From the Farmer

Week 25 – 11/20/2012
Greetings CSA Members,
 
Well, here we are. We hope you’ve had as good a time this season as we have. Right now, Deb and Nick are playing the counting game while they wash rutabagas (today they all have to do with goats: seven, having them here was heaven; eight, do you think Bucky asked Deeehb out on a date). There’s an email from Katharyn in my inbox telling me how and why eating honey and garlic is good for you when you start to feel sick – p.s., add hot water, lemon and whiskey. Jen and I are talking about raising worms, chickens and turkeys next year. And Radish, the barn kitten, is playing with a field mouse and Bella is barking at whoever just pulled up (late for CSA pickup?)
 
Sniffle. Don’t get me wrong, we look back on the season and remember starting in January: first the break of Winter into Spring, when we spent the days in the greenhouse and moved into the new barn; the warm perfect days of late Spring; the heat and humidity of early-Summer; the heat and humidity of mid-Summer; the heat and humidity of late-Summer; the nice weather and easy harvests of Fall. Yeah, we look back on that and think, I’m ready for a nap. But this time of year there’s a small grief, a little sense of loss to the time gone by. We harvest everything in the field for a last share and to put into storage for the winter. We clean up the packing shed one more time, close up the greenhouse, drain the irrigation lines. It’s like the day after the World Series: now what?
 
The sadness comes in large part from knowing that we’re not going to spend long days outside with each other, no more counting, no more quiet Good Mornings before heading out to harvest. And no more greetings at CSA pickup, no more kids chasing Bella, visits to see the cat and no more responses to “What did you do with the red peppers this week?”
 
Community Supported Agriculture – I feel compelled to spell it out today – is unlike other business models because it’s a model for more than business. Katie Maunz put her finger on it this spring when she said that she loved CSA because when she sees share members each week, there’s no money exchanged. It’s just a “Hi, how’s the family?” and a box of veggies shared between us. That really is the thing, and I think that’s what makes the Community-Agriculture connection so much stronger. We often wonder how it is on your end. On our end, we can’t tell you how rewarding it is to hear someone say how much they like the tomatoes, that the pumpkin was so sweet you don’t need to add sugar, that the kids love identifying each vegetable as it comes out of the box, and that someone has become a more creative cook thanks to the surprise of the share each week. Even just seeing someone smile when they walk up to the shed makes us feel like a million dollars.
 
So we’ll take a break. Then the seed catalogues will start coming, and
we’ll get the machine moving again. Meaning, next year will be here
soon. And with it spring greens and strawberries.
 
2013
 
We hope you’ll be back next season. If you would like to join the CSA again in 2013, drop us a line or sign-up on the interest list through the website (www.willowsfordfarm.com).
 
CSA registration will begin formally this winter: returning members first, then new members. We are growing next year, and we appreciate your help reaching out to new members. Please tell your friends and invite them to join! They can also contact us directly or join the interest list online.
 
One of the things I enjoy most about farming is the evolutionary nature of it all – we are always changing, trying new things, learning and improving. We’ve been thinking about 2013 since our first acts of 2012 – this field would be great for cucumbers next year; let’s not mulch the sweet potatoes next year; this was just the right amount of potatoes to plant for this many shares, let’s extrapolate. You get the picture. This goes for working with all of you, too – what veggies you like (bok choi) and don’t like (tomatoes), what to grow and what other products to find and offer. We expect to make several changes we think you’ll like, and will write soon with more details.
 
At the Stand this Week
 
Black beans and storage crops. Mmm, something about good beans. We grew a really tasty variety this year, Midnight Black Turtle Soup. It’s great for spicy soups, stews, and refrying. Bonnie made a great point that a good quality bean will be much creamier in texture and fuller in taste. She also notes they can expand more than storebought beans, even 3-4 times as much. We have them in pint jars, about a pound to a jar. Try them – soak them first or use a pressure cooker. I’m planning to make them with quesadillas and burritos with my nephews.
 
Crops that store well. Beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, potatoes, garlic, turnips, rutabaga, cabbage… There are lots of ways to keep food for the winter: from canning, making kimchi and sauerkraut, pickling, freezing, and cellaring. You don’t even need a root cellar – an unfinished basement, uninsulated attic, even an unused room you keep cool can work; or you can dig a hole in the ground behind the house and replace the dirt with a cooler – the ground will insulate it. Plenty of creative solutions if you’re game.
 
A couple tips. The important variables here are temperature, humidity, lightness/darkness and air circulation. All of these veggies want some air circulation. Store all in a dark place. It’s best not to wash them before storage (you’ll notice we haven’t). And if they have leaves on them, as beets and carrots may, take the leaves off. You can keep the greens in the fridge and use over the next week. Here’s what some crops are looking for:
 
Beets: these want to be in the fridge but will do alright in the cellar or in the ground if you’re careful. They don’t want to get too dry – you can cover with moist burlap, newspaper, or an old sheet. Remember, they want humidity, not to be wet.
 
Carrots: The carrots we’re harvesting this week will like it best in the coldest part of the fridge. Store them dry and in a bag.
 
Sweet potatoes: 55-60 degrees, but can take it a little warmer. Put them in the cellar or pantry – never colder than 55! They can last all winter.
 
Potatoes: they can last for months in the fridge (the warmest part). We like to store them between 40-50 degrees; if it gets too cold their starches turn into sugars. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, just don’t be surprised. Otherwise, put them in the pantry and use them in the next 4-6 weeks.
 
Winter squash and pumpkins: like sweet potatoes, they don’t like refrigeration. Cut them up and freeze them or put them in the basement or cellar. Some people store them hanging in the basement in pantyhose. Seriously. It keeps them from bruising on their shelf and improves air circulation. Shoot for 50-55 degrees, and they should last for months, even sitting on a shelf.
 
Garlic: keep garlic in the pantry or cellar. It needs dark and air circulation. Don’t put it in the fridge. It can also be frozen, dried, stored in oil or pickled.
 
All of these store best when they’ve been handled gently – no bruising or nicks. If they do get beat up at all, use those ones first.
 
Okay, that’s it this season. One, hope it’s been fun. Two, loved growing food for you. Three, (this one’s always hard) what did you do with your kohlrabi. Four, next year there will be more. Five, did you try the honey from our hive(s). Six, have a carrot, beats a Twix. Seven, butternut squash soup tastes like heaven. Eight, as always, be great.
 
Mike, Bonnie, Nick, Deb, Jen, Katharyn, Bella, Radish, and all the farm team
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Willowsford Conservancy

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