again — enough that you will be able to buy extra to freeze for your pancakes next spring! But if you don’t happen to have berries in your freezer right now, you could do the same recipe without the berries. You could thinly slice apple and saute that in butter, or just use butter and then put jam on top after cooking. Endless variations would work here!

~ ~ ~

Think you don’t like lamb? Read this! Ok, so we’ve got some really delicious lamb cuts in the freezer at the storefront right now. But, I keep hearing similar refrains: “Oh, I don’t like lamb” or “Oh, my wife really doesn’t like lamb.” Let me tell you, folks — I understand. Because I too do not enjoy the flavor of wool lamb (which is the bulk of what is available in the world). Wool sheep have lanolin in their coat, the flavor of which gets into the meat. Some people love that lamb flavor, but others (like myself) find it to be unpleasant (other people would have even stronger words to describe the experience).

We, however, raise Katahdins, which are a breed of hair sheep (we also have a few Dorpers in the mix too, which are also a hair sheep). Instead of lanolin-containing wool, they have hair coats (which shed each spring on their own, by the way). They differ from wool sheep in other ways as well — they have a slightly different body shape and size — but the texture and flavor of the meat is the most profound difference for us eaters. People who have tried this meat consistently report back that it is “the best meat” they have ever tasted. The flavor is closer to beef than to wool sheep. The roasts are especially delicious prepared in the slow cooker and then cut up and added to vegetable stews.

So, if you think you don’t like lamb and are up for a new experience, we recommend trying our lamb meat. It is different! And delightful!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Mixed vegetable bouquets — Here’s a beautiful treat. Casey and Jasper put together these bunches of mixed vegetables — it’s like a meal in a bunch! (If you can bring yourself to cook these beautiful things, that is.) The bunches contain: fennel, kale, baby beets, radishes, and rutabaga. All parts of these bunches are edible — roots, shoots, leaves and all.
  • Salad mix — We’ve been enjoying salads so much this spring. With a little extra effort a green salad can become a whole meal. This week Casey made a chicken/egg salad (with homemade mayonnaise) that we put on top of a green salad. Delightfully light and tasty (and yet filling) meal!
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Stinging nettles — Remember, folks! Do not touch these! See all my warnings and cooking suggestions in last week’s newsletter here.
  • Celery leaf
  • Kohlrabi
  • Beets
  • Potatoes
  • Green garlic
  • Garlic
  • Apples
  • Eggs — Try making a pancake that’s not this week! (See recipe above.)

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm: Remember to bring containers when appropriate! Especially for eggs!

  • Corn flour  — $5 lb
  • Oat flour — $5 lb
  • Walnuts — $5 lb
  • Sauerkraut — More traditional cabbage sauerkraut. We sold out last week and had to make another batch! $5 / pint or $3 / half pint (our jars are $1 each, but you can bring your own).
  • Eggs — $4 dozen
  • Pork cuts — We are picking up more pork from the butcher tomorrow! We’ll have chops, ground pork, and lots of roasts. Prices vary.
  • Pork fat & skin — $3 lb
  • Lamb — Prices vary. We’ve got chops, ground lamb and all kinds of delicious roasts! If you want a special treat to feed a crowd, try buying one of our deboned legs of lambs.
  • Ground beef — $7 for 1 lb package
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Surfing spring

Part of the fun of farming is always looking a bit ahead while savoring the present moment. And, of course the next thing is SUMMER! The tomatoes in the greenhouse are already big enough to trellis!

Tomatoes growing …

Part of the fun of farming is always looking a bit ahead while savoring the present moment. And, of course the next thing is SUMMER! The tomatoes in the greenhouse are already big enough to trellis!

Now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves of course. We’re still at the very start of spring, in spite of us thinking of the next steps to get to summer. And, how very fleeting and wonderful spring is. Did I mention fleeting?

Certainly, we are fortunate here in the Pacific Northwest to enjoy relatively long springs (apparently in parts of the world, they can go from ice to mud to hot in about two weeks). Nonetheless, so much of what is wonderful about spring is defined by its transitory nature. Blossoms open and just as they reach their peak bloom, they are done, so quickly shriveling and falling. Blustery spring storms roll through the valley, bringing with them hail and spinning wind — only to blow on by several minutes later. And the nettles and other spring treats that we love so much have such relatively short seasons. We may eat potatoes most weeks of the year, but now is the time to appreciate the wonder of nettle pesto and green garlic sauteed in butter.

And so, even though summer is always beguiling — especially after months of potatoes! — it is useful and good to pause and appreciate every passing moment of spring. To wonder at how the forsythia buds are already done and falling and then turn to our lilac which is just opening its first enormous blossoms. Everything is in motion in spring — moving toward that eventual peak of summer, when we go from growth to maturity. But right now, we are in the midst of all that growth, the migrations, the blooming, the reaching up up up of every green thing.

Spring always stirs me with wonder, with excitement, with a feeling that must be somewhat like what it feels in the Maple trees when the sap rises. With every minute added to every new day, the year is building like a wave. What a joy it is to ride it once again.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

About STINGING nettles: Hands down, nettles are one of our absolute favorite spring foods. Seriously. As you may know, nettles grow wild here in Oregon and come up this time of year. We pick these from the edges of our fields, in the wild hedgerows. Before you learn anything else, please note: THESE WILL STING YOUR FINGERS IF YOU TOUCH THEM RAW WITH YOUR BARE HANDS! So, how to eat? Here are some of our favorite ways:

  • Make tea — Nettle tea is our favorite. To prepare, it’s best to dry the nettles (which incidentally also removes the sting!). We carefully use tongs to put nettles on trays in our food dehydrator and let them dry overnight. Then steep as you would any herbal tea (hot water and all that jazz — pour through a strainer into your cup). Very nourishing tea!
  • Make pesto — When we went to Thistle for my special birthday dinner, I had gnocchi with nettle pesto. So. Good. Also, pureeing nettles takes out the sting too! So, to make pesto, we use tongs to carefully load the nettles into our food processor a little bit at a time. Then we process them with olive oil and garlic to make a delicious paste/sauce. It’s good on everything.
  • Nettle apple pancakes — We got this idea from a friend — it’s a spring favorite for all of us. Begin by carefully removing nettle leaves from stems (I use two sets of tongs to do this, because remember: stinging nettles sting!!!). Add the leaves to a food processor and then pulse until the leaves are chopped up quite fine. I like to fill the food processor with leaves twice (the volume of a full bowl of leaves will be reduced dramatically upon chopping!!!). Chopping fine removes the sting. Leave the nettles in place and add a chopped apple and pulse again until the apple is chopped fine. Then add five or six eggs and pulse so that they are blended. Add a bit of salt. If you want to make your pancakes sweeter, you could add some honey too. Then, we added almond flour a bit at a time and pulsed it until the batter looked like pancake batter consistency (thick liquid; not runny). We prefer grain-free “flours,” but I’m sure you could make this recipe with standard all-purpose flour too. But if you do, you will want to move the liquid contents to a different bowl and carefully fold in the flour so that the gluten doesn’t become “gummy.” Then, cook your pancakes as would any pancakes! We prefer using lots of butter for frying, and we usually make small pancakes for easy flipping (especially with the almond flour). We like to eat these with dinner, especially with a yummy tangy soft cheese spread on top of each (chevre is perfect!).
  • Experiment! The nettle pancake idea launched a thousand meals in our home. We’ve since used the same basic idea to make nettle muffins (I also added a tiny bit of baking soda to these too, but with that many eggs, I’m not sure it’s necessary!). We’ve also taken the chopped nettle idea and used it to make meatloaf. Yes, nettle meatloaf (loaded with eggs and a bit of ketchup) — it was yummy indeed. For the record, even though all the resulting foods were green, our kids ate them all up. Have fun!!!

~ ~ ~

Dyed brown eggs are beautiful! Are you looking for extra special eggs to dye for Easter weekend? Don’t be turned off by brown eggs! We’ve dyed them before (including just today) and love the results. They are definitely toned down, but I think they look classy and they are still very cheerful (and oh so delicious!). Remember that I posted some tips about hard-boiling fresh eggs in this newsletter a few weeks back (scroll down to find the cooking suggestions).

~ ~ ~

Meat chickens coming soon! I posted a photo of some cute chicks last week. Those birds are already double in size. This is our first of three small batches of meat birds that we are growing this year. We still have a few birds unclaimed from this first round, which will be available in early June. If you’d like to reserve some birds, you can do so via our meat order form here. It also has pricing info. Let us know if you have any questions!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Stinging nettles — Read my above descriptions on how to cook with nettles. Please note that STINGING NETTLES STING! Handle carefully!
  • Salad turnips & radishes — Weren’t those bunches so beautiful last week? And so delicious too!
  • Field greens — This is a mix of chicories (relatives of radicchio) and various mustards and kales. You could chop it fine and dress it for a crunchy salad or use it as a braising mix. We do a bit of each in our house.
  • Rainbow Chard
  • Kale
  • Cabbage rapini
  • Kohlrabi
  • Beets
  • Potatoes
  • Apples
  • Green garlic — What is green garlic? Garlic plants before they’ve bulbed or begun to dry down! The flavor is tremendous, and — once again — one of the special parts of spring eating for us. You can use these the way you would a leek or green onion — wash up, trim off the roots and then slice in half and chop into half moons. Use in place of onions or garlic in any meal. We generally saute them in butter and then add other things. The smell of green garlic cooking in butter is divine. Do it just for the smell.
  • Eggs

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm: Remember to bring containers when appropriate! Especially for eggs!

  • Corn flour  — $5 lb
  • Oat flour — $5 lb
  • Walnuts — $5 lb
  • Sauerkraut — That’s right! Sauerkraut — made from cabbages! What a novel idea! Made with our same awesome good salt and fermented in a crock. Yum yum. $5 / pint or $3 / half pint (our jars are $1 each, but you can bring your own).
  • Eggs — $4 dozen
  • Pork fat & skin — $3 lb (More pork coming next week! We took it to the butcher on Monday but it won’t be processed in time for this week’s pick-up).
  • Lamb — Prices vary. We’ve got chops, ground lamb and other cuts!
  • Ground beef — $7 for 1 lb package
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | 1 Comment

Spring odds and ends

Late afternoon on a spring day — cherry tree in our hedge in bloom!

Late afternoon on a spring day. Cherries on the island are blooming now, including this feral tree in our hedge. The most glorious sight though is our neighbor’s orchard to the south. It looks like the trees have been snowed on.

Happy spring everyone! We welcomed the new season out here on the farm with smiles. Of course, it has felt like spring for weeks (possible even months) already, but nonetheless the season continues to change and bring us new treats.

This week, I have some odds and ends of news, links and photos to share with you. Let’s begin!

First, important news from the farm:

Egg sale! Has anyone noticed that we are in the abundant season of eggs? Consequently, we are dropping our price significantly and will keep it there through spring and summer. Eggs are now $4 / dozen. Yes, sir. Enjoy your spring frittatas, souffles, custards, and so much more. Yum.

Lamb chops! We restocked the storefront freezer this week with lamb. This time we had the butcher do a different range of cuts to try out, so we have ground lamb, lamb chops, roasts and other cuts. Prices vary depending on the cut!

Potato planting! We’ve scheduled our first on-farm event for the CSA — on May 1, the biodynamic planting calendar says we’ll have the perfect cosmic conditions to plant potatoes! Potato planting is seriously fun and relatively easy work, and we invite you and your kids to join us! (No dogs though, please! Thank you!) Come on out at 3:00 pm (if you’re available to come out earlier, you can! We’ll be planting all day!). We’ll plant for two hours and then sit down for a potluck meal. Last year this was a highlight of the season for all of us, and our potato planting was one of our best ever! So make a note on your calendar now — we hope you can join us! I’ll provide more details (directions, etc.) as we get closer to the date.

Now, onto the links. A few interesting things have been sent my way of late that I thought folks out there might enjoy reading/watching:

New MacDonald — This well produced video presents some startling images of agriculture today — and its potential. The context is a school play, but the topics dealt with are much deeper and more profound! The ending gave me chills!

Diets do not work — I found this Slate article to be quite thought provoking. It’s not explicitly about farming, but food is a big, complex topic worth examining on multiple levels. I found that this article broadened my understanding of the complexity of things and it also seems like it could provide hope to a lot of people who are healthy, in spite of their BMI number. Something to “chew” on anyway!

Elite Meat — Back to farming, this New Yorker article looks at a farm in California that is growing sustainable meats. Their operation differs from ours in many ways (scale, structure, financing sources, etc.), but the goals are the same — to produce extremely high quality food from humanely raised animals. I love the quote: “Ex-vegetarians are our target market.” That is so true of many of our customers as well (and, to some extent, Casey and me as well!).

6 Vegetables To Try When You’re Sick of Kale — I had to post this link because it features one of my dear longtime friends (and NYC nutritionist) Aynsley Kirshenbaum. She provides lots of great, simple advice here. We here at this farm are not sick of kale (never in a million years), but we love all of these vegetables and grow all of them for the CSA. You’ll see more of some of them as we go deeper into spring!

And, now, some spring farm photos!

Nothing says spring quite like a batch of new chicks. These cuties arrived on my birthday two weeks ago, and they are growing quickly! These are meat birds, and they are not quite all reserved yet! If you're interested, let us know!

Nothing says spring quite like a batch of new chicks. These cuties arrived on my birthday two weeks ago, and they are growing quickly! These are meat birds, and they are not quite all reserved yet! If you’re interested, let us know!

Blossoms everywhere! In addition to cherries, our plums are blooming. Look closer in these blossoms and you'll find ...

Blossoms everywhere! In addition to cherries, our plums are blooming. Look closer in these blossoms and you’ll find …

... these busy workers! It's always heartening to see pollinators hard at work when trees are in bloom.

… these busy workers! It’s always heartening to see pollinators hard at work when trees are in bloom.

Look who else likes to eat cherry blossoms! (Fortunately these are not cherry trees we need to harvest from; these are behind my mom's studio space and she took the photo.)

Look who else likes to eat cherry blossoms! (Fortunately these are not cherry trees we need to harvest from; these are behind my mom’s studio space, and she took the photo.)

That gorgeous spring green pasture is being thoroughly enjoyed by the goats. They ran away when I went out to take their photo, naturally. I should have brought a treat.

That gorgeous spring green pasture is being thoroughly enjoyed by the goats. They ran away when I went out to take their photo, naturally. I should have brought a treat.

Spring food for us human eaters! Yum kale! Like I said above, WE are not sick of kale! Quite the opposite: our gratitude for kale runs deep (and for this new greenhouse too, which has made so many greens possible this year!).

Spring food for us human eaters! Yum kale! Like I said above, WE are not sick of kale! Quite the opposite: our gratitude for kale runs deep (and for this new greenhouse too, which has made so many greens possible this year!). No kale for the CSA this week though — there were lots of other things to pick, and we want to let these plants regrow! And grow they will!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

A last payment reminder: Hey all! I know a few of you still owe your CSA payment! Here’s another friendly reminder to bring it with you to pick-up tomorrow! Thank you!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Turnips & radishesCasey took extra time today to make some of the most beautiful bunched vegetables ever to leave our farm. These bunches are a mix of two spring crops: radishes and “salad” turnips. Most of you probably know about radishes, which make a great salad topping (sliced thin is best!). Salad turnips work well for this too! The flavor of a salad turnip is smooth and sweet with just a hint of heat. We just slice and eat these as a snack — just rinse and slice (no peeling necessary!). The greens of both can also be chopped fine and added to salads or cooked. They’ll cook down a lot, so we usually cook them with other greens.
  • Salad — Because you need something to put your radishes on, of course!
  • Chard — If you’re sick of kale, try chard. Or, so we’ve heard!
  • Rapini — This week’s rapini comes from our over-wintered cabbage and collard plants.
  • Kohlrabi
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Green onions
  • Apples
  • Garlic
  • Eggs

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm: Remember to bring containers when appropriate!

  • Corn flour  — $5 lb
  • Oat flour — $5 lb
  • Walnuts — $5 lb
  • FERMENTED FOODS ARE ON SPRING BREAK! That’s right — many of you are away recreating, and we decided to take that opportunity to pause in our crock filling. More to come next week: traditional sauerkraut!
  • Eggs$4 dozen To celebrate our new lower price, I’ve got another fun link for you: 7 Reasons You Should Eat Eggs For Breakfast.
  • Pork fat & skin — We may have a few random cuts of pork left, but for the most part we are sold out until next week. However, we do have loads of pork fat and skin. These are for rendering for lard. This is Good Stuff folks — our hogs are continually on pasture, which means the lard will be loaded with Omega-3 fats. Rendering lard is a simple process (click here to learn How To Render Lard In A Crock Pot). The pork skin can be fried like uncured bacon or rendered as well. Prices are $3 lb for fat and skin.
  • Lamb — Prices vary. We’ve got chops, ground lamb and other cuts!
  • Ground beef — $7 for 1 lb package
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Kids at work

Rusty helps harvest greens for our dinner

Rusty helps harvest greens for our dinner

Rusty turned five last December, and it has been fascinating to watch him grow out of his preschool self and into a boy (kindergarten age this fall). This winter, we’ve had some challenges, because — well — parenting and childhood are both rough at times. I think it’s also rough to be the oldest child and always have your activities at home being toned down to accommodate a smaller sibling. Eventually, Casey and I realized that at least some of what was wanting for Rusty was work. Real, meaningful work. Because, wow, the boy has become capable of doing things.

It feels phenomenally different to have a child living in our house and our farm who can work. At five years old, when Rusty decides to pitch in on a task, it flies by. In contrast, a few years back his “help” often made a task go at least twice as long … or perhaps not get done at all! But, with inspiration from both Waldorf and Montessori pedagogies, we’ve felt compelled to — as much as we can — always let him help at tasks in the house and on the farm. Allowing him access to our work required us to truly slow down and let go of expectations for that particular work session. Sometimes these things aren’t possible, but we’ve tried, and now we are seeing the fruits of those previous labors, because as Rusty’s body and mind catch up with his will to work and engage, he can slowly begin to really do things.

Last spring when he was four, we gave Rusty his own set of garden pruners — real ones that I bought in the garden section. They are smaller — probably for women’s hands — but they are sharp and capable of cutting through a thick twig. I looked for pruners with a locking mechanism that I thought he could manage on his own and found one that has a lock that slides easily. We’ve kept his pruners (which he calls his “cloppers”) with ours in a special drawer in the kitchen so that it’s clear they are a tool rather than a toy to lose in the yard. We get them out when we have a project to work on or want to clear a trail or something else intentionally.

He doesn’t know it yet (so don’t ruin the surprise!), but this Friday, on the spring equinox, Rusty will get his own pocket knife. He’s been using Casey’s safely for months and months, and recently he also started using a real paring knife to help chop food for dinner (which helps me so much!). At this point, Casey and I feel so comfortable with Rusty handling real tools that it’s hard to remember that such things would have felt impossible to me just a few years ago.

Our society has so separated children from the real world — they have their own lives in “child proofed” spaces away from daily work (schools, daycares, etc.). I certainly grew up in this system — so thoroughly immersed in the world of academics and kid-focused activities — and I found myself having to stretch in new ways when I finally began reaching out into the world of adults. When I got my first job at 16 (working retail at an equestrian-themed interior design store of all places!), I was so, so, so very “green.” I had a million and one basic work-related skills to learn, and of course I kept learning them over subsequent years, especially as I encountered more diverse working situations. I especially had to grow into physical work, which was more or less completely foreign to me as a suburban kid.

After college, I worked in a commercial kitchen, which was a wonderful eye opener — I felt like I learned a whole new way of being in the world, where my body and hands could affect physical substance and make things (feed 300 people a meal in fact!). Even though I’d played sports in school and then majored in art (which by the way, is a very physical major compared to most!), my body and its abilities felt like a newly found power. In that year of cooking and subsequent years of farming, I grew more into this part of my being — learning so much about pacing and focus and full engagement of brain and body. I also learned about working in a team of people, meeting deadlines, managing lists of tasks, and more.

Reflecting back, of course, I value every experience I have had — the scholastic and the later work experiences. But I do question why they have to come into our lives in such segregated chunks of time? Working for pay in high school felt fairly normal when I did it, but I understand that it is becoming less and less common. And of course, even then, my work experiences were fairly limited because my time was quite full with other pursuits (school and such). Casey worked quite a bit more than I did in high school, and he graduated from high school with a diploma and an amazing work ethic. No dawdling on tasks for that young man — he had worked as a lifeguard, in a bike shop, in commercial kitchens, and on construction sites. He knew how to work!

As parents and farmers, Casey and I spend a fair amount of time thinking about the next generations. We think about our children and their future lives, but we also think about all the young people out there looking for jobs — many of which come our way. We have the privilege to meet and employ quite a lot of young people who are at the beginning or early stages of their own working lives. It is striking to us how even a little work experience early on in life can go a long way toward helping a young person grow into responsibility and capability. Other folks are more like I was — green and needing to grow into their work life in a lot of ways.

Each of us is on our own journey, of course. Some will be later bloomers when it comes to understanding (or wanting) responsibility. And, some people never want it at all! Certainly, I admire the free spirits of the world and believe that they play a role in keeping all of us balanced! However, I also appreciate all the hard working people who grow food, manage businesses, treat patients, educate children, drive buses, build houses, write books, and so much more.

As I get serious about preparing for Rusty’s upcoming kindergarten year, my observations of his own growing capabilities help me realize that this is a big part of why we’ve chosen to homeschool. As farmers, we have a unique opportunity to offer our children immersion in a work environment — a work environment that they can grow into at their own pace, learning all those valuable skills along the way. Farming is uniquely well suited to teaching about cause and effect (and offers immensely satisfying results for a job well done!). I look forward to teaching him to read and write (my other degree was in English after all!), but I appreciate thinking about him as a whole person, who will be growing in mind, spirit and body.

And, you know, kids are kids. Just because Rusty is growing in his capabilities and interests doesn’t mean he doesn’t still balk at feeding the cats. But he can also do things like plant out a whole flat of peas, peel and chop potatoes to roast, pick nettles, and harvest greens for lunch. And, he may not grow to be a farmer, but I hope he will grow to feel capable in mind and body, able to learn the tasks he needs for his own journey and purpose in life.

In fact, we think that farming tasks are so empowering that someday we hope to be able to offer those experiences to a wider audience of young people — maybe through a formal internship program for those young folks like my old self. I certainly feel grateful for all the employers and mentors who took me on in those days! For now our nurturing energy is best served staying close to home with the farm itself and our little ones — both of which are ever inspiring and ever humbling — but we always dream, and someday we will be in another phase of life!

So, Friday morning Rusty will wake to find a new pocket knife waiting for him downstairs. And in a few more years, Dottie will get one too. And Casey and I will do our best to help them learn all the responsibility and power that comes with tools — some of the best lessons we have to teach!

May you too discern what you have to offer your families and the world — something unique and valuable, to be sure! (If you don’t know what you have to offer yet, you might enjoy reading Ken Robinson’s book, The Element: how finding your passion changes everything. It was a great book to read as a homeschooling parent, but it’s not necessarily aimed in that direction at all!)

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

P.S. Yes, there is other farm news too … always lots going on around here. This week in particular, we had some trouble with our cooler, which led to a much needed anyway reorganization of winter storage items. And, of course, there was that surprisingly powerful wind storm on Sunday! We spent two nights at the beach and then returned on Sunday to find ourselves being blasted by the wind! Casey checked on the animals several times to make sure all our electric fencing was in place. It was startling to drive around the county the next day and see so many trees down! Hope you fared well!

~ ~ ~

CSA payment due this week! Just a reminder that the next CSA payment is due tomorrow! You can bring a check/cash to pick-up, or mail it to us: Oakhill Organics, P.O. Box 1698, McMinnville OR 97128. If you have any questions about what you owe, you can email me or ask at pick-up! Thank you!

~ ~ ~

Cooking the perfect roast: Once upon a time, Casey and I didn’t know how to cook meat. We chose not to eat meat for many years, because at the time we didn’t have any sources of local, grass-raised meat. We still ate meat when served to us by friends or family. My mom, in particular, would cook the most amazing roasts and stews, and when we would visit we would marvel at the tenderness of the meat. It seemed like some kind of miracle to us, since we had no idea how she did it. Surely, it must be Very Hard Work to Cook Such Good Food.

When we moved to Yamhill County, our situation changed — we met farmers raising meat in sustainable ways right here in the county, and we decided we wanted to eat some of that meat. But we were suddenly faced with choosing cuts of meat. And then cooking them somehow. Surely, it must be Very Hard Work and Complicated to Do Well. Or, so we thought. As you can guess, we stretched ourselves and learned a thing or two about cuts of meat and how to cook them. We’ve learned that there are essentially two ways to cook meat — long cooked at low temperatures (roasts, stew meats) or quick cooked at high temperatures (chops, steaks, ground meats). The quick cooking meat does take a bit of skill, simply because you have to know your tools — know your oven or BBQ and your pans — and then you have to watch the meat carefully to avoid over-cooking. You also have to discern your own preference — Rare? Well done? Medium-rare?

But, roasts? Roasts are easy. Especially since we discovered an extra amazing trick. You can cook a roast in the oven, but we’ve taken to using our slow cooker. What’s the trick there? you ask. The trick is that we don’t add liquid. We put the meat in the slow cooker dry. We don’t “brown” the meat beforehand (a step that is often cited as necessary — I’m just going to shrug here and say that it doesn’t seem necessary to us!), we just pop it in the slow cooker (and maybe add some salt). The size of the roast will determine how long we let it go, but for most medium or large roasts we can start it at breakfast on “low,” and it will be perfectly cooked by dinner. And, by perfectly cooked, I mean: juicy, tender, falling apart. We can attest that meat from our farm cooked this way is phenomenally flavorful and delicious. You can serve it on its own or add it to stews or other dishes (we often chop our roasts and incorporate them into veggie-rich stews). And, all those juices and fat that are left in the pan? So perfect for using to cook greens! This method works for all types of roasts: lamb, pork, or beef.

One more awesome roast tip: I have one last tip for folks who might appreciate it. This is something that I think is super important, but I’ve noticed that it’s not widely known. When you slice or chop a roast, cut it against the grain of the meat. Just doing this can make a less-than-tender roast more delicious (but you won’t have that problem if you’ve used your slow cooker). Unfortunately, cutting meat with the grain can also make a tender piece of meat taste less tender (or at least a whole lot chewier). So, it is important! If you are having a hard time visualizing what this means, here’s a really informative and funny blog post I found on the topic of cutting meat against the grain (it even has useful photos!).

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables: Don’t get stuck in a rut! Try new veggies this week! Ask for preparation ideas if you need them!

  • Turnip rapini
  • Kale rapini
  • Greenhouse kale & chard — So tender! This stuff knocks our socks off. We are kale lovers, and I am amazed at how different of an eating experience it is in different seasons. This spring greenhouse-grown kale is the ultimate in mild flavor and tender leaves.
  • Celery leaf
  • Kohlrabi
  • Beets
  • Potatoes — We’ll have two kinds available this week! If you’re a potato connoisseur, try taking home both and doing a side-by-side taste test! (We did a potato tasting a few years back at a CSA open house, and it was delightful to experience the differences like that!)
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Green onions
  • Garlic
  • Apples — As a head’s up, the number of apples is going up this week! So check the sign to make sure you get enough for your “item”!
  • Eggs

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
  • Scallion pickles ~ Here’s a fun new fermented food: green onions! We think this will definitely be a garnish, but who knows! Try it out!
  • Eggs — $6 dozen
  • Pork, roasts & more — Prices vary. Lots of delicious pork shoulder roasts in the freezer! This cut is perfect for making pulled pork. See my “perfect roast” recipe for how to cook. Once cooked, pull the meat off and mix with your favorite BBQ sauce. So good.
  • Lamb — Prices vary. We just took more lambs to the butcher and will have a broader range of cut options again next week (including chops and ground lamb). This week we invite you to try our “trim” meat — this is delicious lamb meat that isn’t necessarily a roast or a chop. It’s perfect for putting in a slow cooker for making stew. And, it’s also our lowest cost meat item at the storefront ($5/lb), making it a great place to start if you want to try the lamb! We also still have roasts left!
  • Ground beef — $7 for 1 lb package
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | 4 Comments