Meet this week’s vegetables:
- Head lettuce — It’s a fresh greens heavy week, thanks to it being spring! Add to your menu more salads than usual, and you’ll be a happy camper. This time of year, we tend to eat one of our favorite quick-and-easy meals: Big Green Salad. Fill your plates with lightly dressed greens, then top with tons of yummy things to make a salad into a meal. Some of our favorite toppings: tuna, roasted nuts, dried fruit, bacon, sliced sausage, chunks of cheese, hard boiled eggs, etc.
- Braising mix
- Mustards — Mustards are hot when eaten raw (be warned if you are a juicer! These are not your best bet!), but they mellow out beautifully when cooked. We go through phases of eating mustards every day for breakfast (sautéed with leeks/onions, topped with a egg, fried over easy).
- Pea tops — Obviously our main goal in planting peas is for the delicious peas! But the tender shoots are a delicious delicacy as well. You can add these to any cooked greens, but their flavor and texture are perfect for eating raw. We like to toss them with lettuce — they add the flavor of peas but with the texture of a very delicate green.
- Bok choy — This weekend, Casey and I enjoyed bok choy sautéed with leeks and ginger and then served over rice with pork (and a little soy sauce over all of it).
This is Casey and my seventh spring of farming on our own. It seems that every year, regardless of how many times we’ve been through it, spring surprises us. Shocks us even — with its unpredictability, variability, beauty, frustrations and just plain huge load of work.
How we can find ourselves so surprised every time is a mystery — I suppose there’s just enough time (and benign forgetting of pain) between each spring that we might think we know what we’re in for … but not quite.
Since I am a woman expecting her second child and planning another unmedicated homebirth, I can’t help think of it as akin to childbirth — yes, I have done it before, and so I have confidence I can do it again. But I’m pretty sure that when I hit active labor, the last little bit of my conscious brain will be saying, “Oh crap! I forgot how hard this is!” And, then of course, I will do it.
Just as we are “doing” spring right now, in spite of the sense of being stretched thinner than possible. Farming is happening; plants are growing; people are smiling amidst the rows and rows of onion starts … It’s not easy (hardly!), but we are doing it.
Every spring is unique too. Perhaps it’s just my foggy memory reinterpreting events, but it feels as though recently each spring has gotten subsequently colder and wetter than the one before — so that now we find ourselves nearing the end of perhaps the coldest and wettest spring we’ve experienced, but it’s hard to keep that in perspective because we’re almost getting used to these kinds of springs (in contrast, our first few years were marked by sunny warm springs and relatively easy early planting experiences).
There are two challenges wrapped up in one when it comes to a cold, rainy spring. The first challenge is simply the delay of our first plantings, which for us results in stress as we approach the end of our over-wintered crops. Since we provide our CSA and restaurant customers produce year-round, even a week or two without plenty of vegetables is a huge stressor.
Often there are a few weeks that require us to get creative and careful in how and when we harvest certain crops (what will last in the field longest? can we harvest this small rapini for braising mix? how many heads of lettuce and bags of salad mix can one family eat in one week?). We’re starting to see those weeks in sight now — the latest they’ve ever come. We think of the “lean weeks” as being an April/May phenomenon, but it looks like they will arrive in May/June this year. Hopefully the strawberries are productive!
But the second challenge of a delayed start to the planting season is that once the warm dry weather arrives (as it did this last week), we have a lot of work to make up. This last week was a prime example of trying to cram many weeks of spring work into one. Casey and the crew were moving non-stop between our usual harvests: planting a ton (see below for some numbers), setting up the irrigation on all of it, tending to the new animals, working up the next even larger sections of ground for upcoming plantings, and doing the various odds and ends that couldn’t wait.
So, how much got planted this week? Record amounts for one week on our farm. Jesse and Emily planted 1/3 acre to direct sown items (carrots, beets, etc.) and a few rows of summer squash. Later in the week, the whole crew got in the potatoes — another record amount and 50% larger than last year’s potato planting. We planted 70 rows (14,000 row feet), or 1150 pounds total. Friday was dedicated to the onion planting, another biggie for us, and yet this year broke all former records again. The crew planted 40 rows, for an approximate total of 40,000 onion plants! (Just to add to the “fun” of that day, our self-propelled planting platform wouldn’t start, in spite of Casey’s best efforts. So all those plants were put in with a lot of bending over in the hot sun — oof!)
We still have many big spring planting pushes ahead of us, but these were biggies to mark off the list. Getting them all done in one week was incredible and exhausting.
Of course, the weather last week was just about perfect, which definitely helped get everyone through the long days. Wednesday was a particularly remarkable day, and Rusty and I had the joy of helping with the potato planting. The sun was out, but there was a fresh cool breeze blowing, keeping all of us perfectly comfortable and refreshed. And we all discovered how perfect potato planting is for toddler “help” — very little to hurt and lots of fun. I got Rusty his own little bucket and he wandered up and down the rows, following Jesse or Emily, dropping a random potato here or there. Meanwhile, I hunkered down at the end of the rows with Casey, cutting potato seed and reflecting on many springs past (including the ones when it was just Casey and me — so long ago now!).
There’s no question it was a community effort kind of week (Rusty included!). Even though those past springs hold dear memories for Casey and me, it is exciting to have more bodies around the farm and be capable of growing so much more food (especially now with the new land, which is expanding our potential in such significant ways!). Our next new employee, Kimmie, starts this week, and we are excited to integrate another able body into this crazy spring work!
Figuring out how to farm in the context of a growing on-farm community is its own challenge for all of us — something that we’re all fortunately open to talking about as needed. But, experience of past seasons gives us the faith though to know that problems can be solved, spring can be survived, and plants will grow (maybe not always exactly how, when, or where we plan ahead of time — but they do grow!).
We tend to hit our stride in July, when the main work of the farm refocuses on weeding, irrigating and harvesting. I’m sure that this year’s July will be a little trickier with so many new enterprises, but we’re still keeping our eyes on that goal of working into a routine.
Of course, then in late August, we’ll be readjusting all over again when the youngest and littlest new member of our farm community arrives (after hopefully not too shocking of a birth experience for this Mama!). But, one day at a time. Today we will feed the chicks and visit with the cows before bed; tomorrow we will harvest for the restaurants and deliver to the McMinnville CSA … one day at a time!
Enjoy this week’s vegetables!
Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla
… and the rest of the farm crew!
~ ~ ~
Next week’s vegetables (probably!):
Salad mix • Bok choy • Chard • Asparagus? • Rhubarb? • Green garlic • Leeks