The Valley Flora Beetbox

Valley Flora's newsletter, sharing news from the farm, seasonal updates, and more!

Week 9 from Valley Flora!

  • Zucchini
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Italian Parsley
  • Lettuce
  • Walla Walla Sweets
  • Strawberries
  • Kale
  • Red Potatoes - the potatoes we're harvesting this week are "new," meaning their skins haven't cured and set yet. New potatoes are extra tender, juicy and appealing, wonderful for potato salad or steamed and dressed simply with olive oil, parsley (any fresh herb will do the trick!) and salt.
  • Broccoli - the last of the summer harvest. You'll see it again in the fall.

Trinity Alps Spectacular

I made it home (just barely) from my Trinity Alps horsepacking trip: rolled up the driveway at 1 am on Tuesday morning, unloaded the horses, caught 3.5 hours of sleep and then pulled on my Xtratufs for our big Tuesday harvest. Fortunately I was still "riding" the mountain high of the past five days of alpine horseback sublimity, at least until 2 pm yesterday when the yerba mate wore off and I found myself stumbling around the barn ineffectually, a total liability to the rest of the crew as everyone tried to fill orders and pack CSA totes without making mistakes. I slept like a rock last night. 

It was the trip of a lifetime. The horses showed bottomless heart and courage and try. They climbed huge granite steps on the way to hanging cirques cupping emerald green lakes. They scaled three high alpine passes, picking their way through talus and scree at the top of the world like champion mountain goats. They came face to face with a very healthy bear and didn't bolt for Langlois. They ate a whole new diet of high alpine grasses and forbes and drank from countless lakes and bubbling brooks. They chiseled new muscles under the weight of their saddlebags, only threw one shoe, and accepted their new environs and the daily rituals of camping as if they were old hats at the whole thing. I'll let a sampling of the trip photo album fill in the rest of the 10,000 words I could gush onto the page. But first: another huge round of thanks to the entire farm team for helping make this happen. They did such a stellar job in my absence it seems like I'm pretty much superfluous around here, which means I might as well re-supply and head back to the mountains for the rest of the summer...right guys?

Newsletter: 

How to Shop our Farmstand this Summer!

Summer is here and the farmstand is open every Wednesday and Saturday from 11:30 to 2:30! 

Our farmstand is primarily pre-order, with the occasional odds and ends available for drop-in shopping. We use a web platform called Local Line that allows you to place your order from our webstore. We then custom harvest and pack your order and have it waiting for you on your farmstand pickup day. 

If you’d like to shop with us and haven’t registered an account with Local Line, it’s quick and easy. Simply go to https://www.valleyflorafarm.com/shopthefarmstand and follow the instructions to set up your account. Once you do that you will begin to receive our twice weekly availability emails, every Monday and Thursday morning, with a link to our “store.”

You can also go directly to our Local Line store to check it out: https://www.localline.ca/valley-flora

Thanks for eating locally and supporting small family farms!

 

Newsletter: 

CSA Newsletter: Week 16 from Valley Flora!

Please note this is NOT our farmstand availability email. This is our weekly CSA newlsetter primarily intended for our subscribed Harvest Basket members who receive a weekly box of produce from the farm from June through December. You cannot order farmstand produce from this email or directly from our website. Rather, farmstand availability emails are sent out on Thursday and Monday mornings to folks who have signed up for Wednesday or Saturday pickup, respectively. To learn more or sign up for a farmstand pickup day, click here.

  • Napa Cabbage - the foundational ingredient in kimchi, but also wonderful shredded into light slaw or salad. At this time of year when we have sweet peppers and apples, I like to make a napa/apple/pepper/carrot slaw with a rice-vinegar vinaigrette.
  • Carrots
  • Sweet Corn
  • Lettuce
  • Yellow Onion
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Beets - Red, Gold and Chioggia
  • Strawberries - we are stunned by the strawberries right now. Abundant, beautiful, better than ever! Normally there wouldn't be strawberries in the Harvest Basket at this point in the season, but they just keep giving! U-pick is going to be FANTASTIC today (Wednesday)!
  • Cucumbers

On Rotation:

  • Eggplant

I can't believe it, but yes, still strawberries! We are a bit baffled by this late season run in the berry patch - we haven't seen anything like this in years! If we get our much-hoped-for rain later this week it might start to slow them down, but right now they are phenomenal. Come upick today, starting at 11 am! And if you want a special order flat, let me know and we'll see if the weather cooperates: name, pickup location, number of flats and phone number.

Peppers Peaking: Now's the time to order up a few bags of red Italian roasters or assorted colored bells. Peppers are available in 5 pound bags for $22. To order, email Bets your name, pickup location, type and quantity of peppers you want, and a phone number. 

Help Support Farmworkers and Immigrants Impacted by the Devastating Wildfires: The wildfires have affected us all, but many of us are lucky enough to still have a home to go to. That's not the case for many immigrant Oregonians who tend to be most impacted by the smoke, have lost everything and don't have a safety net to fall into. In recognition of the devastating effects that wildfires have had on immigrant Oregonians, the Oregon Worker Relief Fund Coalition is pivoting to raise and distribute funds to impacted individuals and families. You can donate to their effort through CAUSA, Oregon's immigrant rights organization.

Strength and safekeeping to everyone in the terrifying path of fire right now, and to all those coping with hazardous air quality. We give thanks for clear air overhead today, temporary as it might be. Come on rain!

Newsletter: 

CSA Newsletter: Week 15 from Valley Flora

Please note this is NOT our farmstand availability email. This is our weekly CSA newlsetter primarily intended for our subscribed Harvest Basket members who receive a weekly box of produce from the farm from June through December. You cannot order farmstand produce from this email or directly from our website. Rather, farmstand availability emails are sent out on Thursday and Monday mornings to folks who have signed up for Wednesday or Saturday pickup, respectively. To learn more or sign up for a farmstand pickup day, click here.

  • Carrots
  • Eggplant
  • Head Lettuce
  • Red Onions
  • Hot Peppers - Jalapeño & Serranos (1 red serrano & 1 green serrano)
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Strawberries

On Rotation:

  • Collard Greens
  • Lacinato Kale
  • Sweet Corn
  • Zucchin

Bulk Sweet Peppers Available by Special Order!

It's that happy time of year when the sweet peppers are coming out of the greenhouse by the bucketload! Now's the time to order up a few bags of red Italian roasters or assorted colored bells. Peppers are available in 5 pound bags for $22. To order, email Bets your name, pickup location, type and quantity of peppers you want, and a phone number. If you can manage to not eat them all raw, you can preserve peppers in a myriad of ways, listed here from easiest to most advanced:

  • Chop and freeze. No blanching necessary. Just cut 'em up and throw 'em in a freezer bag. Adds color and great flavor to soups, stir-fries and other dishes come winter.
  • Roast, peel and freeze. A great addition to soups, quiches, pasta, pizza, sandwiches and more all winter. Here's a quick tutorial on three different ways to roast peppers: https://toriavey.com/how-to/roasted-bell-peppers/
  • Roast, peel and pickle: https://www.freshpreserving.com/blog/pickled-roasted-peppers
    • I make pickled roasted peppers every year but use a brine recipe that doesn't call for much sugar or other spices: For 3.5 pounds of peppers (roated, peeled, cored and seeded), mix 1.75 cups white wine vinegar or distilled white vinegar, 1Tbs sugar, 2 Tbs pickling salt, 1 garlic clove chopped. Simmer all together for 10 minutes before pouring over packed peppers in sterilized canning jars. Leave 1/2" headspace, close jars with hot canning lids and rings, and process jars in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

It feels awkward to be talking about fire-roasted peppers on this apocalyptic day, when I woke up to the heavy news of so many Oregon, Washington and California towns and forests burned to the ground. Never has fire threat - and climate change - felt so close to home. Temperatures reached over 100 degrees on the farm yesterday, and we were cloaked in low heavy smoke. There was a fire scare up Floras Creek yesterday morning, attended by a bunch of Coos Forest Patrol trucks zooming up the road first thing. Fortunately it was a false alarm. But numerous friends had to evacuate their homes, from the North Bank of the Coquille to the Santiam to Ashland. Our hearts are big and broken thinking about the devastation that is sweeping through our state, and for our neighbors north and south of our state borders.

Yesterday as we labored through harvest under the suffocating skies, I felt a level of disappointment in our species like never before. This is our only planet, our only home, our only chance to be human, and yet we can't quite seem to turn the ship. We watch while the "house" burns down. What does it take for something as big as climate change to finally hit home for enough people that we reach a critical mass to change behavior, shift policy and foment change, and to do it fast? When you live here on the southcoast where the temperatures are amicable, the cool, damp fog is just off-shore, the forests are green, it's easy to think climate change is something that's happening somewhere else. It's hard to imagine our corner of the world engulfed in flames. But yesterday I could imagine it, and east of Bandon some of it was. 

Food and agriculture are major drivers of climate change and I applaud all of you for making the choice to eat locally and to eat lots of veggies (that are grown mostly with solar power, thanks to the 12 kW PV system on the roof of our barn). Twenty years ago my concern about the environment and climate change was one of the motivating factors that led me into organic, regenerative farming: I wanted to do something that was positive for the planet and good for my community. It's great that something delicious can make a difference, but at this point it's going to take more than a local salad to double down on atmospheric carbon. Yes, pile your plates high with plants grown close to home and start your car as little as possible, but also elect leaders who take the climate crisis seriously. And most importantly, hold on to stubborn, purposeful optimism. Because we won't turn the ship unless we believe we can, and will.

Newsletter: 

CSA Newsletter: Week 14 from Valley Flora!

Please note this is NOT our farmstand availability email. This is our weekly CSA newlsetter primarily intended for our subscribed Harvest Basket members who receive a weekly box of produce from the farm from June through December. You cannot order farmstand produce from this email or directly from our website. Rather, farmstand availability emails are sent out on Thursday and Monday mornings to folks who have signed up for Wednesday or Saturday pickup, respectively. To learn more or sign up for a farmstand pickup day, click here.

  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Red Onion
  • Sweet Peppers - all the peppers in your share are sweet Italian types this week; no hot peppers....:)
  • Red Potatoes - the first dig of the season. I have a love-hate relationship with potatoes. I love growing them (it's something we do almost entirely with horses, from planting, to cultivating, to harvest, so therefore I wish we could grow 20 acres of potatoes!). But I hate all the sorting. When you grow potatoes, especially organically, there are a LOT of impefect ones - cracks, holes, scurf, funny knobs, insect damage, greening here and there. So many ugly little tubers that are pefectly fine on the inside but don't meet my produce beauty standards on the outside. I realize that I am perpetuating the supermodel myth of beauty, and that we all know it's what's on the inside that counts, but it's hard to liberate myself from my own vegetable pageant standards. It means we dump bin-fulls of the ugliest spuds, we donate a lot to the foodbank, and finally we try to skim the cream for you. That said, even some of the not-so-pretty ones get by us in the hustle of wash and pack. If that's the case with some of your potatoes this week, I am going to try to not apologize right now and instead encourage you to get out your veg peeler. If any of your spuds have a green spot, it's safe to cut or peel away that spot and still eat the potato. You wouldn't want to eat 5 lbs of greened potatoes in a sitting, but if you're cutting off a spot here and there you'll be fine (greening indicates the presence of solanine, a natural but toxic compound that develops in potatoes when exposed to the sun). You'll see potatoes in your share every few weeks now for the rest of the season. Which, by the way, is halfway over! This is week 14 of 28!
  • Strawberries
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes
  • Parsley

On Rotation:

  • Melon - We surprised our Bandon and Port Orford members last Saturday with a melon (and in fact, stumped one member who emailed me to say: "There's something in my share I don't recognize...it's round, dense, tan, and looks like a melon..."). Her hunch was right, this is "Sarah's Choice," a delicious cantaloupe-type melon that Abby grows for us. Supremely sweet and aromatic, we look forward to these all year!
  • Corn
  • Lettuce

Strawberries Still Peaking!

I can't believe I get to say this, but the strawberries are still pumping! What an amazing, quasi-miraculous late season we're having. Usually by now they're slowing down and We the Farmers are glad for it. But yesterday's harvest might just have been the best of the year. When the fruit is that beautiful and abundant it's hard to resent all the crawling on your knees ("oh please sir, can't I pick another row?). That being the case, I'm putting out the call (probably the last time) for special order flats. If you want some, give a holler via email with your name, pickup location, number of flats you want, and your phone number. Flats are $45 apiece delivered to your pickup site.

OR, come u-pick! The u-pick crowd has thinned out because no one thinks of September as strawberry season, but here at Valley Flora it's better than ever! Wednesdays and Saturdays from 11am to 2:30pm.

 

Pickling Cukes on the Horizon

Our late planting of pickling cukes has just begun to produce. I dont know what kind of yield to expect, but if you're interested in pickling, email me your name, pickup location, quantity (in 10# increments), and your phone number. If we have plenty we'll be offering 10 pound bulk bags for $30. They are a small, European-style gherkin, great for pickles or fresh eating.

Newsletter: 

CSA Newsletter: Week 13 from Valley Flora!

  • Rainbow Chard
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Serrano & Jalapeño Peppers
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Strawberries
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet Corn

On Rotation:

  • Green Beans
  • Head Lettuce

All of this bounty at our fingertips all day long, and then there's this....

The Dirty Secrets of Organic Farmers (a new segment in your weekly CSA newsletter!)

Last week, my mom was deep into her 12th hour of a 14 hour workday, buried in tomatoes, her brain on the fritz from not eating all day, and she dug this gourmet gem of a lunch out of the freezer (left by a houseguest at least a year prior, nicely freezer-burned around the edges...). I walked into the barn at 7 pm for the final stretch of packout and had to take the picture.

Whatever you might imagine about organic farmers sitting around a big lunch table leisurely eating beautiful family-style meals bursting with seasonal produce, yeah, you can pretty much scrub that from your mental imagery. It's leftovers from the night before when you're lucky enough to have cooked plenty of extra quinoa, or it's quick quesadillas and some salad, or in this case, when things get really dark, it's freezer-burned pre-fab pizza that not even the dogs will try to steal off the table. 

We have often mused about the irony that attends this time of year, when we're buried in beautiful produce but don't have any time to cook with it (much less eat it): wouldn't it be great if some chef or inspired cook wanted to take a sabbatical, come camp out at the farm for a summer and make the crew a meal once a day with whatever was ripe in the field? Or in the very least, if we could just get a taco truck to pull up to the barn around 2 pm each day.....Meals on Wheels for farmers!

Ah well, in the meantime, we'll get by with the sweet pepper eaten at a trot in the farmroad while hustling to get the cilantro harvested before the heat of the day presses in. That, and of course, quesadillas.

Split Screen - What our CSA members are doing with their produce:

Bravo!!!!!!

 

Newsletter: 

CSA Newsletter: Week 12 from Valley Flora!

  • Strawberries
  • Carrots
  • Walla Walla Sweet Onions
  • Red Cabbage
  • Sweet Corn!!!!! - Corn season kicks off this week! We have five successive plantings in the field, so expect to see sweet corn in your share pretty often for the next month+! I don't think you'll have too much trouble eating this much corn fresh in a week (or a day) - steamed, grilled, raw! - but if it's too much for you I suggest freezing it. You can either cut it off the cob and freeze it raw, or blanch it for a minute in boiling water and then cut if off and freeze it. I like to spread the cut corn out on cookie sheets and freeze it, then put it into freezer bags (so it's not a solid frozen block when you go to use it in the winter). 
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes
  • Cilantro

On Rotation:

  • Eggplant
  • Green Beans
  • Lettuce - Not everyone will get a head of lettuce this week. As the days shorten dramatically in August, our lettuce slows down and we usually have to hit pause for a week or two in order for our successive plantings to catch up. Once it resumes we should have weekly lettuce for you again well into November.

 

Onion Harvest!

This week we completed the harvest of our 2020 onion crop, a process that involves pulling them out of the ground, loading them into the trailer, hauling them to the greenhouse, and finally laying them out on our propagation tables to dry and cure. It was a beautiful year for onions! They got a great start this spring thanks to weekly rainfall in May and early June and ideal growing temps. Every square inch of greenhouse space that isn't dedicated to seedlings and starts is covered in onions now. Once the onion tops are crispy-dry, we'll start cleaning them: snipping off the tops and roots, sorting them by size into bins, and stowing them in our dry storage room. It's the first crop that begins to fill our fall/winter treasure chest of storage crops: onions, winter squash, potatoes. Look for some new varieties of onions in your Havest Basket soon: Cipollinis, yellow onions and red onions coming your way!

Have a great week! Thanks for eating VF produce!

Newsletter: 

CSA Newsletter: Week 11 from Valley Flora!

In This Week's Harvest Basket:

  • Romano Green Beans - flat and wide and tender and deeeeeeelicious! Give them a light steam or sautee for maximal enjoyment (don't overcook!).
  • Kale
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Lettuce
  • Walla Walla Sweet Onions
  • Strawberries
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli - monster heads!!!! And probably the last of the summer harvest, so enjoy. Until fall, Señor Broccoli! (Although this week's heads are so big you might still be gnawing away at yours come September...)

On Rotation:

  • Eggpant

Pickling Cucumber Update, Plus Beans, Plus Strawberries...

I've been getting lots of inquiries about pickling cukes this summer. We had a banner year in 2019, so it goes without saying that we would have a complete crop failure this summer. There are none to offer at the moment, HOWEVER, we replanted and with slightly better luck should have an abundance starting in September. I know that's probably later than many of you usually make pickles but if you're willing to wait we should have lots in about a month. That gives you plenty of time to round up your dill seed and pickling salt and crocks and canning jars. 

Green Beans are pumping and are available by special order in 10# bags at our wholesale price of $50. 'Tis the time for dilly beans, canned beans, frozen beans, or just eating a heap of beans. To order, email us your name, pickup location, the number of 10# bags you want and a phone number.

Strawberries are so lovely and abundant right now it's hard to stop picking on Tuesday and Friday! We're almost caught up with our special order list, so if you'd like to order some by the flat we can probably take care of you this month. Flats are $45 each. Email us your name, pickup location, the number of flats you'd like and a phone number.

A reminder to everyone to check labels carefully on special orders and on salad shares before you take them home. There have been some mix-ups in the past few weeks that could have been easily prevented by taking a few seconds to double check labels. Thanks for your help!

Enjoy the August abundance!

Newsletter: 

CSA Newsletter: Week 10 from Valley Flora!

Week 10!

  • Onions
  • Fennel - at last! Our first planting intended for the CSA baskets in June succumbed to some weird foliar disease, so the fennel has been a long time coming this season. I'm a huge fan of fennel - which I know not to be true of every human on the planet - but it's one of my top ten favorite veggies. It has a mild anise flavor, wonderful cooked down or sliced thinly and eaten raw. The fat, juicy bulb is the main part of the plant we eat, but you can also use the ferny tops as an herb. This week you have all the farm ingredients you need to make finocchioa wonderful summer dish built around fennel, tomatoes, onions and basil. It stands alone, or you can eat it atop pasta, fish, polenta and more. We have a pretty broad collection of fennel recipes on our website if you want to branch out further.
  • Beets
  • Lettuce
  • Strawberries
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes
  • Basil

On Rotation:

  • Broccoli/Broccolini
  • Eggplant - Just starting to yield in the field! 
  • Heirloom Tomatoes
  • Green Beans

Beautiful Flowers and Handsome Roosters!

Zinnias, dahlias, statice, strawflowers, sunflowers, black-eyed susans and more! The flowers are in full bloom on the farm and open for u-pick on Wednesdays and Saturdays starting at 11 am while the strawberry u-pick is open. If you come to u-pick, you might even get to enjoy the company of our oh-so-social resident farm rooster, Robinson (aka Ricky Bobby). He's really more like a dog than a chicken: he follows at your heels, comes when called and likes to share your lunch. He showed up out of the blue at the farm in June and has stuck around, making himself comfy in our equipment shed. I hate to admit just how fond I've become of a rooster, but really, what's not to love about a chicken that likes to ride in the car, socialize over lunch, and look handsome in the moments in between...

Newsletter: 

CSA Newsletter: Week 9 from Valley Flora!

Please note to all our customers who are receiving this newsletter: this is NOT the list of available farmstand produce for the week. This weekly BeetBox newsletter is primarily aimed at our CSA Harvest Basket members who receive a weekly pre-paid tote of produce for our 28-week CSA season. There has been some confusion among folks who are trying to order farmstand produce from this email. Our weekly farmstand availability emails get sent out separately to everyone who has signed up for a farmstand drive-thru pickup day on our website. All that info - in case you want to source farmstand produce - is here. Thank you!

In the Harvest Basket this Week:

  • Broccoli
  • Chard
  • Carrots - Your carrots will likely be coming loose by the pound from now on. At a certain point in the season bunching gets slow and difficult because the carrot tops get weak. We dig fresh poundage for you every week and leave the tops in the field to feed the soil microbiota.
  • Cucumbers
  • Italian Parsley
  • Head Lettuce
  • Red Long of Tropea Torpedo Onions - a specialty onion from Italy that doesn't cure or store well, but is wonderful fresh! If you had a handful more of them you could set them up as bowling pins....:)
  • Strawberries - they're back!
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes - It's on in the tomatoes! Bets, mi madre, is the tomato farmer (she also grows your zukes, cukes, parsley, basil and peppers) and she is now officially neck deep in her busiest, heaviest season. By the way, a sidenote about my mom: she is a badass! She's in the second half of her seventh decade of life and she's still farming full bore, lugging heavy buckets of stunner produce out of the field all week. Thanks, Ma, for adding some bling to the CSA share this week!

On Rotation:

  • Cauliflower
  • Heirloom Tomatoes

Strawberry Update: Best Week Yet!

It's shaping up to be our best week of strawberries so far this season, with lots more on the way in the coming weeks. We're seeing an incredible flush of flowers and new fruit, which bodes well for abundant u-pick in August. We opened up more beds on the u-pick side of the patch this week, and anticipate being able to give even more over to u-pick soon. I wholeheartedly recommend making time to fill your freezer in the next few weeks while the picking is at its peak! The patch opens at 11 am, Wednesdays and Saturdays. If you're coming a long distance with high hopes of bringing home a big haul of berries, aim to arrive when we open.

 

The horses have been throwing their weight around in the field every week, doing their part to keep our crops well-cultivated and weed-free. We worked Jack single this week to get into some tight crops that are just about to close in - Brussels sprouts pictured here, as well as asparagus, artichokes, leeks, kale, chard, and more. Jack is a Belgian/Morgan crossbred, and hands-down the best horse I've ever had. He works beautifully in harness and is also just as willing to saddle up and hit the trail. He's a handsome devil, all heart, with a sense of humor to boot.

 

Newsletter: 

Week 8 CSA Newsletter!

In the Harvest Basket this Week:

  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Dill
  • Lettuce
  • Red Onions
  • Zucchini
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli or Broccolini

On Rotation:

  • Tomatoes
  • Cauliflower

Flower U-Pick Opens this Week!

The flowers are coming into full bloom on the farm: dahlias, sunflowers, zinnias, statice, strawflowers and more! The public is welcome to u-pick on Wednesdays and Saturdays during the same hours we're open for strawberry u-pick (11 am until 3 pm, or until the strawberry patch is picked out). We have clippers available, but encourage you to bring your own buckets to keep your flowers fresh on the trip home. Check in with Sarah at the strawberry u-pick for clippers and to get directions to the flower patch.

 

Newsletter: 

Week 7 CSA from Valley Flora!

In the Harvest Basket this Week:

  • Dazzling Blue Lacinato Kale
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Walla Walla Sweet Onions - big, juicy and sweet!
  • Zucchini
  • Kohlrabi - the last of it until late fall...
  • Cilantro
  • English Cucumbers

On Rotation:

  • Broccoli
  • Broccolini
  • Cauliflower - purple or neon green

Strawberries on Pause this Week

Qué lástima (what a pity), our strawberries are having a minor hiccup right now. We're in the midst of an episode of Type III bronzing in some of our Seascapes: some of the fruit is rough, leathery and seedy, which renders it unmarketable. Type III bronzing is thought to occur after fruit exposure to environmental stress in the form of high heat (over 85 degrees), extreme solar radiation, and low humidity. We're seeing it in our youngest plants primarily, where the leafy canopy is not fully developed yet. It happens every year to some extent, but is particularly bad this week. I'm guessing the culprit was the week of hot weather we had in mid-June. It takes strawberries 4 to 6 weeks to transform from blossom to fruit, so the fruit that was just forming in mid-June is maturing into ugly seedy berries right now. Bummer. It means no strawberries in the share this week, but fingers crossed for a return to beautiful harvests in the coming weeks.

There isn't a lot of research on bronzing, and actually some controversy over whether it is caused by environmental factors or a pest called thrips. I have a call and an email in to the UC organic strawberry expert in Santa Cruz in hopes of shedding some more light on the issue. We did make an interesting observation yesterday during harvest, which was that the June-bearers, which have a huge leafy, protective canopy, show no sign of bronzing, and our most mature Seascapes have very little bronzing. However, the side of the strawberry patch that was planted latest last fall has the worst of it. It suggests that the timing of planting in the fall could make all the difference. We typically start planting our new strawberry crowns in November and finish up by mid-December. If getting them in the ground in November can prevent bronzing episodes the following summer, it argues for dedicating more labor to planting strawberries as early as possible in November. 

The good news is that the strawberry u-pick, which includes our June-bearing varieties and our most mature Seascapes, is mostly unscathed. So if you're desperate for some berries this week, venture out and experience strawberry harvest first-hand. The beds are somewhat limited right now, so plan to get there at 11 am if you have your heart set on filling a bunch of buckets.

Here's a quote I have always appreciated, as someone who has crawled countless miles picking strawberries in this lifetime:

Strawberries are too delicate to be picked by machine. The perfectly ripe ones bruise at even too heavy a human touch. It hit her then that every strawberry she had ever eaten - every piece of fruit - had been picked by calloused human hands. Every piece of toast with jelly represented someone's knees, someone's aching back and hips, someone with a bandanna on her wrist to wipe away the sweat. Why had no one told her about this before.  -- Alison Luterman, What We Came For

 

 

 

Newsletter: 

Week 6 CSA from Valley Flora!

In the CSA Harvest Basket this Week!

  • Chard
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Purplette Onions
  • Strawberries
  • Zucchini
  • Hakurei Turnips

On Rotation:

  • Broccoli
  • Broccolini
  • Mini Cucumbers

Want More Food?!

If you're getting through your Harvest Basket each week and still wanting for more, remember there are a couple ways to source more produce directly from the farm:

  1. Strawberry U-Pick! Open every Wednesday and Saturday starting at 11 am at the farm. The berries are sweet and red now that our summer weather has arrived. Keep in mind we have some new u-pick systems in place this season due to COVID-19, so be sure to read up about the u-pick before you come.
  2. The Farmstand Drive-ThruDue to COVID, this spring we pivoted to a new pre-order, online farmstand system with drive-thru pick-up at our barn. We're using a customer-friendly online platform called Cropolis designed for small farms selling to local markets. There is no open-air, drop-in shopping this season. Instead you sign up for a farmstand drive-thru day - Wednesday and/or Saturday - on our website. Once you do that, you'll automatically start receiving our weekly farmstand availability emails and be able to place an order for drive-thru pickup. In addition to our produce, hot sauce and jam, you can also purchase Aguirre Farms local organic eggs, Farmstead Bread and Langlois Creamery sheep milk through our new system.

And, if it's too far for you to come to the farm, you can also find our produce at the Port Orford Community Co-op, the Langlois Market, Mother's Natural Grocery and Coos Head Food Co-op each week.

Thanks for eating locally!

Newsletter: 

Week 5 from Valley Flora!

In your Harvest Basket this week:

  • Carrots
  • Dill
  • Lettuce
  • Strawberries
  • Kohlrabi
  • Mini cukes
  • Beets - some members will get sweet red beets, others will get Chioggia beets (pink skin with a pink and white bulls-eye interior)

On Rotation:

  • Broccoli
  • Broccolini
  • Zucchini
  • Arugula
  • Mizuna - mizuna is a mild, light green, serrated Asian green - wonderful as a salad or alongside a slab of fish

A few quick notes about storing your produce and keeping it perky for as long as possible:

  1. Any leafy vegetable, like lettuce, herbs, bunch greens and baby greens, do best in the fridge in a sealed up plastic bag. They like it between 34 and 40 degrees with high humidity. Broccoli, broccolini and cauliflower are the same way. Best used in the first week.
  2. Root veggies like carrots and beets, and dense veggies like kohlrabi, store the longest if you take the tops off and store in a plastic bag in the fridge. They'll keep for months without tops, but won't taste as good 3 weeks from now as they do today. 
  3. Zucchini and cukes prefer life at around 50 degrees with some humidity, but who has their fridge set to 50?! Nobody, I hope! They'll go soft on the counter, so your best bet is to put them in the fridge in a plastic bag but use them within the week before they get slimy.
  4. Strawberries will last on your counter for a day or two, and will continue ripening as they sit there. However, you can get a lot more life out of them if you keep them in a tupperware in your fridge. Not that anyone is actually making it home with a full pint of strawberries....If you are, you probably don't have kids in the backseat :)

Farm Updates

  • NEW laminated checksheets are going out to all pickup locations this week! Please mark yourself off each week with the dry erase pen!
  • BULK BASIL by SPECIAL ORDER! Primo tops, no stem, $18/pound. Pesto-lovers rejoice! To order, email Bets your:
    • Name
    • Pickup location
    • How many pounds you want
    • Daytime phone number

Farming Improv

I have one regret about college and it's that I didn't take an improv class. At the time I had my schedule packed with other classes: fiction writing workshops, sustainable development in Latin America, ecological forest management, biology, econ, statistics...

The thing I've heard over and over from friends who did enroll in improv is that it was the most valuable class they took. My friend the labor organizer, my friend the OSU farm advisor, they swear that improv has served them in life more than any other course. Darn, I guess I really blew it in undergrad.

But good news, my Stanford alumni magazine came in the mail last month and had a whole spread about the "8 Life Lessons You Can Learn from Improv: How to apply just-go-with-it wisdom to your career, realtionships and well-being." The funny thing is, some of the guiding principles of improv have been guiding the management of the farm without me realizing they had anything to do with improv. Even better news: I didn't have to pay an arm and a leg for the college credits!

  1. Pay Attention: Yup, keen observation is by far the most important skill for keeping a highly diversified farm like ours humming, and for averting occasional disaster. Everyday I'm paying attention to every detail, with eyes, ears and nose cocked to all the sensory information the farm is throwing at us - why is that row of cauliflower an imperceptibly lighter shade of green - is there fertility stress? Why is the pump cycling so often - do we have a leak somewhere in the mainline? How big are the newly budding broccoli crowns and what's the weather forecast and should we pick them today or will they hold until Friday?
  2. Don't Go it Alone: It's all about working together - one giant spontaneous choreography each day to get all the work done between dawn and dusk on the farm. We're all leaning on each other to pull off a successful season, and the energy of every single person on our crew is essential.
  3. Trust that the Scene Will Evolve: Things are in constant flux on the farm, so extremely seasonal is our model of production. It helps to remember that one setback - like symphylans in the spring Brassicas - will give way to some other success, like beautiful June carrots. We are never stuck in one failure for too long, the failures teach us how to be better farmers, and in the end the diversity of the farm carries us through. 
  4. Stay Positive: It's easy to think it's the end of the world, but it never is. The glass-half-full mindset is the place where we proactively solve problems on the farm. The pressure tank exploded? OK, I guess that means it's time to replace it, build a better pumphouse, and plumb the system smarter than we did the first time.
  5. Accept the Offer: Saying "yes" to whatever is going on at the farm lubricates the wheels of creative innovation. COVID-19 means we can't run our farmstand? OK, Coronavirus, we'll turn it into a drive-thru!
  6. The Journey is the Thing: "what makes improvisers so good at creating something out of nothing isn't as much about what they do as it is about how they do it..." We farm because we love this place, we love working together as a family, we love to eat well, and we believe in organic, regenerative agriculture and it's ability to transform communities - from the living community in our gut microbiome all the way up to how humanity interacts with this planet. Yeah, it's about growing carrots, but it's also about a whole lot more.

My advice to you this week: say yes to beets! Accept the offer (even if you are sure you don't like beets), stay positive (they really might taste good!), don't go it alone (share them with friends), trust that the scene will evolve (i.e. you won't get beets next week!), and know that the journey is the thing (you tried them and confirmed for yourself that you really still do not like beets so you decided to carve them into stamps for your kids and you made really cool vegetable art).

A+!!!

 

 

Newsletter: 

Week 4 from Valley Flora!

Happy official summer! It arrived with a bang this week, with temps in the mid-eighties at the farm the past couple of days - dreamy weather for all the eggplant and squash and corn and beans and tomatoes and melons; a little less dreamy for all the sweaty farmers. Grateful to have legs that can march me down to the creek and throw me into the drink late-afternoon!

In your share this week:

  • Red Ursa Kale - at last! Our new plantings of kale and chard are hitting full stride now, which means we can finally leave the bitter taste of spring symphylans crop failure behind us. Red Ursa is an heirloom variety that I love for it's beautiful colors and tender leaves, and it's a great variety to use for kale chips. One of our farmstand customers is a kale chip fiend and she shared her recipe, below, with me. If you don't have a food dehydrator, you can also make kale chips in your oven on low heat: https://minimalistbaker.com/how-to-make-kale-chips/
  • Bunch Carrots
  • Mini Cucumbers - a little sampler of our favorite early mini-cuke. Not enough to make a dish, but enough to get you excited about cucumber season to come!
  • Abby's Spinach
  • Basil
  • Head Lettuce
  • Strawberries
  • Radishes
  • Hakurei Turnips
  • Fava Beans - the big, fat green pods in your tote are fresh favas. This is one of the not-so-common things we grow for you and the season is fleeting. You'll likely only see favas this week and maybe next week. They're a delightful fresh bean but they take a little effort to prepare, which is why I consider them a "weekend" food - one of those things that I'll cook when I have the luxury of a little more time. Ideally it's also one of those things you dig into with a bunch of friends - sit around and shell favas and talk story - but that might not be in the cards this COVID season. So....maybe shell favas while visiting friends on Zoom...? That's how I got 40 pounds of artichoke hearts preserved earlier this spring, in the Zoom company of college buddies around the country. If you're new to favas here's how to prepare them: https://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/how-to-prepare-fava-beans-gallery

On Rotation:

  • Broccoli
  • Broccolini
  • Snap Peas

 

Cory's Kale Chips

2 bunches kale

Dressing:

  • 3/4 cup tahini 
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons nutritional yeast 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or 3/4 if you're a salt fiend like me)

Remove all main stalks from the kale and cut leaves into large pieces. Wash and dry the pieces in a salad spinner so they're fully dry. Make sure they're fully dry.

Whisk all dressing ingredients together.

If you don't have a mixing bowl big enough for all the kale pieces, use a stock pot to toss them with the dressing until all the pieces are evenly coated. This process takes several minutes, using both hands.

Lay out the coated leaves on the food dehydrator trays and set to 135 degrees. For really crispy kale chips, eave them in for 18-24 hours, but best to check on them after 8 hours and play it by ear from there. 

 

The 2020 Valley Flora Crew!

It's high time you met the team that's growing, packing and delivering your food this season! Pictured left to right:

Sarah Snow and Allen Williams joined us this season after 7 years farming in Idaho and Hawaii. Sarah has the hardest job on the farm: keeping track of all four of our kids during the week, along with helping with harvest and running the U-Pick. Allen is a core part of of our harvest and field crew and is in charge of Saturday deliveries. He is also regularly called upon to reach for anything stored up in the stratosphere. We feel so lucky to have these two in our midst!

Bets, Cleo, Zoë, Abby, Jules, Pippin, Uma & Roberto in a not-so-social-distanced clump in the middle. Yes, that's Cleo stuffing her face with homemade strawberry-rhubarb pie. The kids got really into baking during "homeschool" this past spring, which is paying sweet dividends on Fridays now - they've been baking Friday treat for the whole crew. In this picture, taken last Friday, we were celebrating Roberto's birthday! Roberto has been part of Valley Flora since 2010, and what beautiful decade it's been! Roberto has thrown himself into the farm heart and soul and helped make Valley Flora what it is today. 

Jen Faraci on the far right, sporting the latest Valley Flora washline fashion (you wouldn't believe how that neon orange brings out the green in her eyes!). Jen joined us this spring and wears multiple essential hats at the farm: greenhouse manager, field and harvest crew, Wednesday deliveries. She says she's wanted to work for Valley Flora for years so she could get a free VF baseball hat. Mission accomplished. Might have to get some new merch made so we can bribe her to stay forever.

Not pictured is Donna Smith, who is running the farmstand drive-thru this season. Hats off to Donna for taking on a brand new, logistically complicated system and making it run smoothly - with a smile! A round of applause!

This little farm wouldn't chug along without this team working together. And speaking of teams, there are a two more members of the crew who pull a lot of weight around here:

Enjoy the food, have a great week!

Zoë

Newsletter: 

CSA Week 3 from Valley Flora!

In your share this week!

  • Strawberries
  • Kohlrabi - a green one and a purple one. If you're new to kohlrabi, it's the bulbous thing with the up-do of leaves. Cut the tops off and then peel the bulb with a sharp knife or good veggie peeler. It's juicy and crunchy inside, a little bit like jicama. I prefer it raw, but you can also add it to stir fries and other dishes. My five year old goes nuts for it cut up into veggie sticks. Douse it with chili and lime if you like it ala Mexicana!
  • Head lettuce
  • Bunch carrots
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Hakurei Turnips - the white roots that look like big radishes. These are a Japanese salad turnip, and pretty much the only turnip I grow because they're so dang good. Munch them like apples, or slice up on your salad. Buttery and tender. If you want an even more refined flavor, peel them.
  • Zucchini
  • Yellow onion

On Rotation:

  • Red mustards greens, bunched - lacey maroon leaves, eat raw or cooked - has a little kick!
  • Tatsoi, bunched - dark green spoon-shaped leaves, eat raw or cooked.
  • Braising mix, bagged - a mix of Abby's baby kale and mustard greens
  • Spinach, bagged - Abby's succulent baby spinach

The Color of Food

Tucked up Floras Creek it's easy to feel far removed from the headlines, from COVID hotspots and urban riots. It's easy to feel like race is not a pressing topic in our quiet, rural (mostly white) community. But this week I found myself really giving that more thought. I recently got my stimulus check in the mail and wanted to donate it to an organization doing good work on racial justice, ideally somewhere close to home. But what I realized is that there aren't any organizations that I know of to give that money to right here in Curry County. Is that because race is "not an issue," or rather is it because race has been such an issue - for so long - that we haven't even gotten to the point of addressing race constructively in our little corner of Oregon? 

I learned for the first time this year about Oregon's Exclusion Law of 1844: a law that banned Black people from living in Oregon. Another black exclusion law was enacted in 1849 that made it illegal for Blacks to to enter or reside in Oregon territory. It meant that when Oregon became a state in 1859 it was the ony state in the Union with a black exclusion law on the books, which was expanded to prohibit Black people from owning property and making contracts. These laws remained in place until 1926. Even though the same racist sentiment pervaded all of the U.S., Oregon was the only place bold enough to write it down. That wasn't part of my Oregon history class in high school.

My mom has an old letter written by a Civil War veteran who moved here in 1885, Samuel T. Malehorn. He settled on Floras Creek and started a fruit farm and nursery on the land where Valley Flora now sits. In 1896 he sent a letter to a friend and fellow war vet, encouraging him to move to the area:

"It is all timber, light and heavy, rolling land, well watered, productive, all of it adaptive to good fruit. I am 4 miles from the beach, which is about right, 15 miles north of Port Orford. There are still good choices for homesteaders near me...Deeded lands can be bought from $5 to $40 per acre now. 40 acres is enough for a family to live on. You can build your houses with one cedar tree by hand. Fish and game everywhere. There is no poisonous reptiles or insects, you can lay out under a tree anywhere safely. It is blessed and glorious country, the best in the U.S."

I've always loved that letter - such an affirmation of this place where we live and farm - but this week I realized another significance of that letter. Samuel Malehorn was a white man, inviting a fellow white comrade of the 29th Regiment to come to Oregon. He could live here - and so could his white friend - because they were white. They had access to cheap homesteads - and therefore land and the means of production - where Black people didn't. Oregon's historic racist exclusion laws set us on a course that put property ownership - and power - into the hands of white folks only. 

This history is no doubt part of the reason that your farmers here at Valley Flora are white, not black - why my family "owns" this land, not a Native American family or an African American family or a Chinese family or Latino family. We are standing on and supported by the very big, broad shoulders of institutionalized, systemic racism.

That's uncomfortable. And it's high time to be uncomfortable, since most of us probably don't have a clue what it's like to be really uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable, as in not able to breathe because a cop is kneeling on your neck because your skin is not white.

It's hard to know what to proactively do with this heavy realization, especially in June when most of my bandwidth is occupied with beating back the weeds, harvesting peas, and planting seeds left and right. But this morning I did something that felt really good. At the recommendation of a friend who has worked on racial justice issues for decades, I donated my $1200 stimulus check to the Movement for Black Lives Fund, a coalition that's made up of over 150 organizations that are working to coordinate actions, messages and campaigns for the Black Lives Matter Movement nationwide, and to funnel resources to frontline organizing efforts where they're needed most: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/movement-4-black-lives-1

Martin Luther Kind, Jr. said, "Everything we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see." It's time to see what's behind the shadow.

Newsletter: 

Week 8 of the CSA Season!

What's in the Harvest Basket for the Week of July 19th:

  • Rainbow chard: the chard is at its ultimate apogee on the farm right now - luxuriously abundant, glossy, colorful and succulent. We love this variety, "Bright Lights," because of the infinite diversity of sunset colors that streak the stems.
  • Carrots
  • Head Lettuce
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumbers
  • Dill
  • Beets

On Rotation:

  • Broccoli
  • Walla Walla Sweet Onions
  • Red Long of Tropea torpedo onions

If you're looking for cooking inspiration to help you use your veggies each week, I stumbled upon this online site and app when I googled "chard and dill recipes:" https://www.supercook.com/search/dill-and-chard/?page=1. Supercook.com trawls the internet for word matches and finds relevant recipes. I can't vouch that they'd all be awesome, but it's not a bad place to start when you're staring into your fridge trying to figure out how to use up your harvest basket.

 

An Adventure 35 Years in the Making

Once upon a time there was a little girl who loved horses. She played with toy horses, she dreamt of horses, she hung on gates and gazed at other people's horses. She longed for her own real, live horse but her mom was allergic and her sister was afraid. So she continued to arrange and rearrange the plastic figurines on the shelf in her bedroom and fantasized about horses and unicorns and pegasi. But when she turned 9, a real horse came into her life - a rescue with lots of neurotic tics - but a horse nonetheless. She threw herself into loving that horse, waking up at 5:30 every school day to muck the barn and feed the mare, sprinting back at 4 each day as soon as the schoolbus dropped her at the bottom of the driveway. She rode all over her little valley, exploring old logging roads and finding hidden meadows up in the hills. She longed to explore farther afield, but with no truck and trailer she would clip-clop the five miles down the county road to the beach and ride wild and free by the ocean until sundown. She would coax her mare into the lake, nudging her forward until the bottom dropped away and then they would be swimming together. Her friend, who's family was all cowboy, took a horsepacking trip to Montana one summer. She envied them. Someday, she thought.

The little girl eventually grew up and moved away. When her old mare was dying, she drove back home and laid with her out in the pasture under a brilliant star-studded winter sky. When the mare sighed her final exhale, a quiet moment passed and then a huge shooting star streaked across the valley from one ridgetop to the other. She lived out in the world without horses for a decade, a small hole in the corner of her soul. But finally her compass needle turned her back towards the little valley so she could farm with her family. She had learned how to drive workhorses in Montana by then and she brought a team of big Belgian drafts home with her. She knew farming would be all-consuming, so best to figure out a way to feather horses into her workday. 

All-consuming it was, along with having two daughters and an old house to fix up. When her gelding died of colic, the excavator dug a massive hole in the westernmost reach of the pasture. Eventually she started farming in that spot and to this day that field still grows the biggest heads of broccoli. Once again it was just her and an old mare, who she worked single in the fields with her babies on her back. Eventually two more horses arrived on the farm, a team of Belgian/Morgan crossbreds who were broke to harness and the saddle. The girl was longing to ride again, to feel that freedom, to not always have it be about work. And so she found a saddle big enough, and she saved money for a horse trailer, and little by little her old dream came back into focus: to ride into the wilderness astride a beloved horse and disappear into the mountains for a week. Or two.

This week the girl's dream comes true: she's leaving in an hour for a five day horsepacking trip in the Trinity Alps with her friend, Laura (another organic vegetable horse farmer who, similarly, has been burning the candle at both ends the past week gearing up to leave her farm in late July). The Belgian/Morgan team is geared up for the mountains with saddlebags and sturdy shoes. The girl is full of gratitude for the entire farm team that's keeping the farm running for the rest of the week; for her husband, who spent half his day getting her truck fixed yesterday when it decided to break down in the 11th hour before her trip; and for her mom, who got her that first horse in spite of being allergic so that a dream could come true. Little tears are spattering the girl's keyboard right now.

P.S. if you need to reach the girl this week, she will be completely out of cell and email range through Monday 7/26. Her mom will be checking the farm email, but the girl's phone will be turned off. Remember, good things are always worth waiting for, even if it takes 35 years.

Newsletter: 

Week 7 of the CSA Season!

  • Fennel
  • Fresh Thyme - a good sized bunch. If you don't use it all fresh, dry it for later use!
  • Red Cabbage
  • Lettuce
  • Zucchini
  • Strawberries
  • Carrots - We've gone to bulk carrots for the rest of the season due to the fact that the green tops become weaker in the summer and bunching becomes painstaking. Rest assured we still dig fresh carrots for you every week; they are not from storage.
  • English Cucumbers
  • Sugar Snap Peas - bonus week! We usually only put them in the Harvest Basket for three weeks, but the pea patch is still yielding so we're sharing the bounty!

On Rotation

  • Walla Walla Sweet Onions
  • Red Long of Tropea Torpedo Onions
  • Broccoli

Strawberries and the Big Picture at Valley Flora: Cultivars, Crop Rotation, Diversity, Year-Round Food, and the Plastic Problem

At this time of year when people are in the fevered delerium of strawberry lust - when u-pickers are stripping the berry patch clean within 45 minutes and we're struggling each week to fill all the strawberry orders - we get asked one question all the time: "Why don't you plant more strawberries?" 

It's a great question. We could probably plant the whole farm to strawberries and for a few weeks in June and July sell every last berry. We'd pump a barrel-full of fructose into the collective veins of Coos and Curry counties and for a brief moment in time give people exactly what they wanted. 

But what would that look like for the farm? Inevitably as the strawberry zeal fades a little and the blueberries come on to divert u-pickers' attention, we find ourselves sitting on a big field of underpicked strawberries (ask my crew: none of us want to pick more strawberries than we currently do :)...). Solution: plant June-bearing varieties!? We've trialed many different June-bearing varieties to try to boost our production at the start of the season to meet the demand, but have never found an ideal cultivar that meets all of our criteria: it needs to hold up to the inevitable May/June rainstorm, be easy to pick, not be mushy, and have great flavor. Time and time again we come back to our standby variety, Seascape, a day neutral that yields steadily all summer long, is red all the way through, and flavorful. But it's a slow burn with Seascapes. A June-bearing strawberry plant will produce the same amount of fruit in one month as a Seascape plant will produce all summer. It's this unusual characteristic of Seascapes that has put us in the position of trying to re-educate the public about strawberry season on our farm: it lasts all summer, come in August! The fruit gets sweeter and more abundant! (For all of you on my special order list right now, late July/August is probably when you'll start getting your flats.) But it's proven challenging to re-program sugar-crazed humans who associate strawberries with early summer.

But let's just say we did decide to plant more strawberries. We have limited space on the farm, so planting more strawbs means less space for all the hundreds of other things we grow to feed folks year-round: greens, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, potatoes, fennel, cilantro, tomatoes, overwintering cauliflower, and scores of other things - not to mention all the cover crops we grow to feed our soil so that our soil in return can feed us. It would throw our careful crop rotation out of balance and the farm would become less diverse. In losing diversity the farm would also lose resiliency. It's because we grow hundreds of different crops that we can grow hundreds of different crops. That diversity creates mini-ecosystems on the farm that support complex biology above and below ground so our plants can thrive.

There is another dirty reason we don't plant more strawberries. They are the only crop on the farm that relies on plasticulture. We shape beds in September, lay down drip tape, and then wrap them in 1 mil agricultural black plastic. We then plant new crowns through the plastic in November and the plants slowly establish over the course of the winter until they start fruiting in May/June. We get a summer of production and then tear them out in October. The plastic goes to the dump (and for this I will surely be condemned to one of the nine levels of Dante's hell....perhaps the one full of organic farmers who are being tortured with hot melting plastic). Tragically, there is no longer an agricultural plastic recycling option in Oregon. There are some corn-based bio-plastic mulches on the market now, but they don't hold up for more than 6 months, which isn't long enough for the life cycle of strawberries. We've tried many times to grow strawberries without plastic, but we lose to the weeds every time. So here we are, part of the global plastic problem. I've capped our production at 20 beds, no matter how indignant our u-pickers get, because I can't bear to throw out more plastic each year when it's already too much.

So if you are among those clamoring for more strawberries from Valley Flora in early July, you have to stop and ask yourself: do I want them so much that I would forego the winter CSA or farmstand? At the expense of those sweet carrots? Would I sacrifice the diversity in this week's Harvest Basket? Do I want the farm to send more plastic to landfill each year? Or, might I in fact be able to have it all if I trust that there will be ample berries into September and I plan to fill my freezer in August instead of June (yes! fill your freezer in August!). I know we're pushing against some ancient biological hard-wiring (the human lust for sugar), and that as a species we aren't particularly prone to patience or delayed gratification, but if our customers practiced those two traits in the context of strawberries, it would help our farm maintain it's balance, it's complexity, and year-round abundance - and allow us to make the most of of the 20 beds of berries we put in the ground each year at the peril of my soul. 

Enjoy your VEGETABLES this week, and also that little pint of berries. :)

 

Newsletter: 

Week 6 of the CSA!

  • Purplette mini onions
  • Fava Beans (more on the favas below)
  • Zucchini
  • Basil
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Snap Peas - a big ol' heap of em!
  • Strawberries

On Rotation:

  • Cucumbers - the cukes that have been on rotation the past two weeks are a trial variety we planted in our field tunnels in early April - an early Persian type. They are delicious and the cucumber beetles agree! Our first month of production was hobbled by the cuke beetles, who were voracioulsy sampling every single cuke on the vine, leaving them scarred, contorted, and unsaleable (i.e. we ate a lot of ugly cucumbers in June :)....).The plants seem to be finally growing through it and we're getting some nice smooth cukes now, but some of them still show minor signs of scarring. They're unaffected inside so just peel them to reveal the sweet, nearly seedless cucumber within. Persian types are sought after by chefs for their sweet flavor, firm texture, few seeds, and lack of watery-ness. I'd say this greenhouse experiement has indeed yielded the tastiest, ugliest little cukes I've ever had!

Fava Beans

Chances are, if you haven't been a CSA member before you've likely never eaten (or prepared) fresh fava beans. You're in for a real treat, but a quick word of wisdom from one busy working parent to another: you might want to make this a weekend project. Even better if you can invite some friends over for a fava fest because many hands will help. Your favas are showing up in the pod, but unlike the sugar snap peas in your share, you don't want to eat the pod. The beans are nestled in a downy mattress inside, but wait! The beans themselves have an outer skin that, while edible, is a litlte tough and dingy and diminishes the culinary exquisitness of a bright green, peeled, fresh fava bean. SO, here's how you get to fava nirvana:

  1. Shuck the beans out of the pod and discard the pods
  2. Drop beans into boiling water and blanch for 1 minute
  3. Drain the beans and shock them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process
  4. Squeeze the beans out of their skin, using your fingernail to open a slit in the skin. Just like making blanched almonds. Kids love the squeezing part, especially if you don't mind fava beans shooting all over your kitchen.

Here's an illustrated how-to: https://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/how-to-prepare-fava-beans-gallery

They say that one pound of beans in the pod will yield about one cup of shelled favas. You're getting 3 pounds in the pod this week, so it should give you an ample amount to do something fun with. Epicurious has a mouth-watering gallery of recipes worthy of a glance: https://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/fava-bean-recipes-gallery. I want to eat every single one of them. 

But if, like me, you might not have time to shell favas to make a gorgeous recipe - even on a weekend - you could consider this excellent alternative: grill your favas in the pod. This is my favorite utilitarian way to eat them, especially at a backyard BBQ with friends. You put the whole pod on the grill and cook them until they're charred. Then you open up the steaming pod - careful, HOT! - and your beans will be perfectly cooked within. You can nip the skin of the bean with your teeth and then squeeze them straight into your mouth. It turns favas into a fun community feast instead of a dinner party chore and they are deeeeeelish! Have a salt shaker on hand if you love NaCl as much as I do :)

Bulk Green Beans by Special Order

Were on a leguminous riff this week: snap peas! favas! green beans!

We have a limited planting of early green beans happening right now and can fill a few speical orders for CSA members who want to double down on canning dilly-beans or putting some in the freezer. It'll be a brief season - a few weeks max - so email us if you'd like to order for delivery to your CSA site. Five pound bulk bags are $25. We need your name, pickup location, a daytime or cell number, and the quantity of green beans you'd like in 5 pound increments. We can't guarantee we'll be able to fill all orders, but we'll try!

Newsletter: 

Week 5 CSA from Valley Flora!

  • Dill
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Strawberries
  • Zucchini

On Rotation:

  • Dazzling Blue Lacinato Kale
  • Collards
  • Broccolini

This is the final week of Abby's "spring" greens in the Harvest Basket. All those lovely bags of baby spinach, arugula and braising mix that you've gotten in your share the past month have been thanks to Abby's meticulous hard work. Never was there a farmer who grew such beautiful baby greens as my sister, who is wholly dedicated to the unswerving pursuit of perfection. I feel obliged to tell you that many a week in June she was out in the field past dark (you know how late that is in June, near the summer solstice!) harvesting with a headlamp in order to fill the CSA totes. For every leaf to be so perfect, so beautiful, it all has to be hand cut with special attention to stem length and leaf quality, which takes hours, and hours, and hours. And hours. Then, she'd bring the harvest up to the barn and wash all those greens until one in the morning. Just another eighteen hour day making the best salad on earth....:). So enjoy that spinach knowing it is truly a labor of love (or, as I diagnosed it this week: compulsive masochistic farming syndrome). Lucky for the rest of us, we get to enjoy the results of it all: the finest greens to be had. Thanks Ab!

CSA Member Exclusive: Strawberry Flats Available by Special Order!

In case you missed it in last week's newsletter: If you are a Harvest Basket or Salad Share member at any of our four pickup locations, strawberry flats are now available by special order. Flats contain 12 dry pints of ripe Grade A strawberries and are $45 apiece. We will fill requests in the order received as surplus berries become available throughout the summer. To order, email us your name, pickup location, daytime/cell phone number (ideally a number we can text to), and the quantity of flats you would like to order. Please note we may not be able to fill your order immediately, depending on how many orders we have ahead of you and how abundant the berries are each week.

If you are not a CSA member but would like to order strawberry flats, you can do so through our online farmstand ordering system. If you have never place a farmstand order, go to https://www.valleyflorafarm.com/shopthefarmstand to learn how to set up an account. It's quick and easy and will give you full access to all of our fruit and produce for the season.

Have a Happy 4th of July weekend!

Newsletter: 

Week 4 of the CSA from Valley Flora!

  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Carrots
  • Head Lettuce
  • Strawberries
  • Arugula
  • Fennel
  • Green Cabbage

On Rotation:

  • Broccoli
  • Broccolini
  • Collards
  • Tatsoi
  • Zucchini

Strawberry U-Pick Opens This Week!

As of today, the berry patch is open for u-pick - every Wednesday and Saturday from 11:30 to 2:30 during our regular farmstand hours! There are lots of big, red, ripe berries out there today, and lots more to come all summer. When you arrive to u-pick, please check in at the farmstand before heading out to the berry patch. Line up on the left side at our farmstand gate for u-pick (the line on the right side is for folks picking up produce). Our u-pick manager, Sarah, will set you up with harvest buckets and give you the lay of the land. After picking you'll return to the farmstand to weigh your fruit and pay. Please bring your own containers to carry your berries home in. We grow a strawberry variety called Seascape that produces ALL SUMMER LONG, into September! The fruit only gets sweeter and more abundant as the summer goes on, so there is ample time to get your fill.

A few important ground rules when you come to u-pick:

  • No pets
  • Do not cross the white rope fence in the strawberry patch; please stay on the north side of the patch.
  • Do not touch or feed the horses that are pastured nearby.
  • Stay in the paths; please don't walk on top of the strawberry beds.
  • If you're coming with kids, please keep a close eye on them so everyone stays safe.
  • U-Pick is at your own risk. Heat, sun, stinging insects, valve boxes and uneven ground are all part of the farm experience, so know your own limits and stay within your comfort zone.

CSA Member Exclusive: Strawberry Flats Available by Special Order!

If you are a Harvest Basket or Salad Share member at any of our four pickup locations, strawberry flats are now available by special order. Flats contain 12 dry pints of ripe Grade A strawberries and are $45 apiece. We will fill requests in the order received as surplus berries become available throughout the summer. To order, email us your name, pickup location, daytime/cell phone number (ideally a number we can text to), and the quantity of flats you would like to order. Please note we may not be able to fill your order immediately, depending on how many orders we have ahead of you.

If you are not a CSA member but would like to order strawberry flats, you can do so through our online farmstand ordering system. If you have never place a farmstand order, go to https://www.valleyflorafarm.com/node/19576 to learn how to set up an account. It's quick and easy and will give you full access to all of our fruit and produce for the season.

Fennel, How I Love Thee....

For some of you, fennel might be your challenge vegetable this week. I'm head over heels for fennel, so it's always hard for me to understand what's not to love. But if you haven't found your groove with it yet, here are some ideas:

  1. Slice it thinly and put it in salad. Simple. Quick. Delicious.
  2. Take a gander at our collection of fennel recipes: https://www.valleyflorafarm.com/recipe_search/results/fennel. Cooking fennel reduces the anise flavor, if that's something you're averse to. This is one of my all-time favorites: https://www.valleyflorafarm.com/content/caramelized-fennel-honey-lemon-z.... Almost dessert, really.
  3. Check out Bon Apetit's recipe collection. Impressive. 

I'll leave you with this lovely image from our first pea harvest on Monday:

Newsletter: 

Week 3 of the CSA!

  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Braising Mix - the bagged mix of baby Asian greens, great in salads or steamed/sauteed/stir-fried
  • Kohlrabi
  • Head Lettuce
  • Zucchini
  • Hakurei Turnips

On Rotation:

  • Broccoli
  • Broccolini

Rain, Sweet Rain!

Never in my whole entire life have I been more grateful for water falling from the sky as I was this weekend. Almost 4"!!! And such a sweet, warm, steady, succulent rain, preceded by a day so sultry and tropical I experienced some geographic disorientation: Am I on the east coast? The tropics? My t-shirt is sticking to my back two miles from the beach on the Oregon coast. Has that ever happened before? Then, by Saturday afternoon the unusual sound of fat, heavy raindrops hitting soft green leaves - a sound we're not as attuned to in Oregon, where most of our rain falls on conifers and bare-branched deciduous trees during our rainy winters. It was glorious. Wondrous. It lasted all night and all day. The creek rose, moss turned neon green, the dry knobs on the hills softened, temporarily unparched. Some latent pagan instinct made me want to throw my face skyward and let it soak me to the bone, then make some offering to the rain gods.

The sacrificial lamb - and well worth the sacrifice - was the strawberry patch. A half inch of rain is enough to do some damage, so 3.7 inches pretty much sealed the deal for a sloppy clean-up harvest yesterday. We fed the compost pile well with 150+ pounds of mush-ball, rotting berries, but we got the patch back in order which means we should be back on our berry feet by next week. It means no strawbs in your Harvest Basket this week, but I hope you'll agree that forfeiting a pint of strawberries is a small price to pay for desperately-needed precip.

We're anticipating a week of explosive growth on the farm - on the heels of so much rain, with fifteen+ hours of sun a day as we near the summer solstice. It's a good week to be a plant. And not such a bad week to be a human who eats plants...

Beets this week! Try loving them! They are not the canned beets of your childhood nightmares, or the sicky-corn syrup pickled beets from the Sizzler salad bar. They are earthy and sweet. Roast them! Grate them raw onto a pile of salad. Steam them and toss them with a little salt, pepper, vinegar and olive oil. Fancy it up even more by throwing some fresh herbs and goat cheese on top. Get down with beets this week. They want to get down with you.

 

Newsletter: 

Week 2 of the Valley Flora CSA!

What's in the Harvest Basket this Week:

  • Purple Kohlrabi
  • Purple Onion
  • Broccolini
  • Head Lettuce
  • Bunch Carrots
  • Radish Micro Mix - a colorful confetti mix of mildly spicy radish microgreens (great on tacos!)
  • Strawberries

On Rotation:

  • Baby Spinach
  • Braising Mix
  • Collards 
  • Rainbow Chard

Hooray for a little rain! Hopefully it'll help us hold onto those green hills a little longer and stave off fire season. 

The Dream Team

Usually when I talk about my "dream team" I'm referring to my Morgan/Belgian draft horses, Jack and Lily (who, by the way, are 100% dreamy). Exibit A (taken while we were cultivating and hilling the potatoes last week):

That's a ton and a half of harnessed muscle and heart, two horses that fill my chest to bursting every week as they quietly go about a mountain of work on the farm: mowing, discing, harrowing, cultivating, hilling, seeding, spreading. 

But there's another dream team hustling about the farm as well, and that's our crew. I feel beyond lucky to have a rock solid seasoned crew this year: Roberto, who's been part of VF since 2010 (11 glorious years! applause!!!); Jen and Allen who joined us full-time a year ago and are knocking my socks off with all their ever-expanding farming prowess (they've learned so much! they've gotten so much faster! stronger! efficient-er! I wish I drove a mini-van so I could have a bumper sticker that reads "Proud Parent of some Bad-Ass Farmers!); Sarah, hitched to Allen, who wears a plethora of indispensable hats on the farm (childcare! harvest! farmstand! packout! what would we do without her!?); Donna and Maggie, who handle the farmstand hustle with good-natured grace and humor (stampeding crowds! strawberry fever! signs that don't get read!). The nature of seasonal work often means that farms like ours see high employee turnover, which is why we are SO INCREDIBLY GRATEFUL to our crew for sticking with us over the years.

I wish I had a photo of all of us together (it's an incredibly good-looking lot), but alas, the electrons zing too quickly around the farm and I'm pretty sure there has never, ever been a moment when all of us were standing still in the same place. So just imagine strapping, vital, sun-tanned, muscular (did I mention fashionable?) lads and lassies making light work of heavy things, day in and day out, and give thanks - as I do - for their unflagging commitment to the weekly delivery of your high fiber VF vittles.

Have a gang of fun with that kohlrabi this week! Pro tip: I like it best peeled and sliced up raw in some form. Kohlrabi caesar is awesome: https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/kohlrabi-caesar-salad. And if that's not your schtick, here are 10 other recipe ideas to get you started: https://www.thekitchn.com/5-tasty-ways-to-prepare-kohlrabi-60321.

Newsletter: 

Week 1 of the Valley Flora CSA!

Hello CSA Members!

This is our kickoff week for the 2021 CSA Season! We'll be delivering lots of food to our CSA Members this week, so be sure to pick up your Harvest Basket and/or Salad Share! 

(If you need a refresher on the when/where/how of your pickup, all that info is always on our website at https://www.valleyflorafarm.com/content/valley-flora-pick-locations. Scroll down for specifics on each site.)

What's in the Harvest Basket this week?

  • Artichokes
  • Kale 
  • Arugula - 1/2 lb bagged
  • Head Lettuce
  • Spring Onions
  • Tokyo Bekana Mustard Greens - lime green heads with white ribs, deliciously mild and lettucey (not a spicy mustard)
  • Pea Shoots - great on salads, lightly sauteed, or tossed into smoothies
  • Spring turnips
  • Zucchini
  • Cherry Tomato Plant 

On Rotation (this means that some locations will receive it this week and others next week):

  • Radishes

Cherry Tomato Plants!

If you're a Harvest Basket member, you'll be taking a cherry tomato plant home this week in addition to your produce! We don't grow cherry tomatoes for the CSA, but we provide you with our all-time favorite variety, SunOrange, to grow in your own garden or pot. It's an improved Sungold the produces tons of tangerine-orange fruits from August through the fall. The flavor is exquisite - tropical/tangy/sweet. For best results, plant your tomato as deep as possible in a warm, protected location (it's ok to bury the stem and some of the bottom leaves; the plant will sprout new roots underground and add to it's root mass). If you're planting it in a pot, use at least a 5 gallon container. Give it a balanced organic fertilizer (Nutririch 4-3-2 is great at the recommended rate) and water deeply. You'll need to provide some kind of trellis or support because this variet is an indeterminate, which means it'll climb, and climb, and climb. Prune excess leaves as it grows, leaving all fruiting/flowering stems. With a litte TLC it should be yielding fruit for you by August. These little cherry bombs are fantastic snackers, are awesome sliced up in salads, and also make the best dried tomatoes I've ever eaten - like little candies.

Too Much Sun!

That's a rare thing for a farmer to say, but this spring it's been true. We would gladly trade some of these sunny days for more rain, and some of our crops agree. It has been a tricky spring for certain cool season veggies that we typically rely on in our early crop mix. In the past month we've lost whole plantings of radishes, turnips and pac choi due to excess heat, we had to till under a bed of greenhouse carrots because they bolted prematurely, and we're seeing more flea beetle damage on things like this week's Tokyo Bekana, the kale and our broccoli plants. Flea beetles show up on the farm once it gets warm and dry and they love to feast on Brassicas, pocking them up with lots of tiny holes. Normally we don't see them until later in May but they arrived in April this year. Our artichoke season was also abrupt - it started late and ended early - because of the weather.

Climate change poses some interesting challenges for us farmers. For instance, should we be planning for this kind of spring from now on and change our planting dates and crop mix accordingly? Or is that a bad strategy, since next spring could be crazy cold and wet? We've all learned that what's going on is not just "global warming," but "global weirding." And "weirding" is a lot harder to cope with when your whole gig relies on the weather and some ability to predict that weather...

As always, I'm grateful for our diversity, which has been the backbone survival strategy on our farm since the get-go: grow a little bit of everything, so that if something croaks there's still plenty of food to fill those Harvest Baskets. I hope you enjoy your first taste of the 2021 CSA season this week!

 

Newsletter: 

Week 10 - The Last of "Winter"!

In Your Share this Week:

  • Artichokes
  • Bunch Carrots
  • Greenleaf Lettuce
  • Micro Mix
  • Tokyo Bekana - this is the light green lettucy-mustard bunch in your share. Very mild, a great salad or stir-fry ingredient
  • Hakurei turnips
  • Mixed Asian Green Bunches
  • Radishes
  • Spring Onions
  • Kabocha Squash

Pretty much the only vestige of winter in this tote of "Winter" CSA produce is the Kabocha squash - and if you're not in the mood for squash this week, don't worry, it'll probably keep until 2024 on your counter :).

Really, it's all about spring - and even summer - this week. We got to load you up with a couple pounds of artichokes, plus our first heads of greenleaf lettuce, a variety of Asian greens, baby bunch carrots, and some early overwintered onions, which have been slowly creeping towards maturity since last fall when we planted them in October. The onions are surprisingly sweet. Allen sampled one in the field during harvest and ate the whole thing on the spot like a popsicle.

I'm always especially grateful to our winter CSA members for your extra commitment to seasonal eating. Winter can be more of a culinary challenge for some, certainly devoid of tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers and some of the other "easy" vegetables that summer offers up. It's been a fun challenge for me to figure out how to be a better winter grower over the past five years: What can I plant to keep those baskets more diverse and exciting, and when can I plant it? Where can we extend the season, how can we make the most productive use of our field tunnels, what storage crops will make it until May in good shape? 

Our winter season is when I most often murmur the words, "plants are amazing" (all that they can endure, and still make big gorgeous heads of cauliflower in February). But it's also when I most often murmur, "our CSA members are amazing." Thanks for being part of the Valley Flora foundation, for supporting our little farm and keeping us going year after year.

If you're signed up for summer, see you in two weeks! If not, thanks for being a part of this past winter and we hope to have you back again soon!

Hugs to all,

Zoë

Newsletter: 

Week 9 of the Winter/Spring CSA!

In the share this week:

  • Artichokes
  • Shallots
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Redleaf Lettuce: Big mondo heads out of our high tunnels! This was a winter trial that turned out better than planned!
  • Sunflower Shoots: Our micro/shoot yields shot through the roof this round of production, so you're getting a full HALF pound of sunflower shoots this week instead of the intended 1/4#. They're great on salads, in sandwiches, in smoothies, or by the handful straight out of the bag.
  • Mixed Greens
  • Yukina Savoy Tatsoi: This is a glossy, dark green pac choi with spoon-shaped leaves that might almost fool you into thinking it's spinach....
  • Pink Radishes

The first artichokes of the season! Many of you have heard the story of these artichokes - that they've been propagated in our family for over 50 years - and I am so excited to share them with you this week. The original plant came out of a friend's yard in Bandon in the early 70's, which my Mom grew and divided in her garden throughout my entire childhood. Many a spring dinner centered wholly around these artichokes when I was a kid (and the requisite butter/mayo that must attend them). I took plants to Portland when I lived there in my 20s and grew them in my own garden. When I returned in 2008, I divided my garden plants and brought home 40 starts that I planted into the first Valley Flora field. Simultaneously I started a few hundred Green Globe chokes from seed. It was obvious after the first year of production that our family artichoke outstripped the Green Globes in every way: hardier, more productive, more beautiful, more delicious, and nearly choke-free (not very much hair around the heart, especially in the small baby chokes). Harvesting these artichokes this week made me feel so lucky to live on this planet, surrounded by swooping swallows and apple blossoms amidst a canvas of electric spring green everywhere! I'm thinking that when the time comes to "retire," I'll revert to 100% horse powered artichoke production and keep it simple: me, my trusty steeds, some simple antique farm equipment, and a patch of thistles. Sounds like heaven.

I also spent some of my artichoke-harvest-time trying to tame the gnawing egg of anxiety I'm feeling about drought and climate change. I find that my daily sense of well-being is inextricably linked to the 10-day weather forecast. When I see an inch of precip on the horizon, I am awash in good feelings that all is well on planet Earth. But when the inch turns into a half, into a quarter, into a tenth, and then vanishes altogether - with nothing but more sun in the forecast - I feel despair. All this sun has been amazing for getting the season off to a great start, but I am desperate for it to rain (running irrigation at this time of year is downright wrong). This is not the Oregon of my memory, of my childhood. This is California, creeping north. This is the creek getting lower. Is this the beginning of the end of farming on Floras Creek (no water = no farm)?

I found myself thinking about what we can do: so far we have invested in solar so that almost the entire farm runs on the sun; we rely on horses instead of tractors for some of our fieldwork; we don't drive very much; we re-use our harvest and delivery bins for years and years; we bought a used Sprinter van that gets 25 mpg to curb our fuel consumption on the delivery route (wish it was electric, plugged into our solar panels!); we get on an airplane maybe once a year and buy carbon offsets when we do; we eat a plant-based diet for the most part, with local meat only making an occasional appearance; we buy bulk; we wash and reuse and eventually recycle our plastic bags; we vote.  

All of these things are built into our daily behaviors, but I wonder what more we could do, shy of quitting the farm and throwing ourselves headlong into climate activism. It seems unlikely that many of us are going to quit everything and go on the stump with Gretta Thunberg, so probably we should ask ourselves every single day: what can I do today to make the planet less hot? I do love a nice hot shower at the end of the day. Maybe I should try to make it shorter. I do drive my pickup back and forth around the farm; maybe I could rig a bike trailer that could haul my seeds and tools instead. I do donate to climate change efforts; maybe I should give more. And then the tiny little things combined with the big gigantic things (like the Paris climate agreement) - maybe it adds up to a future where my little Uma, who, at 6 years old, proclaims she wants to be a "watermelon picker" when she grows up, will be able to do just that? (Watermelons do require quite a bit of, er, water.)

In the meantime, I'd better get a prescription of anti-depressants because the Thursday rain forecast just got downgraded (again) from 0.15" to 0.09."

Big sigh. Don't let me ruin your week, but maybe it'll motivate you to ask the same question every day: What can I do today to make the planet less hot?

 

Newsletter: 

Week 8!

In your share this week:

  • Frozen Strawberries! Be sure to grab one bag per Harvest Basket from the blue coolers at your pickup site today!
  • Shallots
  • Red Cabbage
  • Cauliflower 
  • Mixed Greens
  • Green Butterhead
  • Sunflower and Pea Shoot Mix
  • Hakurei Turnips
  • Bunch Carrots

It's been an enormously productive few weeks in the field with all this sun shining down on us - what an amazing window of opportunity on the farm at this planting-intensive time of year! I'm equally grateful to see that the rain is returning in earnest this coming week. Everything could use it: the creek, the pasture, the newly-planted seedlings, and the farmers who have been going non-stop for the past few weeks. We hope to have all of our onions in the ground by week's end (all 16,000 of them), as well as all the potatoes (4000 row feet, or 1/3 of an acre), plus our next weekly wave of broccoli, lettuce, and carrots. And then come Saturday, ahhhhhhhhhhh, let it rain. Maybe I'll sleep in.

There's a good chance you'll see artichokes in your share next time; they are just starting to pop (a few weeks later then in recent years). I'm relishing our new patch, which we established last year in an effort to renovate our original artichoke plants. They are healthy and vigorous and I'm hoping for a bumper year. Better stock up on butter and mayo and get ready for some dipping! :)

Have a great week, eat lots of salad, be outside all that you can!

xox

Zoë

Newsletter: 

Winter CSA: Week 7!

In Your Share this Week:

  • Cauliflower
  • Tetsu Kabocha Squash
  • Radishes 
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Purple Sprouting Broccoli
  • Spring Raab
  • Cebollitas
  • Baby Butterhead
  • Radish Micro Mix
  • Chard

This has been the most striking change of season from winter to spring that I can remember on the farm. As if on cue around the spring equinox, the sun came out, the swallows returned in a cacophony of birdsong, and the north wind started to blow. This past week we've been in overdrive mode: mowing down all the cover crops, opening up ground for spring plantings, spreading pallet-loads of soil amendments, and getting thousands of starts into the field. I've lost track of what day it is, in the blur of blue skies and hours of squinting into bright sun from the tractor seat. Ironically, despite the countless inches of rain we've had all winter, we had to drop our irrigation pumps into the creek this week and put pipe in the field to help all the new transplants along. 

Nothing embodies our emergence into spring better for me than the first tender heads of lettuce from the greenhouse. Butterhead salads again, whoopeeee! You're also getting chard hearts this week, the final harvest from plants that we set out in the field a whole year ago. For some of you, the radishes are coming in bulk (for whatever reason the tops didn't grow tall, which makes bunching tricky). This is round 3 of 4 in the miraculous, frost-sweetened, overwintering cauliflower department (our last variety is still to come, next time).

Hope you're enjoying it all - the food and the weather - and feeling lucky to be alive.

Thanks everyone,

Zoë

 

Newsletter: 

Winter CSA: Week 5!

What's in your Share this Week:

  • Baby Bunch Carrots - hurrah! Our first harvest from our overwintered greenhouse plantings. Seeded last September, this is our winter "candy carrot" variety that performs well in cold weather. It's a 6 month waiting game for these babies and always a full-blown celebration when we finally get to dig our first sweet, crunchy harvest.
  • Winter Baby Greens - a mix of mustards, mizuna, tatsoi and other Asian greens
  • Shallots - our longest-storing allium. This variety is supposed to produce single shallots, but very often it throws doubles. I wish it wouldn't do that because the outer skin is thick and tight, which in our damp climate can trap humidity between the two shallot bulbs (even in our climate-controlled, insulated storage room). It means that you might see a faint trace of grey mold between the two bulbs when you start peeling back the outer skin. It's minor and only affects the skin, so not to worry. Just peel away and you'll have a beautiful lavender shallot waiting for you just beneath the surface.
  • Red Beets
  • Purple Sprouting Broccoli
  • Spring Raab
  • Italian Parsley
  • Tetsukabuto Winter Squash - our longest-keeping winter squash, built for the apocalypse (the Japanese name translates to "steel helmet," a nod to it's super-hard skin). If you don't feel like eating this squash right away, that's fine; it'll still be good in June. It's a yummy kabocha type with sweet dry flesh that shines in Thai curry, tempura, or hacked into wedges and roasted with olive oil and sea salt. Take care with this one when you're cutting into it!
  • Radish Micro Mix - a new mix we're growing this winter, as colorful as confetti. It's got a spicy kick - goes great on tacos!
  • Pea Shoots  - Bonus! We hadn't planned on doling out more pea shoots to you this week, but we had a bumper harvest this week and decided to share! If you didn't try that pistachio pea shoot pesto recipe I suggested last time, do it! Soooooooo good! 

All in all this week, a nasty couple days to be farming outside. This kind of weather is what we've always referred to as "lamb-killing rain:" temps in the low 40's/high 30's, steady rain, a cold wind. That combo is colder than 30 degrees and snowing, owing to the damp chill that penetrates bone-deep. It can suck the life right out of the wet, newborn lambs that get born in the middle of the night in some far corner of the pasture. We raised sheep when I was a kid and I was my mom's right-hand helper during lambing season. I remember the heartbreak of finding a dead or torpid lamb out in the pasture on morning patrol before school. (Most of the time the ewes that were showing imminent signs of labor would be penned in the barn ahead of time so they could birth indoors, but sometimes a ewe would birth without showing pre-labor signs. And always it was in the middle of the night.) 

We'd bring the half-dead lambs in by the woodstove, wrap them in old sweaters, tube some warm milk into them, and cross our fingers. Sometimes an hour later they'd be up and bouncing, a complete resurrection. But not always. With lambing season in full swing all around us right now, I can't help but hope that the lambs are weathering the weather all right, ideally under the roof of a barn.

For us, thank goodness for wool long underwear (gratitude to the sheep), our layers of down (gratitude to the geese), and our final wrap of Grunden's raingear (gratitude to the petroleum industry and the fishermen). It's just the hands that stop working after awhile. A lot of the crops we harvest are not glove-compatible. Gloves - particularly insulated ones - rob us of our dexterity and make knifework clumsy and slow, so inevitably we end up with ten naked, achey, and numb digits. Good luck working your zipper at a certain point in the day...

But then there's the hot shower, the woodstove, and a heaping plate of fresh-cut salad waiting for you at the end of the day, which usually evens the score.

Have a great week!

Newsletter: 

Winter CSA: Week 4

What's in your share this week:

  • Yellow Onion
  • Purple Sprouting Broccoli
  • Savoy Cabbage
  • Arugula
  • Pea Shoots
  • Yellow Potatoes
  • Spring Raab
  • Autum Frost Winter Squash
  • Cauliflower

There are a couple winter miracles in your share this week: purple sprouting broccoli and cauliflower! Both of these crops were seeded last July, planted in August and have been weathering winter for the past many months. Even after years of growing it, winter cauliflower never fails to amaze me. We have a mild enough climate here to pull it off - usually successfully - but nevertheless I'm always surprised when those pearly white heads start to show themselves, at a time when it doesn't seem like there could be anything to eat out there in the field. Winter cauliflower is also the tastiest of all the cauliflower we grow because it matures in cold weather, which sweetens up those Brassicas like nothing else. We grow four different overwintering cauliflower varieties that mature in succession, so hopefully you'll get to enjoy another two or three rounds of cauliflower before May.

Similarly, the purple sprouting broccoli in your share is a special thing. It requires patience and a lot of space, but what a treat once those neon purple florettes start to shoot skyward. We grow three varieties that mature between February and April, so it'll also make a few more appearances as we head into spring.

If pea shoots are a novelty to you, this is a great chance to become buddies with them. You guys are getting a full half pound this week - twice as much as planned - because our seeding did so well in the greenhouse this time around. Lengthening days and some sunshine are making all the difference in growth rates in the propagation house right now. I like to eat pea shoots raw in salads, or as the main body of a salad, but you can also sautee them or try making a pea shoot pesto. Here are two different riffs on that notion, one with pistachios and lemon juice and the other with toasted walnuts.

https://www.loveandlemons.com/pea-tendril-pistachio-pesto/

https://www.fresh52.com/recipes/pea-shoot-pesto

I wish I could say that the peas were bagged in the biodegradable cellophane bags we were so excited about last time, but we had a major disasco (disaster + fiasco) this week with the new bags. On Monday we harvested and bagged up all the CSA and farmstand pea shoots and micro mix and then put them in our walk-in cooler for the night so we'd be ready for packout on Tuesday. When we pulled them out of the cooler on Tuesday, we discovered that the new bags were practically melting and anything in contact with the bag was soggy AND wilted. It seems that those marine-degradable bags were already well on their way to breaking down and not doing our produce any good at all. We had to unbag everything (yes, hundreds of bags), toss the wilty shoots, and rebag them all in good ol' turtle murder poly bags. Sigh. The bag vendor has never heard of this problem and is trying to figure out if we got a faulty batch, or....?

So in the meantime until we can resolve the bio bag issue, please do your best to reuse the plastic bags we give you (as many times as possible!) and then recycle them when their life is over (McKay's in Bandon has a plastic bag recycling bin in their foyer; it's worth asking at Ray's in PO and Bandon, and anywhere else you shop for groceries).

Have a lovely week! Celebrate winter cauliflower!

Zoë

 

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