Meet this week’s vegetables: (Newberg options may slightly differ)
- Strawberries — This may be the last week for strawberries. We have so enjoyed having a bigger crop this year and are already looking forward to even more in future years!
- Broccoli — At last!
- Fava beans — We will forever remember the fava bean abundance of this spring. We are grateful for it, given how hard the season has been in other ways.
- Mizuna & komatsuna — Two Asian greens that are great for eating as a slightly spicy salad. This season’s growing conditions have been exceptionally well suited to such greens (which sometimes just get too hot and tough when it is warmer out). Every season brings something unique!
- Summer squash
- Garlic scapes
Now that we’ve hit July, we are well into berry season in Oregon — the strawberries are waning, the raspberries are peaking, and the blueberries are coming on (we are not harvesting all these crops yet, but folks around us are!).
Of course, with berry season comes the main “putting up” season, which begins for most people with strawberries, frozen and preserved for enjoyment later in the year.
Many years ago, when Casey and I were first married and newly hatching our rural dreams, I had visions of summers spent putting up produce of all kinds. I drooled over visions of a large pantry filled with neatly lined jars of preserves and dried fruit. We even talked about how our future house must have an outdoor kitchen on a porch so that we could comfortably can in hot weather.
This dream hasn’t quite come to fruition. We do can, dry, and freeze produce in modest quantities throughout the warm season — a few frozen strawberries here, a batch or two of blackberry jam, some dried prunes and tomatoes … Often the things we put up are leftovers from big harvests for our customers. We don’t put up tomatoes until we are bringing them back home from CSA pick-up; and we don’t make sauerkraut until we have cabbage overflowing in our fall cooler space. We do deliberately put up blackberry jam, simply because we love it so and use it almost everyday, but otherwise, we’re pretty content with the dribs and drabs that end up in our winter pantry.
There are moments when I reflect upon our older dream and wonder where it went. But then I realize that it has simply evolved. Our dream was always to eat the fruits of our own labor, but before we actually got on our own ground, we were basing those dream on images of farm life we’d gleaned from other people — often people living and growing in different climates than our own. Once we started really farming (first in Bellingham and then here in Yamhill County), we grew to realize that seasonal eating can have a separate meaning than local eating. We realized that our farm can provide food year-round, without preservation methods. And we’ve been doing so now through our CSA since 2008.
Of course, what is available varies dramatically. We obviously do not harvest tomatoes of any kind in February, so having some put up is a nice addition to the winter supply of greens, alliums, and roots.
It isn’t that we don’t value those preserved gems of summer bounty — I so appreciate everything we do put up; and I love it when friends give us treats from their own pantries (chutneys, pickles, jams, oh my!). These are always my favorite gifts to receive in the winter!
But my vision of our life and farm has changed, and with it I have embraced the seasons in a new way. I don’t expect to be eating nearly as many tomato products in February as we do in September, just as I don’t expect to be swimming in the river in winter either.
And, just as we try to get our fill of river swimming during the warm season, we gorge ourselves on the passing seasonal delicacies as they come and go. Rusty reached saturation on strawberries about two weeks ago — suddenly he was squishing them rather than eating them, and then his attention turned to our small patch of raspberries. These summer delights are perfect for full and total (brief) immersion — strawberries at every meal for two to three weeks, followed by raspberries, blueberries, cherries, etc.
In fact, I think that’s a big part of why we’re okay with giving up one portion of our farm dreams … there are other fleeting joys to be had in this seemingly very brief warm season — joys that we might miss if we didn’t allow ourselves the time to relax at moments during the busiest time of our farming year.
To that end, we celebrated the start of summer by hooking up the bike trailer to Casey’s bike, fixing his popped bike tube, and restarting our routine of regular visits to the river for rock throwing (and eventually swimming — it still hasn’t been that warm yet!). I bought us a little inflatable rowboat last week, and this weekend we had our first float on the Willamette, something we’ve dreamed about since moving here but hadn’t pulled off before. How have we lived here for over five years and never experienced this element of the river that surrounds our farm home? It is time, and we hope to get out there as much as possible this summer to enjoy the quiet serenity of the lazy river.
I have made a modest “putting up” list for this summer, but it is very modest indeed — a list of the things I think I would miss dearly, and heavy on things that provide the most pleasure for the least amount of work (frozen blueberries = SO easy!). But with our second baby due in just under two months, Casey and I have other priorities right now. There are many of the aspects of the farm that we want to get “settled” before August. And, in our off time, we are more focused on putting up another summer worth of happy memories with Rusty.
This is our last summer as a family of three, and Casey and I are both having those typical second-time parent thoughts: “How will we ever love another child as much as we love this boy? How will this second child change our life forever? Who will this new person be?” These are great mysteries to us right now, and certainly we will learn the answers in time, but for now we will address the unknown by simply focusing on the present moments (even as we do continue to lay plans for the future of the farm).
Come fall and winter, I’m sure I would enjoy a few more pints of jam than we will have, but with storage rooms (hopefully) full of winter squash, apples, carrots, and pears (and a new baby in my arms), our life will still be full of sweetness of all kinds. Given how much our family loves these winter flavors, I can’t regret our lack of canning fervor too much. Rusty is already checking out the small apples on our trees, so I know we will eat well in every season.
We’re still waiting for more of that true summer weather. But it’s July now, and the potato plants are blooming; the winter squash are running; and the onions are bulbing. Maybe it won’t be a hot season, but we will have food and fun! Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!
Enjoy this week’s vegetables!
Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla
… and the rest of the farm crew!
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Katie’s modest “putting up” list for 2012:
- To freeze (we don’t blanche any of these things, making this the easiest portion of my list by far): whole tomatoes, sweet corn, blueberries, other berries as we have extra, chopped sweet peppers, whole hot peppers
- To can (just one or two canner batches of each): salsa, blackberry jam, plum sauce
- To dehydrate: plums, tomatoes
- To ferment: sauerkraut
- To remember: floating on the river with my boys on quiet summer mornings, swimming in the river on hot afternoons, meals with friends, bike rides around the island, eating our fill of seasonal fruits, relaxing in the hammock with Rusty, watching Rusty grow and grow, birthing another sweet baby safely at home, and more!!!!
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Oakhill CSA member meetings coming up!
Are you interested in expanding your understanding of seasonal, local eating? Picture coming once a week to the farm to pick up 70-80% of your weekly food needs: abundant vegetables, fruits, grains, eggs, milk, meat, and more! Picture tailoring your diet to what is truly in season and available, substituting more whole foods for convenience foods, becoming increasingly rooted in this valley and its products …
Our farm is headed in a direction to provide you more of your diet so that you too can experience some of the wonder of living the seasons through your food. I’ve written a bit about our future plans for a “full diet CSA” — now we’d like to provide an opportunity for you to learn more, in person, with us your farmers. We’re going to do two presentations with question and answer periods to help you understand how the CSA is going to evolve next year. At these meetings, we’d also like to hear from you about your needs, desires, hopes, fears, and limitations as a CSA member. We’ll be doing a session in Mac and in Newberg on different days, but they are not limited to membership in those communities. If the time and day in the other town works better for you, please attend that session. Here is what we have scheduled:
Thursday, July 19, 6 pm
First Baptist Church, Social Hall
125 SE Cowls St, McMinnville
Sunday, July 29, 3 pm
Impact Performance Training Gym
720 E 1st St, Newberg
Thanks to both places for hosting our meetings! I hope everyone can make it to at least one of these meetings. If you have questions or concerns, call (503-474-7661) or email (farm(at)oakhillorganics(dot)org).
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Next week’s veggies (probably!):
Cherries • Blueberries • Arugula • Lettuce • Spinach • Bok choy • Salad turnips • Sweet onions