Meet this week’s vegetables:*
- Kohlrabi — Many people think kohlrabi is a root, but it is actually a super-sized cole crop stem. Think of it like the sweetest, most tender, broccoli stalk you have ever tasted. Some people think the flavor and texture are reminiscent of jicama, although they are not at all related. Spring kohlrabi is best enjoyed raw. Simply peel off the skin with a paring knife and chop to put on a salad. Or make into sticks for dipping into your favorite dip!
- Fava beans — Fava beans are another less common, but delicious, spring vegetable. These have been growing in our fields since we planted them last fall. They grow slowly all winter and then bloom and set fruit once it’s warm enough in the spring. You definitely need to shell these beans (although some CSA members and restaurants have enjoyed roasting or grilling the whole bean at high heat!). The inside beans have a slightly bitter white skin on them, which some people like to remove (the final interior bean is bright green), but that’s a matter of preference. You can peel off the white skin with a fingernail, paring knife or by blanching the beans and “popping” them out. Either way, the fava beans are great parboiled and then sautéed in butter. You can mix the cooked beans whole with pasta dishes or purée and spread on bread (so delicious!). Experiment!
- Sugar snap peas — In contrast, these peas are intended to be eaten whole, pod and all. Some people cook with these, but we eat them like candy, straight off the plant.
- Head lettuce
- Pea tops
* This list is what will be available at the Mac pick-up this week and will most likely be at Newberg too — but we may vary the selection slightly for Newberg as new items come on in the fields over the week. Check with Emily or Jesse about what might vary at pick-up!
We’re still trying to catch up with spring work after a delayed start to the season. Casey’s mantra for when he wakes in the night is now, “It will be okay.” Because, well, we think it will, even though we’re still technically in the season’s (record late) pinch point for harvestable product.
This week Casey and the crew continued the ongoing “planting extravaganza,” in spite of the return to gray skies and periodic downpours. Since so much ground was already worked up, the folks were able to go out and plant in any relatively dry spell, keeping us moving all week long (and even moving faster thanks to the addition of Kimmie’s presence! It feels great to have another capable body working in the fields!). With the luxury of lots of land, we’ve continued planting record amounts of staple crops — among other things, this year we should have pole beans a plenty!!!
To further encourage us that “it will be okay,” the plants and seeds put in the ground two weeks ago are looking great — potatoes are already emerging on the new land; the spring cole crops are growing steadily along; and the summer squash are doing their rapid expansion dance (these plants never cease to amaze us!).
But, still, there’s no doubt it’s been a full spring, increasingly so as we continue to add animals and other ventures to the mix of our daily chore routine.
And, as usual, even in the more familiar vegetable realm, we’re already seeing signs of which crops will be stellar and which may be disappointing. We have been dealing with a mysterious tomato disease in the greenhouse (perhaps stemming from a use of a new soil mix recipe this year), which we think is going to set us back there. But, as always, we have taken action in several ways and are crossing our fingers that one or more of our contingency plants provides us abundance (albeit perhaps a few weeks later than we were hoping).
Overall, thanks to Casey’s midnight mantra and the clear progress in the fields, I think our stress load is lightening day-by-day. We no longer feel like pacing caged animals, waiting for spring — every day we mark significant tasks off the white board ‘to do’ list, leaving everyone with a smile at the end of each day.
But, it also helps that the farm is a continual source of sweet moments. If we ever have doubts about why we do this work — why oh why do we take on more and more while working hard to meet our existing commitments? why more land? why more enterprises? — well, the farm provides answers. Sometimes those answers are small but clear, and sometimes they are dramatic and profound. A few examples from this week:
Thursday was a very rainy day here on the farm again, but we were all excited because one of our new Jersey heifers, Willa, was showing clear signs of being in labor with her first calf! We’ve been waiting for this moment since she arrived late last month, and Casey and I have even stuck close to home, just in case (as well as built a little “calving kit,” made contact with a vet — just in case — and read as much as we could about what to expect). We knew that Willa is a shy, private animal, so we gave her plenty of space, just checking on her every hour or so.
Then at midday Kimmie went out to check again, and — surprise! — there was a newborn calf in the grass next to Willa! He wasn’t even standing yet and was still wet from birth. Willa watched us carefully as we checked things out, and then went to work licking her calf (as soon as we were out of eyesight anyway — she is a very private creature).
Leo (as we named him) is the first animal life born on our part of the farm (my mom has had many lambs, piglets, and ducklings born next-door on her farm), and it has been such a pleasure to see his beautiful fresh form out with Willa and Annie in the pasture. It is also sweet to watch Willa learn how to be a mother, to hear her low gently to Leo when he is straggling behind (and Annie has become quite the protective “Auntie” too!). Now, we are working on establishing a milking routine with Willa, a first for all of us involved — the promise of fresh milk and the beauty of a healthy newborn calf are certainly inspiring to us! (Annie is due to calve sometime in the next few weeks, so we get to experience this again! Hopefully she calves as easily!)
Friday morning brought another sweet moment to all of us. It was the first morning we had all been working on the new land. It was a crisp sunny morning after many days of rain. Emily and Kimmie were planting while Casey and Jesse were scything grass out from around our new blueberries. (Meanwhile, PGE was out hooking up power to our wells, a moment we’ve been working toward for months.) Rusty and I walked over to join in the fun.
First thing, Rusty and I got in the hammock we’ve hung over there (because, really, what is a peaceful spot without a good hammock) and were lounging in the gentle sun, enjoying the breeze and the view of the white clouds in the blue sky … and then I saw it — a Bald Eagle, perched at the top of an old fir tree, just beyond where we were lying down. I alerted the rest of the crew to its presence and we all marveled in how enormous he looked, even at the top of such a tall tree. As we watched, he took off and soared over the farm in circles, joined by two Red-Tailed Hawks.
I realize that our presence was probably only of mild interest to the eagle, but I think we all felt blessed by his flight over our working bodies. Casey, Rusty and I have seen this eagle many times when we visit the new land (along with Ospreys, hawks, and ravens), and every time we rejoice in the beauty of his presence in our life. To have the space of our work overlap with his territory feels like a huge honor and responsibility — a reminder of all the values we hold dear about farming gently alongside the wildness of this place.
Our cow Willa’s insistence on privacy and careful handling also reminds us of how even the things we think of as “ours” and “domesticated” are only so through mutual trust and respect. Clearly we will have more of an intimate relationship with Willa and Leo than we ever will with the Bald Eagle, but both bring a sweet and important perspective to our work.
Of course, you all provide sweetness too. Even with the added enterprises, I still don’t think this has been our hardest spring on the farm, but it has been challenging at times. And it is always so wonderful to hear kind words from the people we work so hard to serve. Running into friends who are also CSA members at a party and having them volunteer their gratitude and appreciation for the recent vegetables — what a blessing on our work as well! I am always amazed at the kindness of this community; over and over again we marvel at how wonderful it is to be here.
May you have many sweet moments this week as well that remind you of your own worth in this world! Enjoy this week’s vegetables!
Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla
… and the rest of the farm crew!
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Some random business & fun details:
- Welcome new members! This week we have several new households joining the CSA in both McMinnville and Newberg! We are so glad to have you with us for this season! Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns as we go forward!
- Payment reminder! Your next CSA payment is due this week — I’m sorry I forgot to put a reminder in last week’s newsletter! I emailed statements to everyone who has an open balance (and for whom I have a working email address). If you are unsure of what you owe, please email or call me and I can get you the information.
- We got a new truck! Casey and I think its funny that it took us six years to buy a pick-up truck for our farm. The first year, we managed the farm with only our hatchback Honda Civic (it took us two loads to get to market). Since then we’ve bought an Isuzu box truck and a field vehicle (John Deere Gator), so we haven’t needed a real farm truck. But this year we started wanting one, and a few months back we put out the call to our CSA members asking if anyone had a truck for sale. Someone did, and now we have an awesome, giant, diesel truck that can haul a whole lot of stuff (including the entire crew at once — in seatbelts!). This will be great as we continue to farm both sides of the creek (all the new land is technically adjacent to our home farm, but separated by a waterway). Thanks Chris and Liz!
- June open house! We’ve set a date for our first CSA open house — Sunday, June 24. We’re still working on the details, but it will be in the mid-afternoon and will be on the new land! Farmer Casey will give tours of all our new stuff, and we’re planning a fun treat — very possibly strawberry ice cream. We may ask for people to RSVP so we know how much to make. Look for details in future newsletters, but get the date on your calendar now!
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Next week’s vegetables (probably!)
Strawberries (cross your fingers for nice weather!) • Fava beans • Peas • Radishes • Salad mix • Chard • Head lettuce • Sweet onions • Green garlic