Welcome!

img_3347-copy

The farm family in 2016

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 farm, and everything that we grow is sold directly to customers here in Yamhill County! We sell primarily through our unique 45-week long Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, which offers customizable share sizes and contents. You can find out more information about what and how we grow by following the links above; or, scroll down to read our latest farm news on our blog!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

Posted in News & Updates | Leave a comment

Remembering and savoring

Another requisite early spring greenhouse photo — in the foreground: fava beans!

In a greenhouse right now: On the right, fava beans! On the left: snap peas! Both quickly growing now.

Each year, spring takes me a little by surprise. Sometime mid-winter, I just forget what is possible. I forget how green green can be. I forget about the rousing choruses of bird song at dawn. I forget the spicy savory smell of a bag filled with freshly picked nettles. I forget what it feels like to feel a warm soft breeze on the skin.

And, then, it all comes back so suddenly on those first warm days. This first week of spring has brought plenty of more-of-the-same-rainy-days, but we’ve had those moments that help me remember.

The children and I are slowly reading our way through Anne of Avonlea right now, and I love revisiting Anne Shirley’s philosophy of life and the way she models savoring the natural world every day — pausing at the garden gate to just watch the wonders of the world. We are each day offered such riches, right here at our gates (or doors). Of all the seasons, I think spring most naturally reminds me of this wealth of experience, offered for all of us to enjoy.

May this week bring you your own spring moments of pausing in wonder. Maybe you’ll find it on a forest trail or in your garden or on your daily walk or in your kitchen as you prepare your evening meal.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples — Liberty apples this week. These are a relatively new variety of apple, bred specifically to be disease resistant in the orchard (and yummy in the mouth!). Even with our thinning efforts in the spring, each tree produces tons of apples each year. They are a favorite!
  • Purple sprouting broccoli — Have you ever paused to wonder: “What is broccoli anyway?” Ok, maybe just farmers wonder about the familial lineage of different vegetables and how they “came about.” Vegetables are bred and selected just as much as apples (or more so!). Many of the vegetables we treat as “normal” parts of our diet are relatively new inventions! Or, at least, the version we know are a recent phenomenon. Many vegetables today are larger, more uniform and sweeter than they were through much of human history thanks to careful modern breeding programs, including hybridizing. Not to be confused with genetic modification, hybrid seed lines are created through normal plant sex — but very carefully controlled plant sex! Usually two lines of plants are set out next to each other in order to force cross-pollination. The resulting seed line will have traits of both the parent lines but with added vigor and consistency (“hybrid vigor,” they call it). We grow several hybrid varieties of vegetables, including cabbage and sweet corn (all of them organically grown seed). Modern broccoli is also a result of this process, which has allowed this family of cole crops to develop exceptionally large and tight flower buds in the first season of growth! Generally speaking, cole crops are “biennial” plants, which means that they only flower after “vernalization” (fancy language to refer to having gone through a winter and into spring — a combination of day length and temperature changes). But most cole crops and brassicas still need to over-winter before flowering — those flowers are what we call various kinds of “rapini,” which really does resemble its cousin, broccoli! And, somewhere in between rapini and modern broccoli you might find this week’s broccoli relative: purple sprouting broccoli. You could look at this crop in two ways: either its a super delicious, larger than normal kale-like rapini; or, it’s a slightly smaller, hardier, biennial version of broccoli. We sow the seeds in late fall, and they over-winter as small plants. In the late winter, when days start warming and growing longer, they put on a lot of growth and then produce prodigious quantities of florets (along with delicious leaves and stalks). We can pick these and come back again several times before each plant is finally done for the season. We love having that green broccoli flavor so early in the year! Perhaps this is way more plant/farm information than you needed today, but I love putting vegetables into context to help you understand how they fit into the farmscape as well as into your diet. You can prepare the sprouting broccoli in any way you might prepare kale, rapini, or broccoli. Our favorite is to lay it in a single layer in a baking pan and roast it with butter and salt until it is crispy on the leaves and the stalks are cooked through! You can eat it all!
  • Radishes
  • Rapini
  • Marina di Chioggia winter squash — Before we left for Holden two weeks ago, Casey baked a truly massive Marina di Chioggia winter squash. We ate some of it before we left and put the rest in the fridge for later. I was amazed: we kept eating it and it kept being delicious and good in the fridge. Over the next week after we arrived back home, we ate it once a day until we finally ate the whole squash. I really didn’t think we’d make it through the whole thing, but we did. And every single bite was delicious. When I reheat the cooked slices, I like to do it so that one of the cut edges gets brown and crispy — I’ll do this either on a seasoned baking pan in the oven or on seasoned pan on the stovetop. Casey and I eat the skin and all. Casey and Dottie both love eating it with a big slice of butter on the side. I like to put butter on top of mine while it is still hot so that the butter melts into the flesh. And plenty of salt too.
  • Salad mix
  • Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Beets
  • Sunchokes
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Surprising signs of spring

Wee narcissus blooming in my wee flower garden.

Wee narcissus blooming in my wee flower garden.

Spring begins this coming Monday, and this year the season has not been quick in arriving. I feel like in Oregon, we often see signs of spring well before the equinox that marks the season on our calendars — crocuses and forsythia can both bloom in February, bringing welcome color to what can be a bleak winter landscape in our gardens.

But this year, the season has been waiting. And we have been waiting too — for more light and for more color (thankfully here in Oregon, the green never disappears, so we always have that to comfort us).

Even as late as last Monday, we had snow here in the Willamette Valley! And frigid temperatures for much of that week.

Finally, however, this last weekend we started seeing and feeling the impending arrival of the new season. Here around our house, the daffodils and narcissus are blooming, bringing their brilliant splash of yellow to our lives. They mostly end up in our house, brought to the door by small eager hands, and I put them into jars on the kitchen windowsill behind the sink so that Casey and I can appreciate them while we cook and wash dishes.

And, of course, the temperatures have risen significantly over the last few days. Last night I woke up too hot in the night because it was 70° in our bedroom! We ran out of firewood a few weeks back (thanks to the cold winter!) and have been using a space heater in place of our woodstove, and we’d just left it on out of habit, leading to an unexpectedly warm house! It was, after all, 57° outside when we got up this morning. It doesn’t take much to heat the house to comfort zone when that is the starting point.

The warmth is so welcome. Even with the continued drenching rainfall, the outdoors feels more accessible than it did when it was 37° and raining. Casey immersed himself in the mud on Tuesday as he installed a new length of buried mainline on the farm into a very wet trench. He had to rinse his clothes out in the laundry sink before putting them in the wash!

But, the most exciting signs of spring for us came farther away from home. We made a very quick trip back up to Holden Village this weekend, leaving the house at 2:30 in the morning to catch the boat in Chelan on Friday. We stayed for just three nights, during which time Casey worked on some plumbing projects for the village (they don’t have a plumber right now and that used to be his job there). The kids and I played around (and went sledding!) with old Holden friends who also went up with us with their similarly aged children.

This image doesn't look like spring, and yet we felt spring's arrival while in this winter-y scene for the weekend.

This image doesn’t look like spring, and yet we felt spring’s arrival while in this winter-y scene for the weekend.

You wouldn’t expect to feel spring in the air when at a remote mountain retreat center that has received almost 300 inches of snow over the winter (with six feet on the ground)! But, we did feel and experience spring there, quite profoundly, in the form of avalanches. When the weather warms up in March, compacted snow on surfaces begins to slide under its own weight. It becomes a dangerous time in the valley and around the village, where the same phenomenon occurs on the roofs of unheated buildings.

While we were in the village, all the roofs that had not cleared yet did so, including the massive roof of the largest building in the village, the Village Center. This building sits beside the vehicle road that buses and trucks pass through to get to the lake, and when an entire winter’s worth of snow is still sitting on top of the roof, it becomes one of the most dangerous spots in the village. When we arrived, it was cordoned off with caution tape to keep people from walking below the inevitable slide of tons of snow.

And after a warm day of sun and thawing on Saturday, it went. The whole community was in the building next door for church services, and several people heard it (I did not). Afterward, we all ran out in the dark to see if it were true, and we found the entire road filled above head level with the “roof-alanche” snow. For the villagers, it was a relief to have it down, and everyone marveled at the awesomeness of the pile that now needed to be cleared away.

After the big roof-alanche (off the building to the right). Dottie is sitting on the road. The people behind her are standing on the snow that fell off the roof, which was over our heads in depth.

After the big roof-alanche (off the building to the right). Dottie is sitting on the road. The people behind her are standing on the snow that fell off the roof, which was over our heads in depth.

The kids and I got to see several other roofs shed snow on other occasions during the day (always from a safe distance) — big chunks that fell in blocks to the ground — and by the time we left on Monday morning, all the roofs were clear and rain was falling on top of the snow. It wasn’t the end of the long snowy season at Holden, but it was certainly the beginning of the end.

Here is a poem that speaks to this experience so perfectly, which a CSA member just happened to give us the day before we left for Holden (cosmic timing!):

Another Descent ~ Wendell Berry

Through the weeks of deep snow
we walked above the ground
on fallen sky, as though we did
not come of root and leaf, as though
we had only air and weather
for our difficult home.
But now
as March warms, and the rivulets
run like birdsong on the slopes,
and the branches of light sing in the hills,
slowly we return to earth.

We left feeling like spring had finally begun, and when we arrived back at home that feeling continued. On the farm we don’t have the big dramatic markers like tons of shedding snow, but we can see that the grass has perceptibly grown since last week (and is greener to boot). Buds on fruit trees are swelling, reading to burst open any day. The early morning is full of dawn songs from birds, welcoming the day. Rapini is popping up on more and more of our crops. All of these individual signs feel small and undramatic on their own, but they stir us with excitement. We are so ready for this next phase of the year — of flowering and planting and seeds going into the ground and sprouting.

May you enjoy the Spring Equinox! And, enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Radishes — Another sure sign of spring! We only grow radishes in the early spring, because: 1) That is when they taste best, in our opinion 2) They are a very short season crop, meaning that we can sow them and then harvest them within a few weeks 3) This is a time of year that can often benefit from something unique and colorful! They feel like little jewels to us. We’ll grow a few more crops of them before the spring is over, but remember to savor these as a truly seasonal vegetable. We find that we usually just eat them, but they’re also delicious sliced onto salads.
  • Crown pumpkins
  • Seasonal salad mix
  • Cabbage
  • Collard greens — Collard greens can be prepared in all the same ways you would cook kale, but they generally take slightly longer to cook. Greens sautéed in butter is a staple food for us around here (often with a bit of meat mixed in to make it a meal), and I love making big pots with multiple kinds of greens when we have them. For example, I might cook cabbage and collard greens together, starting with the cabbage since it takes even longer to cook. We love our greens cooked well so that they are soft, but other people prefer theirs “al dente” (which is an appropriate term, since we often think of greens as a substitute for pasta and use flavorings and other ingredients that would go well with pasta as well!)
  • Kale & kale rapini
  • Mixed rapini
  • Beets
  • Sunchokes
  • Potatoes

 

Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Tree planting therapy

The kids helped plant Doug Fir trees in our lowest field this weekend.

The kids helped plant Doug Fir trees in our lowest field this weekend.

Hello, friends. In this week’s newsletter, I want to share with you two quotes that I know I have shared here many times before. They are favorites of mine, and this winter they have both been as relevant as ever in my life. The first is a poem from Wendell Berry:

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

This winter has been a hard one around here at times. When I share news of the farm, I feel full of gratitude, because really so much here has been going quite well this year. Changes we’ve made on the farm have had positive affects, and we did enjoy our longer break.

But, between the seemingly incessant rain and extra cold temperatures and the news of the world, my mood hasn’t always matched the actual state-of-things-on-the-farm. In December, I found myself in a deep, dark funk that made gratitude feel far away, in spite of all our true profound blessings. I felt scared and sad and just getting the kids through our daily routines felt like an exhausting uphill battle.

Thankfully, I was able to make changes that helped me regain my center and ground me back in our daily reality. My morning run (in the dark! and cold! and snow!) became the foundation of my mental health plan, but we made other changes too. The kids and I recommitted ourselves to our weekly Friday nature outings, which had been let go in the midst of fall rounds of illnesses and yucky weather. Now it’s something that we do, every single week, regardless of the weather. And, friends, let me tell you how wonderful it is to go play in the woods once a week with our children. To be among the trees and the grasses and the birds — to touch that “peace of wild things” and breathe myself back into a life that isn’t dominated by the incessant social media stream of news and memes and petitions. It’s such a wonderful way for us to end our week of home learning.

But, we’ve also been engaging in another form of what I think of as “nature therapy” all winter long, which brings me to my second quote. As the story goes, once Martin Luther was asked what he would do if he learned the world would end tomorrow. And, he answered: I would plant a tree.

I think of this story every time we plant trees here on the farm (which we have done many times over the last decade). Trees are some of the earth’s most awesome creatures. A recent National Geographic issue featured an article about notable trees, including “Pando,” the quaking Aspen colony in Utah that is considered to be the world’s largest organism. All the trees in the colony share the same root system, and it covers 106 acres and is thought to be 80,000 years old! Pando is an exceptional specimen, but I, for one, feel an inherent sense of awe around trees in general. Their way of being on the planet is so different than ours — their timescale slower, especially for the trees that can live hundreds of years. They live their lives rooted in one spot, and yet they may “witness” decades or centuries of changes around them. They can feed us and shelter us. They are beautiful in both their physical form and in their symbolism for us as people — we fill our stories about ourselves with metaphors drawn from trees.

I really love trees. And, I bet a lot of you do too.

And so, with Martin Luther’s quote in my mind, I always find planting trees to be an incredible act of hope. Implicit in the very act is the basic trust that there will be a tomorrow (even if we have been told otherwise perhaps!) — nay, not just a tomorrow, but also a spring! And another year, decade, or even century … Because when we plant trees, our timescale necessarily shifts too. It’s not like a head of lettuce that will be ready to cut in 20-30 days for salad mix; trees are a long-term proposition. When we planted our first orchard in early 2009, we knew that we were dedicating that bit of land to a long-term project. We wouldn’t harvest for several years. Now, in 2017, we are all enjoying the benefit of that long-term planning as we savor apples all through this wet, dark, and rainy winter (the crisp flavor of summer sun stored for the eater in one perfect round fruit!).

This winter, we’ve been working on another long-term project on the farm — one with fewer “material” benefits for us, even in the long-run. We’ve been planting native trees on two acres of our lowest land (which floods several times every winter), with the goal of it becoming a vibrant little micro-forest in the heart of the island. Seeking vitality and diversity are guiding foundation principles in our lives and values — we love clean air, bird song, deer tracks, wild edibles. Our love of the natural world is what first led us to seek an outdoor-oriented profession that would allow us to cultivate these same principles and feed people at the same time! But, we love the “wild” too and want to do what we can to help “wild” spaces exist. Two acres isn’t nearly big enough to be considered true wilderness, but we also know that pockets of habitat do make a difference for all kinds of native flora and fauna.

Dottie helped plant the Douglas Fir trees.

Dottie helped plant the Douglas Fir trees.

We’ve planted hundreds of trees now (I really couldn’t keep count over so many planting sessions!): Cottonwoods, Willows, Dogwoods, Douglas Firs, two Giant Sequoias, Bigleaf Maples, Oregon Ash, Blue Elderberry, Cascaras, Indian Plums, Nootka Roses, Snowberry bushes, Oregon Grape bushes (our state flower!), Thimbleberries, Vine Maples, and Western Hemlock. We’ll irrigate the field a few times this summer and next to help everything get established. If everything “takes,” it will end up being a very diverse little two acres forest!

And, it has been such a pleasure to plant these trees. I may joke and call it “therapy” (which it is!), but it’s about so much more than my mood. Trees are gifts to us all, to the future. Each time I kneel on the ground to tamp in a tree, it feels like a prayer of hope and gratitude. I think of these trees and the lives they may have in this place — the changes they may “witness” as human and animal lives swirl around them in what must feel like an almost invisible blur of activity to the tree. I am reminded at how the world is so much bigger than human strife and grievances. My heart still breaks at news I hear of human suffering around the country and the world, but our trees make space for other emotions in my heart too: room for hope, for gratitude, for peace. It feels like one of the most right and good acts we can do, to plant a tree.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples
  • “Rapini” — What’s rapini, you ask? Rapini is a word we vegetable growers to describe a late winter and early spring culinary delicacy that never makes it into mainstream food supply chains. Rapini is the bolting flower buds that “cole” crops like cabbage, turnips, kale, and Brussels sprouts produce after over-wintering in the field. It’s a unique food because it can only be grown in mild temperature climates like our own where these crops will over-winter without being killed by extra cold temperatures. We pick rapini from all kinds of different crops over the early part of the season, and each type will have a unique flavor and texture thanks to its parent vegetable. You can prepare rapini as you would any cooked green — chopping the whole thing and sautéing it in a pan (the whole thing is delicious: leaf, tender stalk, and flower buds!). It’s also fun to roast it in a single layer in a pan (like you might do asparagus). This batch of rapini is a mix of lots of kinds of plants, including our mustards. The mustards can taste more bitter when cooked but are delicious raw, so for this batch (which is also especially leafy), we highly encourage you to chop you rapini and eat it raw as a salad (or add it to your salad greens!) Experiment!
  • Seasonal salad mix
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Crown pumpkins — These winter squash may technically be called a “pumpkin” but they are actually in the same squash family as the delicious Marina di Chioggia squash we’ve been eating the last few weeks. You can cook them in a similar fashion, and they will also be delicious but with a subtly different flavor and texture!
  • Sunchokes
  • Beets
  • Turnips
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

On a roll now

Over-wintered kale in front of a Brussels sprout stalk forest.

Over-wintered kale in front of a Brussels sprout stalk forest. They all look like little trees this time of year.

We’re on our third week of the CSA already! It’s amazing how quickly we got back into the weekly rhythm of the farm after a longer than usual break. It feels good to be back on a roll like this.

We’re looking ahead a lot these days, as always pondering the next steps on the farm. This time of year, Casey is doing lots of sowing into flats to transplant later. He’s also been carefully managing our crops in the high tunnels since those will make up a lot of the early share contents.

We’ve submitted our organic re-certification forms as well, which feels like old hat at this point in our eleven years as a farm. And yet it still feels like an important part of our farm too, this verification that we follow through on our growing values consistently and carefully.

We’re also thinking about spring cleaning around here — namely taking care of our livestock equipment by finding it new owners. After five years of having animals on the farm, we are taking a break from that part of farming. We had thought it might make sense to hold on to some of the items, since we haven’t ruled it out completely that we’d do it again in the future. But I attended a farming conference recently, where the keynote speaker Ben Hartman talked about the “lean farm,” which means using efficiency principles to operate a farm. Part of this is not holding on to things that aren’t actually being actively used. This is a concept I already apply in our home — I even mentioned last week how I love decluttering and moving things on regularly! — but his talk was a good reminder that we need to practice this same principle on the farm as well. We have seen over the years how items that are set aside “just in case” or “for future years” often just become detritus that attracts weeds (blackberries!) and eventually end in poor condition. So, we decided that it was time to find new homes for all the equipment while it is all in good working condition. I posted a list of our items here on the blog and we’ve begun talking with other farmers who want to come and help us clean up the farm by making use of these items!

Otherwise, we’re just grooving along out here on the farm, waiting for things to warm up and stop being so so so wet. On the homefront, we’re almost completely out of seasonal firewood, which is a first for us. There have just been a lot more very cold days this winter, and I think we went through our wood supply at a much faster rate than normal! Since we’re so close to spring, when it is finally gone we will just plug in a space heater. That may be this week! We’re ready for warmer temperatures!

But, we’re also mindful that we don’t want to rush time too much. With these growing kiddos in the house, we are trying to be as present as possible now. Yep, it may be cold and we may be anxious for the change of spring, but today we’re here with these kiddos and that’s something to be grateful for every single day.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples — Mostly Cortland apples in this week’s mix. Folks often ask: what are these apples “good” for? The answer is always eating. When we planted our two orchards in 2009-2010, we selected apples based on these criteria: 1. suitability for growing organically in the Willamette Valley (so disease resistance was important!); 2. availability from local growers (we purchased all our trees here in the valley!); and 3. yumminess for eating!!!! Certainly, some of our apple varieties make great pie or applesauce or cider, but they are all also good for just plain old eating. We know that this is the primary way most of our CSA members eat apples (us too!), so we made sure to pick apples with good flavor and texture! I’ve been amazed over the years to see how much variety we have in our orchards in that realm — some apples are softer and milder; others are crisper and tarter; others are crunchy and sweet. And yet they are all delicious. Apples amaze me. I even once wrote a very long essay about apples that was part of my Master’s thesis. Because I love them that much.
  • Seasonal salad mix — We officially announced to our local restaurant and store clients that we’re going to take a break from custom harvests for them … the break began in January in order to accommodate some travel plans of ours and to avoid harvesting in the crazy winter weather, but we decided this month to continue it for some unknown period of time (for the most part, we’re still working with one beloved customer). As always, a lot of different factors went into this decision, but it gives us an entire free day to use on the farm for other projects, which has been great (especially as we don’t have employees anymore, an extra day for Casey is extremely helpful!). But another side benefit is that Casey now has more time and material for making salad mix for our CSA! Salad mix was one of our most popular items with the restaurants, and try as we might, it was often hard to have enough salad for BOTH the restaurants and the CSA (especially in the winter months!). We’re excited to have salad available more often for our CSA this year as a result of this change! The contents will continue to change over the weeks and months as what we have in the fields shifts, of course. Which is why we call it a “seasonal” salad mix!
  • Marina di Chioggia winter squash — Last week, lots of people volunteered praise for this squash. It is good, isn’t it? I find these giant squashes to be fascinating, especially in how they dramatically improve in flavor over their winter storage tenure. They truly are a storage squash, intended for eating at this end-of-winter time of year. We enjoy them in fall as well, but it’s worth waiting until February and March to really savor their sweetness. It feels like a delicious final echo of summer’s bounty that helps us remember what is to come in future months! (Hard to remember sometimes at the end of winter!)
  • Butternut squash
  • Kale — The kale in this week’s share is full-sized and from the greenhouse!
  • Cabbage
  • Turnips — This winter we have been enjoying turnips more than ever. We’ve been roasting them on their own (in lots of butter, as usual). We roast peeled and chopped pieces until they are slightly crispy outside and soft inside. We found out that they are especially delicious when served with plain chevre. The goat cheese flavor brings out the underlying sweetness of the turnips.
  • Beets — We also love roasting beets, which is a super simple way to prepare this vegetables (one that often gets made into fancy pickles and things — delicious but maybe not as easy to do when one is trying to prepare a quick weekday dinner!). To roast them, I start by giving them another good scrub to remove any remaining soil. Then I chop off the ends and chop the beet into bite-sized pieces (please note: I do not peel them! Which makes this super easy!). Then I roast/bake them at a relatively low temperature (325°) with lots of butter, stirring regularly so that the butter coats all sides of the beets. Beets take longer to cook all the way through than, say, potatoes, so I find that they lower cooking temperature with lots of butter allows them to cook thoroughly without burning on the outside. I call them done when the outside of the beet is starting to shrivel and the inside is soft all the way through (it’s hard to see a “browning” on a dark red beet, which is why I look for the texture). I salt them and them serve them with yogurt on the side. Goat cheese is good here too! We ate these for dinner tonight! (With cooked kale and cabbage and beef roast!)
  • Sunchokes
  • Potatoes
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Farm equipment for sale

As we reorient our farm, we have farm equipment that needs to find a new home, including lots of livestock related items (plus a few other things too). We’ve included basic details and prices. Contact us if you are interested! You will need to come and pick these items up and haul them yourself. We are happy to make good deals for people buying more than a few of these items!

Livestock related items

Chicken wagon #1: 4×8 former airport luggage cart with eight steel nest boxes and solid/flexible floor. We have towed this with an ATV, Gator and tractor. Asking $800.

IMG_3783 IMG_3784Chicken wagon #2: 2-axle trailer base with a 12’x10′ wood house. No floor! Contains 36 custom built wooden nest boxes. Asking $1500.

IMG_3779IMG_3780One exterior flap needs to be replaced.

IMG_3781IMG_3782

Thousands of feet of electric poultry netting + step in posts + two Premier 1 PRS solar energizers + hot wire for connecting fences and energizers: All purchased new from Premier 1. Everything works. We will sell each of these at 30% the new cost of same item from Premier 1 today.

IMG_3774IMG_3777

Water troughs + fonts for chicks: included with purchase of netting and energizers.

Mower-conditioner for making hay: Everything works. Sickle-bar blade. $750

IMG_3785 IMG_3786Big Red Honda 3-wheeler: $500

IMG_3776 IMG_3775High quality cooler for hauling slaughtered poultry: $50

IMG_3778Large chest freezer for frozen retail bird sales (or other meat storage): Purchased new from Rice Furniture in 2015. $350

IMG_3770

Vegetable or row crop production

Drangen self-propelled farm working platform: Set up for one person, with Honda gasoline engine. $2000

IMG_3773 IMG_3772 IMG_3771

Posted in News & Updates | Leave a comment

What the winter has brought

When the river floods ... go kayaking in the field!

When the river floods … go kayaking in the field!

I keep just a few items on the windowsill behind my standing desk in my office, one of which is a falling apart book my grandmother Dorothy gave me years and years ago. It was originally given to her, and I think she probably just gave it to me because she was cleaning out her things and thought I might like it. I don’t know why I managed to hold on to this book when I myself have given away so many things in my life, but I have, and it has become one of my handful of mementos from my grandmother. For some reason, I found it touching as a child and kept it through every single purge and declutter I’ve done (which, if you know me, is a lot).

The book is called If You’re Afraid of the Dark, Remember the Night Rainbow. And, on each page we’re offered a little disappointment, such as “If you lose the key …” and on the next page, we’re offered a solution, “throw away the house” (with a colorful illustration of a hand tossing a toy house into the air). Each is a bit nonsensical, including the last one: “If there is no happy ending … make one out of cookie dough.”

I thought of these funny solutions this weekend as we accompanied the kids to the flood waters for our annual “Field-Floodwaters-Boating-Adventure.” To me, this is a real life version of my grandmother’s book: When the river floods … go kayaking in the fields! It feels almost as impossible, and yet it is wholly impossible. And wholly wonderful in its radical hilarity.

Dottie's paddling is not as effective yet as Rusty's, but she can get out there anyway!

Dottie’s paddling is not as effective yet as Rusty’s, but she can get out there anyway!

In past years, our adventure was a family one — all of us exploring in a canoe together. But this year, the canoe we used to use is gone, and all we have left is Casey’s old white-water kayak. We weren’t sure if the kids were ready for solo kayak, but it turns out that they are (in calm, shallow flood waters anyway). And the fun remains the same in this new version, with all of us marveling at the craziness of traveling by boat where we normally travel by foot — cruising by the tops of weeds, no less!

I love when things that people might normally see as hard can be turned on their heads like this. To be accurate, the high water we’ve experienced on the island lately really hasn’t been much to speak of. People often reach out to us when the weather gets exceptionally wet and drainage ditches fill all along county roads — they want to know if we are okay down here on the island! The truth is, we flood less frequently than many folks who are higher! The Willamette is a big river, and it takes a lot of river to bring it up. And, our fields drain well, so in the meantime, we don’t have drainage issues (there aren’t even drainage ditches on the island … we just don’t need them!).

But, my goodness, it has been wet this winter. And cold. And snowy. And wet some more! I’m sure you’ve already heard that Portland has broken its record for rainfall in February … and we still have a week of February left to go, with more rain falling!

Winter is known for its cold. And its wetness. And its snow. We’re not super surprised or anything, but it is always a notable experience when we go through seasons that are the farther end of a spectrum away from “average” (the “average winter” doesn’t really exist, of course, except in the numbers created by all the vagaries that go on the record!).

And, unlike these normal high waters (which are nowhere near our over-wintered crops), the more extreme measures of winter do have an effect on the crops in the field. The extended cold spells killed off or set back crops that we normally harvest in late winter or early spring. And, the continued extreme wetness (and accompanying darkness) slow down the growth on the plants that are the fields.

It is what it is — every year has its vagaries. Each winter I daydream (only briefly!) about the upcoming season, when every crop will perform as predicted … which is of course always a daydream. Each year, there are are unexpected surprises with one or more crops. Casey is happy to have crops growing in high tunnels right now, and we feel confident that our CSA will roll merrily along, with nary a blip. But we also feel like it’s useful for our CSA members to have insight into what has and is happening on the farm and how that might affect our CSA shares from week to week. The last few winters were ones when our long CSA season felt relatively easy (the winters were relatively mild and dry), and this winter is one when we’re going to feel more like rock stars for pulling this cold-season growing/harvesting thing off. At the very least, it takes Casey just a little extra “gumption” and persistence to put on full body raingear and go out to harvest, wash and pack produce on very wet and cold days like we’ve been having!

But: the daffodils under our walnut tree are up and open. And nettles are emerging in the forest. And Indian-plum are blooming. Even though many other signs of spring still feel weeks off (and later than we’ve come to expect), these are big seasonal markers for us. We can feel the sap rising in our souls, as we put seed after seed into trays in the greenhouse — seedlings that will grow into peas and tomatoes and zucchini and more! We’ve just got a few more weeks of official winter!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

  • Apples — Mainly Jonagold this week
  • Salad mix — Winter salad mix is such a wonderful treat! You’ll encounter lots of different textures and flavors in the blend, including items that are only available briefly this time of year (such as thinned baby radish greens — so tender!). To get the feel for this salad, we recommend tasting a few of the different leaves individually before dressing so that you have a better sense of what you’ll want to apply. We usually make a simple homemade mayonnaise that I whip up in a mason jar with an immersion blender: I put one egg in (farm-fresh eggs are the safe bet since it will be raw), then I pour in a little vinegar and add olive oil while blending until it is the texture I want. Then I toss it with the salad before serving.
  • Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Marina di Chioggia winter squash
  • Carrots — The carrots are limited in supply for now, so we’ll ask folks to limit themselves to 1 items worth/household. Thank you!!!! We know everyone loves them, so we want to make sure everyone gets some! And in the greenhouse, the spring carrots are just showing their first leaves.
  • Beets
  • Sunchokes — Sunchokes are a crop that outperformed our expectations last year. For many years we’ve had lackluster harvests of this veggie and it’s been an item we’re only able to give out to the CSA once or twice before it’s gone. This year we bought our seed from a different source, and WOW! The sunchokes were abundant and more beautiful than any we’ve grown before! Since we have a lot (and they are so awesome), we’ll be giving them out regularly and we encourage you to experiment with this fun winter crop.
  • Potatoes
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

We’re back!

Casey getting back in the swing of winter harvest and wash. Dottie accompanying him.

Casey getting back in the swing of winter harvest and wash. Dottie accompanying him.

The 2017 CSA begins tomorrow!!!!!! Hoorah! So this is our first (of 40) newsletters of the year, one of many habits we are restarting after our winter break.

As returning members know, we added a few extra weeks to our break this year, and BOY OH BOY are we grateful that we made that decision! The weather turned out to be extra winter-y through January, and each time a Thursday would roll around and we’d look out at frozen and/or snowy fields, we’d feel happy that we just got to enjoy the winter without feeling unnecessarily burdened by it. We even decided to make the unprecedented decision to take a break for harvesting for restaurants as well. It just felt like we needed to give the fields a break from our presence and our mud-making boots. It was nice to not have to work harvest miracles in the middle of those dark months.

Winter Wonderland (aka Holden Village)

Winter Wonderland (aka Holden Village in January)

We made good use of the extra time — both for play and work. Our family left the farm for seven nights, which is a first since we started the farm in 2006. We drove up north to Washington to visit friends and Holden Village (all around the Lake Chelan area). Our trip was a veritable Winter Wonderland adventure, with feet of powdery white snow everywhere, sub-zero temperatures, starlight at night, and priceless visits with wonderful people.

Back at home, we’ve all kept busy with various adventures and bits of work: pruning the orchards, cutting firewood for next winter, and working on some building projects. Casey also built our fifth (and probably final) high tunnel for the farm. So now we have two on our lowest ground and three on our highest ground. The new one was planted the moment it was completed … because we already had plants in the ground ready to go! We knew this high tunnel was going to be built this winter, so Casey planted with it in mind and worked around it.

Crops growing in one of our high tunnels -- picture taken this very afternoon! Looks like spring in there already.

Crops growing in one of our high tunnels — picture taken this very afternoon! Looks like spring in there already.

Last year was our first year really carefully managing our high tunnels (the benefit of scaling down our farm: we have more time for some “smaller” spaces!), and we were amazed at what they were able to produce for us, especially in these shoulder seasons that have historically been stressful for us. We found that vegetables were consistently ready earlier in the season (which was not a surprise to us) AND that they were higher quality AND more productive. We also realized that they allow us to work better in the winter and early spring, because we can actually do things like weed on rainy days (impossible outside for most of the winter!). We even branched out and planted our garlic in a high tunnel this year for that very reason, since our winters are often mild enough to allow weeds to grow but not mild (or dry) enough for us to weed them properly when they need it. So, we’re happy to have a fifth such space for our use this year. We’re especially grateful now, when the harder-than-average winter has cut back on many of our typically-available-over-wintered veggies in the field. We’ll be leaning on the greenhouses hard this spring thanks to all that cold and snow. The high tunnels don’t actually cover that much ground on our farm, but they provide us so much.

Into the woods of Airport Park, one of our weekly outdoor outings.

Into the woods of Airport Park, one of our weekly outdoor outings.

I (Katie) and the kids have been busy with our homeschooling related activities. We start each morning with “school.” I always put that in quotes because what we do doesn’t really look like school, but it’s our equivalent — a little structured time when we do sit down to work. We practice handwriting, do some math, read together from several classic books, practice Spanish, move around a bunch, and do other little projects depending on the day. We’ve also added a few other activities to the kids lives this year: ballet for Dottie, swim lessons for both kids, among other things. We’ve also been going on a weekly outdoor outing, just me and the kids. We explore all the amazing places near our farm, enjoying the outdoors regardless of the weather.

And, today we all got home from our 11th annual trip to Breitenbush Hot Springs for a farmer gathering. We always think of this trip as a big turning point in the season. Often the time leading up to the trip feels like winter and there will even be snow on the ground while we are there. But it often turns while we are there, which happened again this time — the temperatures up there rose above freezing, and today it was even raining on top of the snow. Returning feels like pressing the “start” button for so many of our spring-like activities. We’ve already sown some transplants and some in the greenhouse, but those types of projects will just pick up now that we’re back.

Including, of course, the start of our 2017 CSA! We are excited to see all of you again tomorrow after our winter break. We miss your friendly faces and weekly routine of touching base with you.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

First CSA payment due tomorrow! Have you made a first payment yet? If not, please bring cash or check to pick-up for either one-quarter or the full value of your share. If you can’t remember the amounts, you can ask me at pick up or email me.

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples — This week’s apple selection are mainly Honeycrisp
  • Cabbage
  • Baby kale — These bunches of baby kale are super tender from our high tunnels! We’re picking whole plants small now in order to give other plants the space to grow big for picking later. These are absolutely delicious, suitable for making a salad (or cooking too).
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Marina di Chioggia winter squash — This winter squash has a been mainstay of our winter diet. We gave out the smaller ones in the fall and now mostly have the TRULY ENORMOUS ones left. We’ll be cutting them into quarters for you all, since some of these literally would not even fit into an oven. To cook them, we recommend just putting them on a baking pan and baking at 350° until they are soft all the way through (depending on the thickness and size, this could be up to one hour). We usually put the cooked squash in the fridge and eat a little bit of it every day. We like to cut slices and reheat them in the oven with butter so that the squash is crispy on the outside (a well seasoned pan helps with the browning, and you can also do this on the stovetop). We eat the skin and all. That’s the simple way to eat it, but you can also use the cooked flesh to make any kind of pumpkin baked good or soup.
  • Sunchokes (aka “Jerusalem Artichokes”) — I don’t really know how this delightful (and funny looking) vegetable ever picked up that second name, since they are neither from Jerusalem nor related to artichokes! Sunchokes are the tuber of an American plant related to sunflowers. We mostly eat them raw, sliced thin into cole slaw type salads. But they are absolutely delicious roasted as well. When we roast them, we typically cut them small (cutting can also help clean any soil left in all those tight crevices!) and roast them until they are crispy outside and chewy/soft inside. They take longer to soften than potatoes or carrots, so leave plenty of time (in relation to how small they are).
  • Beets
  • Garlic
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Happy 2017!

We spent a fun morning recently throwing sticks onto our frozen creek.

We spent a fun morning recently throwing sticks onto our frozen creek.

Hello, friends! It feels like it has been a long time since I last came to this space with an update, and I miss it! We’re about halfway through our winter break, and I wanted to pop in here to say howdy and give folks an update on what we’re doing around these parts when we’re NOT doing the CSA.

First, of all, as expected the first few weeks of our break were almost wholly consumed by sicknesses and holiday gatherings. I predict this will be the same every year, and I dislike that it seems so pessimistic to expect illnesses in November/December. But this just seems to be the case! Certainly, a few rounds of coughs or colds don’t completely shut us down, but they really do limit our productivity. Combine feeling under the weather with actually dark/rainy weather and shorter days, and it becomes a time when we prioritize deeper levels of rest. Perhaps as it should be in those weeks of Advent!

Of course, punctuating those moments of rest were wonderful get togethers with friends and families, as well as the other random kinds of things that we “save” for when our schedule is more open (doctors visits and the like). A few highlights from December: Katie led a panel discussion at the Women in Sustainable Agriculture Conference in Portland; Katie’s choir concert; taking the kids to see the Nutcracker for the first time; and placing an order for another new greenhouse (this is often our end-of-year bonus to ourselves if we’ve had a good season!).

Rose hips on a sunny winter day

Rose hips on a sunny winter day

Now that January has arrived, we feel invigorated by the new year and are happily making lists in our notebooks again of all those big tasks we want to get done before the CSA begins in mid-February. We’ve got just over a month to do some BIG stuff, but the lengthening days and occasional bright sunny winter sunshine help make it feel possible!

And, perhaps the most note-worthy item of all (and one you’ve likely noticed yourself if you are local to us!) — this has been a very wintery winter so far here in Western Oregon! My goodness! Snow is falling again as I write this post, and it’s become almost ho hum and normal after many, many days of snow already in the last month. Casey and I can’t remember a winter quite like this in our 11+ years of farming here, where we faced seemingly endless days of sub-freezing temperatures and/or actual snowfall. Certainly, we remember some wicked cold snaps and snowfall events, but they were always events that ended. This is just winter, ongoing.

Watching the snow begin to fall ... again!

Watching the snow begin to fall … again!

Overall, our life this year is not overly complicated by the wintery winter — we are grateful that we had already decided to extend our winter break a bit longer. We even decided to take a few weeks off from restaurant harvests (the first time ever!) so that we can just leave the fields be during all this freezing weather. Honestly, when it is this cold, just regular harvest is about 10 times more complicated, and just being out in the fields can feel like we are damaging plants that are working really hard to get through the low temperatures alive!

And, we’ve had a lot of fun on our break too. After we recouped from our various illnesses, we rededicated ourselves to playing outside regularly, regardless of the weather. We also discovered that snow and ice make for lots of fun play opportunities! The kids, naturally, are delighted by it all. Here are a few of our fun occasions of late:

Casey invented a new game to play during morning P.E.: farm snow hockey!

Casey invented a new game to play during morning P.E.: farm snow hockey in the driveway!

On a recent outing to Willamette Mission, the kids and I found a GIANT frozen-over puddle and had a blast crunching all over it.

On a recent outing to Willamette Mission, the kids and I found a GIANT frozen-over puddle and had a blast crunching all over it.

And, apparently it was even fun to lie down on the ice! I'm sure the brilliant winter sun helped!

And, apparently it was even fun to lie down on the ice! I’m sure the brilliant winter sun helped!

We hope that you have also been making the best of winter’s challenges and joys! We look forward to returning to our normal routines toward the end of February, perhaps most of all because we miss seeing all your friendly faces at pick-up.

Before then, we will work diligently on our to do lists, including building our new greenhouse, planting seeds in our existing greenhouses and starting seeds in the hothouse! 2017 is commencing with a flurry of activity already!

Much gratitude for the New Year and old friends ~

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

P.S. Have you signed up for our 2017 CSA season yet? Now is the time! You can do so now here.

Posted in News & Updates | Leave a comment

December Holiday Harvest

Our 11th annual December Holiday Harvest is next week!

Here’s how our Holiday Harvests work. You look at our list of available fruits and veggies (see below) and decide what you’d like to order. Maybe you just want some extra delicious organic produce for your holiday meals; or maybe you want to stock your pantry — either works for us!

Once you have your list, send your order to us by Sunday evening using the handy form supplied below the list! How easy is that?

On Tuesday, December 20, we’ll harvest for you and bring your order to our downtown McMinnville storefront (off of the 2nd Street parking lot between Evans and Davis St.). You can pick up your produce any time between 3 and 5 pm that day. We accept cash or check payments.

We will also have farm meat in the freezer available for purchase at the time of pick-up.

All are welcome to participate! Any other questions? You can email us farm (at) oakhillorganics (dot) com.

Now, make your list! …

  • Apples, Goldrush — Yellow skin, great for eating and cooking — $3/lb
  • Apples, Liberty — Red skin, good for eating — $3/lb
  • Pears — $3/lb
  • Seasonal salad mix — Mix of fall greens — $4/bag (0.5 lb bags)
  • Kale — $3/bunch
  • Collards — $3/bunch
  • Chard — $3/bunch
  • Cabbage — $2.50/lb (order by the each)
  • Brussels sprouts — loose — $6/lb
  • Pie pumpkins — $1.50/lb (order by the each)
  • Butternut squash — $1.50/lb (order by the each)
  • Marina di Chioggia squash — $1/lb (order by the each)
  • Spaghetti Squash — $1.50/lb (order by the each)
  • Beets — $1.50/lb
  • Red potatoes — $2.50/lb
  • Yellow potatoes — $2.50/lb
  • Garlic — $8/lb

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Your phone number (required)

Your Holiday Harvest order

Questions or other comments?

Posted in News & Updates | Leave a comment

Thanksgiving Holiday Harvest

Our 11th annual Thanksgiving Holiday Harvest is next week!

Here’s how our Holiday Harvests work. You look at our list of available fruits and veggies (see below) and decide what you’d like to order. Maybe you just want some extra delicious organic produce for your holiday meal; or maybe you want to stock your pantry — either works for us!

Once you have your list, send your order to us by Sunday evening using the handy form supplied below the list! How easy is that?

On Tuesday, November 22, we’ll harvest for you and bring your order to our downtown McMinnville storefront (off of the 2nd Street parking lot between Evans and Davis St.). You can pick up your produce any time between 3 and 5 pm that day. We accept cash or check payments.

We will also have farm meat in the freezer available for purchase at the time of pick-up.

All are welcome to participate! Any other questions? You can email us farm (at) oakhillorganics (dot) com.

Now, make your list! …

  • Apples, Goldrush — Yellow skin, great for eating and cooking — $3/lb
  • Apples, Liberty — Red skin, good for eating — $3/lb
  • Pears — $3/lb
  • Seasonal salad mix — Mix of fall greens — $4/bag (0.5 lb bags)
  • Kale — $3/bunch
  • Collards — $3/bunch
  • Chard — $3/bunch
  • Cabbage — $2.50/lb (order by the each)
  • Brussels sprouts — loose — $6/lb
  • Pie pumpkins — $1.50/lb (order by the each)
  • Butternut squash — $1.50/lb (order by the each)
  • Marina di Chioggia squash — $1/lb (order by the each)
  • Delicata winter squash — $1.50/lb (order by the each)
  • Spaghetti Squash — $1.50/lb (order by the each)
  • Carrots — $3/lb
  • Beets — $1.50/lb
  • Celery root — $4/lb (order by the each)
  • Red potatoes — $2.50/lb
  • Yellow potatoes — $2.50/lb
  • Garlic — $8/lb

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Your phone number (required)

Your Holiday Harvest order

Questions or other comments?

Posted in News & Updates | Leave a comment