Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Happy First Day of Spring!

Snow Drop
Can you believe it?  We made it through another winter and the promises of new growth, green vegetables, warmth and the adventures of another CSA season are in our near future.  Yesterday Richard found the first spring flowers of the season.  We have some pretty little Snow Drops poking through on our hillside.  They are the earliest flowers to bloom each year, which means the daffodils, crocuses and tulips will follow very soon.  As I was preparing dinner last night, Richard passed through the kitchen and said, “Spring is Coming, Isn’t this exiting?!  I love growing things!”  While winter never seems long enough to make it through our long “To Do List,” we always welcome spring and the refreshing sense of newness that comes with it.

The overwintered spinach with new growth!

Look closely to see the new garlic sprout just above the label.
As our valley and farm start to wake up and we celebrate the First Day of Spring, we thought it fitting to let you know what’s been happening on the farm.  Richard has been roving through some of the fields already.  It’s a little too soon to assess how well the garlic survived the winter, although Richard did see the very beginning stages of new growth.  The overwintered spinach plants look good.  Last year’s growth has died, which actually makes the first glance of the field look pretty bad.  The important thing though is that the actual crown of the plant has life in it.  It's still a little too small to cut any, but we’re hoping we can start snitching a few of those first leaves for a little green salad very soon.  For those of you who don’t know the beauty of overwintered spinach, listen up.  Historically this is the best tasting spinach of the season. It’s sweet and rich in flavor.  The leaves are thick, yet tender.  You do not want to miss out on this spinach!

Transplanting onions in 2017
We also have some overwintered parsnips, sunchokes and horseradish that we need to harvest as soon as the fields dry out…and we have a crew to harvest them!  Our small winter crew has been doing an awesome job taking care of, well everything.  They’ve been washing vegetables still in storage to fill a few winter orders, they’ve worked on repair and cleaning projects, set up two greenhouses, harvested the willow, shoveled snow, helped open up frozen drains and a whole lot of other random tasks!  But we’re going to need more hands very soon.  Thankfully, our final approval for our H2A visa application came through at the end of last week and we were able to schedule the appointments for our field crew to go to the consulate in Mexico where they’ll, hopefully, get their visas and make the long journey north to Wisconsin.  We hope to see the first group of 19 people by the end of next week.  Once they are here, we’ll start laying plastic mulch so we can transplant onions, have fields to clean up and prepare for planting, rocks to pick, seed potatoes to cut, animal fencing to fix, a fleet of pickup trucks to service, wheel bearings to pack and a whole lot more!  Yes, we’re anxious to have them back and hope all goes well with their travels.  It’s always bittersweet to see them.  Good for us because we enjoy working with them and they are an important part of our farm, but when they’re here it means they aren’t with their families.  They seem to make the best of it and we are grateful to their wives, children and other family members that take care of business on the home front while they’re husbands, sons, brothers are here.
Onion plants showing signs of growth every day!

Soon this house will be full!
Our greenhouses are rocking and quickly turning multiple shades of green!  All of the onions, shallots and leeks are planted and growing very nicely.  We’ve had a lot of nice days with full sunshine which means the plants are really able to suck up the energy and have growth spurts literally overnight!  When I went into the greenhouse yesterday morning some of the onions had about an inch of new growth that was not there when I walked through the house the night before.  By the end of the week we’ll probably have to give them their first “hair cut” of the season so they don’t start falling over.  Last Friday and Saturday Gerardo, Simon and Sarah finished planting all the celeriac and moved on to fennel.  Moises finished the fennel planting on Monday and now we’ve moved on to the first plantings of parsley and dandelion with plans to plant the first crops of broccoli, cauliflower, spring cabbage, kale and kohlrabi before the end of the week. 

Silky Wild Rye (above) and Crew Planting Pollinator Packs in 2016
Does anyone remember when we did Pollinator Packs a few years ago?  Well, we didn’t do them last year and actually received quite a few inquiries from members interested in planting more pollinator plants.  So this year we decided to do them again.  The seeds have been planted and nearly everything is up and growing nicely.  Some of the plants in the mix are the same as the ones we did previously, but we also chose a few new things including more native grasses with fun interesting names such as silky wild rye and rattlesnake grass.  If you planted a pollinator garden with the packs we offered previously, this year will be your opportunity to diversify your space with some new plants! 

Seed Cooler is stocked up and ready for spring too!
Our seed cooler is full and we've received nearly all of the seeds we'll need for the season. We have a few new crops on the plan.  We found a new green called “Bau Sin.”  This is an Asian green that is supposed to have tender, sweet leaves and thrives best in the cool of the fall.  It’s supposed to form a head with broad leaves, so I imagine it to be kind of like a cross between cabbage and bok choi with a mild, sweet flavor.  We’re also growing a new bean called “Amethyst.”    As indicated by its name, this is a purple bean meant for fresh eating.  We haven’t grown purple beans before because once you cook them, they always turn green!  What’s the point?!  While green beans are typically cooked, they can also be eaten raw. These Amethyst beans are described as having very good flavor when eaten raw or cooked.  Yes, they still turn green if you cook them, but I think they could make a beautiful salad if used raw.  Perhaps a salad of thinly sliced purple beans tossed with some sweet onion slices, halved Sunorange tomatoes, some fresh basil and a light red wine vinaigrette…..I look forward to trying this.  While we’re on the topic of purple vegetables, I’ll mention our new Asian pepper called “Danjo Cheong Yang.”  If there is anyone in our membership that is familiar with this pepper or how to use it (or even how to correctly pronounce the name), please email me.  I’ve never seen this pepper before and am interested in learning more about how to use it.  It’s described as having the appearance and heat level of a serrano pepper.  They are a deep purple pepper that ripens to a deep, dark red when fully ripe.  Last fall we received some very positive feedback to our attempt at growing escarole and radicchio in our cold frame greenhouse for December delivery.  Unfortunately we didn’t have a planting big enough to cover all the boxes, but since it was well-received we’re encouraged to increase our planting sizes and plant some in the field as well.  This will hopefully give us some interesting greens for late November and December boxes.
Bau Sin (Osborne Seeds)
Amethyst Beans (Johnny's Seeds)

Danjo Cheong Yang Pepper (Osborne Seeds)

As far as the rest of our valley goes, we hear and see signs of spring all around us.  Richard’s ducks took a break from laying eggs over the winter, but resumed laying eggs a few weeks ago.  Richard is trying to encourage the hens to set so we can have new ducklings later this spring.  At night we can hear the owls hooting and the coyotes yipping in the distance, likely either defending their young or hunting for food to feed them.  We’ve seen some flocks of geese migrating through our area and are anxious for the return of the blue birds. 

We are planning to do some “Woods Walks with Farmer Richard” again this year, likely in May.  We’re still putting together the details, so watch for more information in our April emails so you can make your reservation.  Last year’s events were a lot of fun and we’re hoping to see more members take advantage of this experience again this year.  Our woods are an interesting and kind of magical place in the spring!

We are processing your CSA orders and getting ready to put together your Welcome Packets that will go out in April.  Until we get all the orders entered, it’s kind of hard to assess exactly where we are with number of shares sold this year in comparison to previous years.  From a dollars perspective, it looks like we are down 5.5% in vegetable shares and down 9.5% for fruit shares. We do still have plenty of shares available.  
If you haven’t signed up yet, please do so very soon so you don’t miss out on anything!  If you have a friend, co-worker, neighbor, etc that is interested in CSA, we’d appreciate it if you take a minute to share your first-hand CSA experience with them.  You can also offer them our “New Member Coupon” which will give them some money off their first order and you’ll also earn a referral coupon! Our CSA season starts in just 6 weeks and we are looking forward to growing for you this year!

----Farmers Richard & Andrea

In The Kitchen with Chef Andrea!

Are your produce stores dwindling? Are you down to the last few onions? Does your refrigerator resemble this picture? We’re likely all experiencing a bit of spring fever and longing for fresh greens from the field. We aren’t quite there yet, so if you do still have some winter vegetables remaining lets find some good uses for them before spring vegetables start rolling in.

Here are a few of our favorite recipe suggestions that we’ve featured in previous newsletters. Perhaps you’ll find a few suggestions that will help you come into the home stretch and use up whatever is left in your refrigerator or pantry!





See you next month!
Chef Andrea