The Valley Flora Beetbox

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

Week 3 of the Valley Flora CSA!

  • Collard Greens - a wonderful, toothsome green famous in Southern cuisine. Great steamed or sauteed (no need to cook for hours, like a lot of traditional recipes call for - a light steam is all it takes!)
  • Purple Kohlrabi - peel, cut into sticks and enjoy with your favorite dip!
  • Bunch Carrots
  • Head Lettuce
  • Strawberries
  • Cilantro

On Rotation:

  • Arugula
  • Mizuna
  • Radishes
  • Hakurei Turnips
  • Broccoli
  • Broccolini

A few new signature spring crops are making their way into the Harvest Basket this week: kohlrabi, bunch carrots, and broccoli/broccolini! Our field of spring Brassicas (kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, broccoli, etc) has loved this cool, wet spring - hence the collard greens the size of elephant ears! We were thrilled to get our first harvest of true heading broccoli this week, which marks the beginning of our summer broccoli season. Broccoli is one of the crops that we grow successionally, meaning we plant a new bed every week for the first couple months of spring to ensure a steady supply for the first half of summer. We grow many other crops successionally, namely head lettuce (which we plant every week from late March until October), cilantro, carrots, beets, sweet corn and fennel. This is in contrast to storage crops that we plant all at once for a single mass harvest, like onions, winter squash and potatoes.

Unlike the Brassica field, the strawberry patch did not love the two inches of rain that fell over the weekend. We would have had a record-breaking harvest of huge berries yesterday were it not for all the rotten fruit that ended up in the compost. We did our very best to toss out any "seconds" while we picked and sorted flats yesterday, but the warm, wet weekend caused a lot of insidious rot. If you encounter a hidden rot spot under the green cap, please forgive! The strawberry sorting was arduous yesterday and some might have snuck past us. We're looking forward to more sun and happier strawberries!

With less rain in the forecast, we plan to open our Strawberry U-Pick next Wednesday, June 22nd! The u-pick will open at 11:30 am and will be open until 2:30, or until the patch is picked out, whichever happens first. Our experience in years' past is that the patch gets picked out quickly during the first part of our season (some days in under an hour, depending on the crowd). That means if you are traveling a distance to get to us, you want to arrive when we open. Our apologies that we can't guarantee a specific range of open hours. The crowds mellow out by August, if you're looking for a more leisurely experience and want to pick a large quantity of berries. All of the details about the u-pick are here.

Enjoy the new rainbow of colors in your Harvest Basket this week!

Newsletter: 

Week 2 of the Valley Flora CSA!

  • Baby Arugula
  • Head Lettuce
  • Radish Microgreens
  • Bunched Mustard Greens - the colorful, frilly bunch of red, green and variegated mustards - great steamed, sauteed, or chopped into salad for some extra spice!
  • Pac Choi - the dark green plant with spoon-shaped leaves and white ribs. Stir fry time!

On Rotation (this means that some pickup locations will receive it this week, others in a future week):

  • Broccolini - our sweetest and most tender baby broccoli of the year, a special June treat! (Once during pickup at the farm, a 9 year old kiddo of a CSA member was overheard saying,"Valley Flora broccolini is better than steak!" That makes a farmer feel pretty good.)
  • Zucchini
  • Purple Radishes (Saturday totes)
  • Hakurei Turnips (Wednesday totes) -  smooth, round, tender, white Japanese salad turnips with buttery-sweet flavor. Hakurei turnip are the gold standard for fresh-eating salad turnips, asked for by name by chefs. I like them best raw, sliced into salads or eaten whole like mini apples. You can also find plenty of recipes online for cooking/glazing them, but I rarely turn on the heat. Raw is hard to beat.
  • Strawberries

Strawberry Fever

The picture above doesn't lie: there is indeed a pint of strawberries in the Wednesday Harvest Baskets this week (fingers crossed we have enough fruit to put into our Saturday Harvest Baskets as well, which is why they are listed as "on rotation"). Our strawberry season has been off to a halting start because of all the rain. The storm that blew through over the weekend took a toll on the berry patch, but luckily we were still able to eek out enough flats to get some berries into our Wednesday CSA totes (we also had to toss a lot of damaged fruit into the compost pile). Strawberries like sun - the soft, fragile fruit doesn't hold up well in the rain - so every June squall equals another delay to our u-pick season. That said, the  strawberry patch is poised to explode with an abundance of huge, red, ripe fruit - there are tons of blossoms on the plants and lots of developing green berries. We have more rain coming this weekend so it might be another week or two before we hit full stride, but that moment is near. We are tentatively hoping to open the u-pick on Saturday, June 18th, but no promises! I hesitate to even say that out loud, knowing full well that there could be people lined up at the farm gate that Saturday, whether we're open or not. SO: Keep an eye on our website for u-pick updates and we will certainly let you know as soon as the berry patch is ready!

That said, here's some useful information that should help quell any subconscious anxiety you're feeling about getting enough strawberries in your belly and freezer this season:

We grow a strawberry called "Seascape." It's a day neutral variety, which means it's triggered by temperature to make fruit (in contrast to June-bearing varieties, which are triggered by day length). The plants will set fruit so long as the temps are between 40 and 90 degrees, no matter what month it is, which means they tend to produce reliably for us from June through September. All to say, we have strawberries ALL SUMMER not just in June (and in fact June tends to be the most volatile month given the higher chance for rain). We try to put a pint of berries in the Harvest Basket every week once the patch is up to full production, at least until September. And our u-pick, once it opens, will be open every Wednesday and Saturday through September. Given that strawberry fever tends to rage hottest in June and July, we always suggest that folks wait until August to come do their big freezer-filling, jam-making pick. Competition for ripe berries can be intense at the start of the season, and often the patch gets picked out within an hour of opening. But the fruit actually gets sweeter as the summer goes on, which means August berries are where it's at for jam, smoothies, fresh-eating, anything.

That said, there's no denying the thrill of picking the first big, red berries of the season and making a deep dish of strawberry rhubarb crisp (we enjoyed one of those last weekend, thanks to all the rain-damaged seconds we've been hauling out of the field). Just know that the Valley Flora strawberry season is long and abundant and there is enough for everyone so long as you spread your u-picking out over the whole summer. Abundance, not scarcity. It's so much better to live in that paradigm.

Enjoy your produce this week. We're happy to see more crops coming on in the field, even in spite of the cool weather.

Newsletter: 

Valley Flora Summer CSA Kicks Off Today!

  • SunOrange Cherry Tomato Plant (plant this, don't eat this!). I sent out an email earlier this morning to all 2022 CSA members with planting and care info. Be sure to grab one plant per Harvest Basket from the yellow bins at your pickup site this week.
  • Artichokes - a Valley Flora family heirloom that's been in cultivation in our family gardens and farm fields for 50+ years
  • Spring Onions - planted last October and overwintered for early June harvest
  • Zucchini - harvested out of a brave little bed in one of our field tunnels that was planted in early March
  • Pea Shoots - a nice hefty bag of shoots, grown in our greenhouse 
  • Kale - Wednesday locations are getting Red Ursa (a tender, pretty heirloom that I've been loyal to for 20+ years); Saturday locations, variety TBD
  • Lettuce - varieties vary by location each week. We do our best to rotate through the five or six different varieties we plant so that you can experience a diversity of lettuce types throughout the season (leaf, butter, romaine, oak, summer crisp, little gem).
  • Cilantro - a petite little bunch this week, a miracle that it grew through the cold April/May weather we had!

Welcome to the 2022 Valley Flora CSA Season! 

 It's official, the Valley Flora van is on the road as of this morning to bring you the first CSA delivery of the year! Today will be the first pickup for Coos Bay members and Farm members, and Bandon and Port Orford folks will get their first delivery this Saturday. As of this week we have made some important updates to our pick-up protocol and changed some details specific to each pickup location. PLEASE visit our website and read up (even if you are a returning member): https://www.valleyflorafarm.com/content/valley-flora-pick-locations. This webpage has a lot of important info about WHEN to pick up, WHERE to pick up, HOW to pick up, and what do do if you MISS your pick up. 

Also, please share the link with anyone who might be picking up on your behalf this season so they know the drill! 

There will be a CSA check-off sheet at each pickup site, which lists everyone who's getting a Harvest Basket as well as everyone who is getting a Salad Share (and which size Salad Share, half or full pound). Please check yourself off on this list each week. For this first week the list is a paper print-out, but within a couple weeks it will be laminated so we can wipe it clean and reuse it all season.

If you are getting a Harvest Basket, you can help us out greatly by keeping your pickup site tidy. Here's an example of how empty bins and lids should be stacked:

Throughout the season things will go smoothly if everyone takes the time to read labels and signage, and be diligent about taking the correct items. Thanks so much for helping our self-serve CSA system work!

Our season is off to a slightly slower start due to the cold, wet spring we've had. We're grateful that the world around us is green and the creek is running strong, and even if some crops are delayed everything in the field is looking vital. Rest assured the food will be ample and you can expect to see more and more produce in your tote as summer advances.

We've been working double time to get caught up on transplanting and yesterday put a third of an acre of winter squash in the ground after we packed CSA totes. I think the crew broke our winter squash speed record, bravo! We're rapid-fire planting lots of other outdoor crops that need warmer weather to thrive: peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, tomatoes. We call this the "pop-up" farm week, when a lot of acreage goes from bare ground to planted in the blink of an eye. Finally, our propagation greenhouse empties out and the field fills up and our focus shifts predominantly to outdoor fieldwork. We don't have a mechanical transplanter on the farm, so every single transplant goes in the ground with a trowel, by hand. This week  that equals 2,085 winter squash plants, 150 pickling cucumbers, 660 brussels sprouts, 880 sweet corn, 216 fennel starts, 1000 pepper plants, 450 lettuce starts, plus a few other things. There's a week in April when we plant 19,280 onion, leek and shallot starts in a week (you feel that in your hamstrings the next day). All to say, we have a pretty intimate relationship with every single plant on the farm, from seed to harvest. We're excited to share all that with you in the coming months.

Thanks to all of our 2022 CSA members for being part of the next 28 weeks, when you'll experience the full arc of local, seasonal eating. We're glad to have you with us!

Cheers, Zoë and the VF Team

Newsletter: 

The Last Week of Winter CSA!

  • Artichokes
  • Rainbow Chard
  • Sunflower/Pea Shoot Medley
  • Radishes
  • Spinach/Lettuce Mix
  • Zucchini
  • Head Lettuce
  • Thyme
  • Favas - Ugly, but tender and delicious! These were seeded last October - an experiment to see if we could get early favas. It was a sorta-success. The plants took a beating in some of the extra-cold winter weather we had, so yields were much lower than our summer-harvested favas. They also developed an ugly rust on the outer pod, but inside you'll find pristine beans, ready for peeling!
  • Tetsu Winter Squash - (had to give you something "wintry" for this final week of the winter CSA, and man, do those squash know how to store well!)

Wahoo! We pulled off another winter season! It always feels a little bit like there's a magic hat in the winter - some proverbial shiny black top-hat that we keep reaching into to fill all those CSA totes and farmstand orders and wholesale requests. It feels like magic because most weeks I can't imagine how we're going to muster all the produce we need, and yet somehow it materializes each time. Thanks to all of our customers for supporting us through the "winter" months of the calendar. It's a fun challenge to figure out how to make our winter offerings more diverse and bountiful each year.

We're now gearing up for the official launch of our "summer" season, which begins the week of May 30th. That will be the first week of our main season CSA, and the point when we shift to twice/week CSA deliveries, farmstand, and wholesale sales. The opening of our Saturday farmstand is still TBD, depending on when the strawberries kick into high gear for u-pick. The plants look more vigorous than ever and are covered in blossoms and green fruit, so hopefully the sunny forecast turns that into a sweet harvest soon! No matter what, count on weekly Wednesday farmstands starting June 1st. Saturday farmstand should start soon after. We'll keep you posted!

In anticipation of our looming, all-consuming summer season, most of our production crew took a trip over to the Rogue River last weekend for a team retreat, and to spend a little time together on the river in the sunshine. We camped out, did 25 miles of whitewater paddling on Saturday and Sunday, saw two bald eagles, osprey, a bazillion herons, fuzzy baby ducks and geese, and a few stoic turtles. It was a great escape for all of us, to be unplugged and on the river, and oh! the feeling of sun on our skin!!! 

Meanwhile, back at home, my old draft horse, Maude, was colicking. I was completely out of cell range and had no idea that a crisis was unfolding on the farm. Lucky for all of us our dear friends and CSA members, Mike Simpson and Sondra Aguirre (of Aguirre Farms, our egg lady!), saved the day. They managed to get my old mare up after hours of trying to heave her 1-ton frame to standing, gave her a big dose of Banamine, and got her walking. Mike checked up on her every few hours through the night and by Sunday morning he was as sleep-deprived as they come but Maude had pulled through. I can't tell you the wave of gratitude that washed over me when I got the full story on Sunday evening, having lost two horses to colic in my lifetime. It was profoundly apparent in that moment that our "team" includes so many people beyond our core crew, and how it really takes a village to feed a community. Mike and Sondra, thank you!

Many thanks again to all of you who have supported us through the winter, and here's hoping for a great 2022 summer season (feeling grateful for the sunny forecast! We could use a little drying out in the field, fo sho!).

 

Newsletter: 

Winter Week 9 from Valley Flora!

  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Head Lettuce
  • Pea Shoots
  • Yellow Onions
  • Purple Moon Potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Spring Onions
  • Curly Parsley
  • Yukina Savoy Pac Choi
  • Zucchini
  • Spring Raab

It always feels silly to be referring to it as the "Winter CSA" at this point in the season, when the world is bursting with flowers and dripping with springtime. Nevertheless, this tote pays homage to the last of winter (as well as spring: radishes! pea shoots! pac choi! head lettuce! AND also the first of summer: zucchini and fresh onions!).

But back to winter. This is the last of our storage potatoes and it shows: they are far from picture-perfect, but still a victory to have them in May. It's also the last of the yellow storage onions, which have blown our minds this year with how well they have kept in our dry room. We trialed a new variety called "Talon" last year, which we are assuming is the big onion you're receiving this week - but it's hard to know for sure because our yellow storage varieties got mixed up during harvest (hah! the story of our lives whenever we try to do some scientific experimentation on the farm). Whatever it's called, it's a winner (and yes, we are repeating our trail again this season in hopes that we can keep 'em all straight this time when we harvest come August)! Also in the share: the last of the overwintered cauliflower - some of them VERY LARGE - and spring raab from our overwintering cabbage patch.

Thank you, Winter, for all the ever-surprising abundance, but I also just gotta say how fun it is to be putting zucchini in your totes right now. Ask me in a couple months what I think about zucchini and I'll tell you something very different, but right now they are magnetic - perhaps because they are the first "fruit" we've harvested in many months of handling roots and cabbages and leafy things. They're coming out of one of our unheated field tunnels, which has been growing greens and spinach for you all winter. As soon as one of those beds frees up in early March, we plug zucchini transplants in, tuck them in with row cover to keep their world a little warmer, and by mid-April we start to see fruit (miraculous in my opinion, given how cold it's been). 

A big thank you to the 85+ folks who showed up on Sunday for our Mayday farm tour! What an amazing collection of fantastic people, curious about the farm and excited to see where their food comes from. It was a delight to show you all around.

If you were at the tour and lost a ring, please contact us! We would love to return it to its owner.

Happy May to everyone! Signing off now and heading for the field - we've got a big, busy day ahead of us as we scurry like crazy before the next three inches of rain arrives. Yikes!

Newsletter: 

Mayday Farm Tour at Valley Flora this Sunday!

Come one, come all, to a tour of the farm this Sunday at 2pm!

  • This will be a walking tour inspired by the many requests we have gotten from our CSA members and customers, but everyone is welcome. Bring your kids, leave your pets at home :). Bring a water bottle and proper raingear or sungear. The forecast is looking hopeful for some sun!
  • Meet at 2 pm at the summer farmstand parking area at Valley Flora, just after crossing the Floras Creek Bridge (directions here).
  • The tour will last a couple/few hours and take folks through each aspect of the farm, from propagation to field production to packout to soil management to draft horses and more!
  • The tour will coincide with a pop-up Langlois Artisan Market, which is happening on Saturday, April 30th and Sunday, May 1st from 10-3 at the Langlois Cheese Factory. Come check out the great vendors at the market and then come up to the farm for a Sunday afternoon tour! The tour will start slightly after 2 pm.

Here are some of the many reasons you should come:

Hope to see you on Sunday!!!

Newsletter: 

Winter Week 8 from Valley Flora!

  • Pink Radishes
  • Bunched Spinach
  • Spring Lettuce Mix
  • Shallots
  • Purple Sprouting Broccoli
  • Beets
  • Sunflower & Pea Shoot Mix
  • Redleaf Lettuce
  • Spring Raab
  • Bunch Carrots
  • Cebollitas

Good Week for Grundens! 

Anyone else loving this weather!? My native Oregonian synapses are firing in delight as all this precip falls from the sky and bulks up the Cascade snowpack. It also allows me to pretend - temporarily - that May madness is not right around the corner, looming large with the promise of our inevitable return to a frenetic, frenzied farm pace. As much as I relish all the rain, we were grateful for the shelter of our field tunnels this week, where we spent lots of hours harvesting bunch carrots, spinach, head lettuce, and a trial bed of cut lettuce (the bagged mix in your share this week, "lettuce" know what you think!). Grateful, too, for the head-to-toe raingear that gives us impermeable superpowers when we do have to slosh through the downpour. 

Even though I could try to convince myself it's still winter, the artichokes don't lie. I cut our first small harvest yesterday, which bodes well for seeing them in your CSA share the week of May 2nd. And somehow, despite the hail and the wind and the pouring rain and the cold nights, our newly-planted seedlings are putting on good growth and looking vital. Plants are amazing. (I can't tell you how many times a week I say that out loud. Respect, yo, to the plant kingdom!)

And to you, amazing people: I hope those vital plants are helping you feel like a vital human. We homo sapiens sure wouldn't be here on this planet without them. Thanks chlorophyll!

Newsletter: 

Winter Week 7 from Valley Flora!

  • Frozen Strawberries - be sure to grab one bag per CSA share from the blue coolers at your pickup site today!
  • Rainbow Chard
  • Bunched Spinach
  • Nicola Potatoes
  • Yellow Onions
  • Bunch Carrots
  • Purple Sprouting Broccoli
  • Spring Raab
  • Micro Mix
  • Cebollitas - chive-like baby onion tops

On Rotation:

  • Cauliflower

Upcoming Farm Tours and Events!!!

Mark your calendars, we have TWO free spring farm tours planned AND a super-fun Improv Workshop coming to Langlois!

Monday, April 11th, 10 am - Valley Flora Farm Tour in partnership with Coquille Valley Seed Community and Coos Head Food Co-Op

  • This will be a walking tour for members of the Coquille Valley Seed Community and the general public. Everyone is welcome, adults and children alike, but please leave your pets at home.
  • Meet at 10 am at the summer farmstand parking area at Valley Flora, just after crossing the Floras Creek Bridge (directions here).
  • Bring raingear/umbrellas and rubber boots/waterproof hiking shoes (chance of rain!).
  • The tour will last a couple hours and take folks through each aspect of the farm, from propagation to field production to packout to soil management to draft horses and more!

Sunday, May 1st, 2 pm - Valley Flora Farm Tour for CSA Members, Customers, and the General Public

  • This will be a walking tour inspired by the many requests we have gotten from our CSA members and customers, but everyone is welcome. Kid friendly, but please leave your pets at home. Bring a water bottle and proper raingear or sungear :)
  • Meet at 2 pm at the summer farmstand parking area at Valley Flora, just after crossing the Floras Creek Bridge (directions here).
  • The tour will last a couple hours and take folks through each aspect of the farm, from propagation to field production to packout to soil management to draft horses and more!
  • The tour will coincide with a pop-up Langlois Artisan Market, which is happening on Saturday, April 30th and Sunday, May 1st from 10-3 at the Langlois Cheese Factory. Come check out the great vendors at the market and then come up to the farm for a Sunday afternoon tour!

April 23 & 24 - Improv Weekend Retreat at the Langlois Cheese Factory for anyone and everyone!

  • We are so lucky to have David Koff, a brilliant improviser and improv teacher/facilitator, coming to Langlois to offer a weekend workshop to our community! 
  • What's this have to do with the farm? Well, during COVID yours truly has been taking virtual improv classes with David and have found it to be a) FUN! b) a fantastic tool for becoming a better parent/partner/boss/human being, and c) a way to bring more playfulness into every aspect of life. For me, taking improv classes is not about the stage or performance, it's about deepening my listening skills and becoming hyper-present with the people and moments in my life. And usually there's a fair bit of humor mixed in....never a bad thing. 
  • This workshop is for anyone - no prior improv experience required. If you're someone who interacts with other human beings you will get something valuable and possibly life-changing from this workshop, I promise.
  • Read more about the workshop and sign up HERE! Space is limited.

Hope to see some of you at the farm tours and/or the workshop!

Newsletter: 

Winter Week 6 from Valley Flora!

  • Red Beets
  • Purple Sprouting Broccoli
  • Green Cabbage
  • Spinach!
  • Micro Mix Medley - mesclun, radish, peas, sunflower shoots
  • Carrots
  • Spring Raab
  • Kale Medley
  • Shallots

On Rotation:

  • Cauliflower

Happy Spring!

This is always that awkward moment in the Winter CSA season when I feel like I need to change the name and start calling it the "Spring CSA." Because spring it is! Yesterday was a Richard Scary storybok "Day on the Farm." It started with morning harvest and CSA packout, but then we launched full steam into fieldwork with the sun shining warmly and everyone stripped to shirtsleeves. Mowers were mowing, weedeaters were weedeating, kids were frolicking (spring break!), frogs were hopping, bees were buzzing, horses were grazing, seeds were germinating, plants were growing, plum trees were blooming, soil was warming - all in one big, loud, life-affirming hallelujah! 

Next week is our first big outdoor planting, and the kickoff to weekly field planting from now until October. The greenhouse is full of perky little transplants, bravely hardening off for their big transition to the great outdoors next week. The weather is cooperating, with enough dry weather this week to get ten tons of calcium and micronutrients spread across the farm, and then work up the beds before the weekend rain. That will leave us trowel-ready for our marathon transplanting next week, rain or shine. I love it when it works out. Of course, superstitiously, I'd better not count my chickens before they hatch. Any number of things could break on the tractor, or shift in the forecast between now and Sunday. :)

Enjoy that spinach! Such a treat to have spinach salad for dinner last night!

Cheers,

Zoë

Newsletter: 

Winter Week 5 from Valley Flora!

  • Purple Cabbage
  • Baby Bunch Carrots - our first harvest from the winter greenhouses!
  • Purple Sprouting Broccoli/Spring Raab Mix
  • Cauliflower
  • Bunched Winter Greens - a mix of mizuna, mustards and tatsoi
  • Mini Daikon Radish
  • Shallots
  • Purple Moon Potatoes
  • Russian Kale
  • Micro Mix: The 24 degree temps two weeks ago burned our baby pea shoots in the greenhouse, so yields were half as much as planned. Fortunately we had spare radish and mesclun micro so were able to pack pea shoots for Farm members and radish/mesclun for our Bandon members.

The Tease of Spring

As we head towards the vernal equinox, the roar of the peepers in the wetland behind the horse barn is cacophonous. I wonder: how do my big ponies get a wink of shut-eye amidst that deafening chorus? It's such a marker of the season, and I love it, despite the need for earplugs when I'm doing the evening chores. Other signs, too: daffodils; blossoms on the wild plum trees; lambs and calves bouncing up on the hill; the sweet, heady smell of favas in bloom and the perfume of winter daphne by my mom's front door. But what a tease: I was stripped to a t-shirt and sweating on Monday while harvesting in the greenhouse, but on Tuesday morning my feet were numb in my Xtratufs, the chill penetrating and insistent.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture seasonal forecast is calling for a colder and wetter-than-normal March-April, and a hotter and drier May. That may spell some spring challenges for us if we can't get into the field and hit our usual planting dates in the next two months. The weather always dictates our movements on the farm to some degree, but never quite so much as this time of year. I am yoked to climate models like a tick on a dog for the next three months, pretty much unable to make plans beyond the 10-day forecast. If I leave town and miss that critical week of dry weather when I could have worked up ground and gotten things planted, so much for early broccoli or a steady supply of lettuce. In all these years of farming we've certainly had all kinds of Springs - and all kinds of Spring setbacks - but somehow it always seems to work out, so long as I stay near the homestead and am ready to jump when an opportunity presents itself. So here I be.

As for today, the drizzle is perfect: there's a mountain on my desk that I need to get through and this is just the kind of day for it (all to say, if you sent your CSA payment last week and haven't gotten an email confirmation from us yet, it's because it's been too sunny!). :)

Enjoy the dynamism of early spring and keep an eye out for rainbows!

 

 

Newsletter: 

Winter Week 4 from Valley Flora!

  • Red Beets - our sweetest storage beet
  • Purple Sprouting Broccoli - starting to send up shoots in the field, more to come!
  • Green Savoy-ish Cabbage - an overwintering variety that straddles the line between crinkly savoy and smooth green
  • Winter Greens Mix - a full pound of mixed greens from our greenhouse
  • Micro Mix - heavy on the radish micro, combined with our micro mesclun mix (micro mizuna, broccoli, arugula, kale)
  • Yellow Onions
  • Spring Raab
  • Tetsukabotu Winter Squash - our best-keeping winter squash, a Hubbard type
  • Collard Greens - tender new growth from our overwintered planting

Brrrrrrr!

Twenty-four degrees here this morning! I guess winter isn't over after all (and I'm outspokenly glad for that: bring on the howling wind and rain and give us a solid mountain snowpack to help see our state through this next summer)! We did our best to hedge against frozen pipes and frost-nuked plants yesterday, so fingers crossed all is well as things slowly thaw out today. 

This week marks the official kick-off of our weekly spring greenhouse seedings for outdoor plantings, which start in earnest in late March for us. Weather permitting, we always gamble on some earlier plantings (for instance, I seeded snap peas, carrots, beets and spinach outside two weeks ago during that spooky dry spell, knowing full well that they might perish in inclement weather...but always worth a try!). This week, however, the greenhouse starts to swell with trays of lettuce, kale, chard, fennel, cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi and lots of other early crops that we transplant outside starting in late March. From that point on, we're transplanting into the field every single week of the season through October. 

That's not to say the greenhouse has been empty up to this point. Two weeks ago we seeded all our Allia - onions, shallots, leeks - which is the largest seeding of the year for us. They are slowly, bravely, germinating. We've got trays of lettuce ready for transplanting into our field greenhouses and early zucchini seedlings that are tucked carefully under row cover staying warm on the heat table until this cold snap passes. And every week we're seeding trays of peas, radish, and mesclun for micro and shoot production. Our propagation greenhouse is the epicenter of life in early spring, and one of my favorite places on the farm.

We made a major, long-desired change this year by switching from using bagged potting mix to buying bulk totes of a custom mix made specifically for us by a soil company in Canby. Due to supply chain issues, I couldn't source my usual brand through B&B in Langlois, and the few bags that were available were 3 times more expensive than usual. I was scrambling to figure out an alternative with our spring seeding season fast approaching when some friends who own a large wholesale nursery suggested Philips Soil Company. I worked with the soil guru at Philips to develop a recipe that would hopefully meet our needs and nervously placed an order for 10 cubic yards. Why nervous? I've had bad - even catastrophic - results when I've experimented with other potting soils in the past and was concerned we might see similar problems with the new mix. But without any obvious alternatives - and lured by the fact that I could buy it in bulk totes, and the fact that Philips has a good reputation with lots of growers - I took a leap of faith. The next hurdle was how the heck to unload four 1500-pound pallets off the back of the freight truck with no forklift. With the help of a lift gate, a pallet jack, some sheets of plywood, and a lot of strategizing, the freight driver and I managed to channel our inner oxen and get them off the truck and under cover - just barely. Then there was a breathless, anxious couple of weeks while we waited to see how our newly-sowed seeds would perform in the new growth medium. So far I am cautiously optimistic and our seedlings seem to be popping like they should. Fingers crossed that this is a new long-term solution t0 my plastic potting soil bag guilt (we used to buy 3 pallets of bagged potting soil which equalled 120 plastic bags into the landfill each year. It burned a hole in my soul.).

Stay warm these next few days and enjoy your veggies!

Newsletter: 

Valley Flora is Hiring!

Field and Harvest Crew Position Available at Valley Flora

Valley Flora Farm is seeking one to two hard-working, motivated individuals to join our team for the 2022 farm season from April to mid-October, with potential for a longer-term position at the farm. We are a highly-diversified fresh market farm located in Langlois, Oregon that has been selling vegetables, berries, flowers and orchard fruit to local markets on the southern Oregon coast since 1998. We are a multi-generational, women-owned business and we farm using organic practices exclusively. You can learn more about the farm at www.valleyflorafarm.com.

Job Description:

New members of our team will be an integral part of our farm operation and will be key players in the following:

  • Weekly harvests for our 125-member CSA, farmstand, and our restaurant and store (direct sale) accounts;
  • Wash, processing and packout of produce for CSA, farmstand and direct sale orders;
  • Weekly fieldwork, including, but not limited to: transplanting, trellising, mowing, weed control, pest management, irrigation and plant care.
  • Delivery of produce to our various direct sale customers and CSA pickup sites.
  • Responsibilities might also include: assisting with propagation and greenhouse work; assisting with our u-pick and/or farmstand.

Our farm operates with a very lean, efficient crew so a successful applicant will:

  • Have a keen awareness of efficiency in their work, i.e. know how to hustle & be good at working under time pressure.
  • Have a positive attitude, even when the going gets tough. Maintain a good outlook under occasionally uncomfortable working conditions and long hours, and enjoy working outside in heat, cold, rain, mud, and dust. A sense of humor helps!
  • Be constantly striving to achieve quality, consistency and speed in their work.
  • Have a history of doing physical work/manual labor, ideally with experience on a farm. Be in strong physical condition and able to repeatedly squat, bend, lift and carry 40-50 pounds.
  • Avoid drama in the workplace and resolve conflict using effective, nonviolent communication in a mature manner.
  • Openly receive constructive criticism and feedback on the job and make changes to work habits accordingly.
  • Listen well to instructions and carry out tasks as directed.
  • Show creative problem solving skills
  • Be organized, reliable, honest and conscientious.

Hours: Average 30-40 hours/week, 4-5 days/week, depending on seasonal work flow.

Compensation: Starting wage $12.50/hr to $14/hr, DOE, with opportunities for performance-based raises. All employees receive a weekly share of farm produce throughout the season.

To Apply: Send a cover letter explaining your interest in working for Valley Flora, describing any prior relevant work experience you have and the skill set you would bring to this job. Include a current resume and 3 work-related references. Please email your application to valleyflora@valleyflorafarm.com by February 20th, 2022. We look forward to hearing from you!

Newsletter: 

Winter Week 3 from Valley Flora!

  • Goldrush Apples - our favorite winter apple! Sweet, tart, crunchy and a great keeper in the fridge!
  • Mixed Winter Greens 
  • Bunched Asian Greens
  • Pea Shoots
  • Cauliflower - the earliest maturing variety in our overwintered cauliflower line-up
  • Yellow Potatoes
  • Leeks
  • Kale Raab - the first harvest of the spring raab from our lacinato varieties
  • Daikon Radish
  • Celery Hearts
  • Autumn Frost Winter Squash

Lots of leafy things this week: Adolescent greens in a bag, grown-up greens in a bunch, leafy raab from our lacinato kale, the last of the overwintered celery, and a generous pile of pea shoots from the greenhouse! We often hear from our winter members that greens are the thing they crave most this time of year, and we know the feeling! Can't get enough of 'em! We were also delighted to harvest the first of our winter cauliflower this week, a remarkable variety called Medaillion that makes lovely heads at a time when you least expect it. Many thanks to Osborne Seed for carrying this variety, and many of the other varieties that we rely on through the winter months (radicchio, purple sprouting broccoli, cabbages, and more).

Have a great week, and Happy Valentine's day to all (how 'bout slicing up those pretty daikons, cutting them into little hearts, and serving them atop a bed of baby pea shoots with some homemade dressing?!). Fancy!

 

Newsletter: 

Week 2 of Winter CSA!

  • Mixed kale
  • Carrots (they are juice grade again; this is our final harvest)
  • Savoy cabbage
  • Rossa di Milano Onions
  • Beets
  • Mini Daikon Mix
  • Radish Microgreens
  • Bunched "Wild" Arugula
  • Bunched Mustard Greens
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Celeriac

Winter Foraging on the Farm, and an Italian Reverie...

One of the things I like about the Winter CSA is that it affords us the opportunity to make the most of a plant's life cycle. Kale for instance: all season long we harvest kale for its leafy greens, but as the days stretch longer some varieties will start to bolt, sending up delicious tender shoots of spring raab (unopened flower buds). Some might call it bolting, but to the Winter CSA it's good eating. Same thing this week with the mustard greens: these were harvested from Abby's 2021 salad greens beds, the late-planted ones that get left to overwinter because there isn't time to get a cover crop seeded in their wake. Normally one of Abby's salad beds is only harvested for baby greens and is in the ground for a short month before getting turned under and reseeded. But a dozen or so winter beds get to grow to full maturity and then bolt, creating essential early nectar for the bees -  and this week, beautiful mustard bunches for the CSA. I feel like an excited dumpster diver when I'm out there bunching Abby's leftover mustards: one farmer's trash becoming another farmer's winter treasure. I get a thrill from the intrinsic efficiency of maximizing the potential of one seed for mulitple uses and meals. 

It was when I was foraging for those mustards in the sublime sunshine of Monday afternoon that I wandered west and came across the arugula: about 50 feet of it planted at the end of each bed, all of it gangly and tall and budding up. I nibbled a finely-lobed leaf and my taste buds lit up. Now THAT tastes like arugula! All at once it was 1989, August, I am nine years old, in Italy with my family for a month. A friend of my mom's did an international house trade and swapped her place in Marin for a villa in Sasso Marconi, a little village outside of Bologna named after the inventor of the radio. It was a sprawling place in semi-disrepair with grapes growing wild and a spooky ruin of a mini-castle built into a limestone cliff out back. With the house came Maria, the old woman who lived nearby who checked in on us daily and brought us things from her garden. In my mind she is missing her top teeth (possibly untrue), she is wearing a sack-like house dress with an apron, and she is sporting thick-soled, brown old lady loafers. She doesn't speak a word of English (our collective Italian isn't much better) and she is utterly delightful.

Except every day she brings us fistfuls of this weedy green and earnestly, urgently, thrusts it at us shouting "Rucola! Rucola!"

And we smile and nod and accept the armload of weeds, faking our way through it over and over every single day. The first morning it was genuine, until we tasted the stuff: Horrible! Bitter! It dawned on us that this was the same plant that the Italians insisted on putting on their pizza, and that we would diligently pick off every time we got a pie, which was often because we were in Italy. What was their obsession with this gross ditch weed?!

After Maria left each morning there would be a new, hushed confab about how in the hell we were going to get ride of this latest batch of rucola: we couldn't put it in the compost, she might see it! We couldn't flush it, the pipes might clog. We couldn't burn it, it was too green. So we took to burying it, or tearing it into pieces small enough to longer be incriminating and then tossed it into the bushes in the backyard. But then a new day would dawn and Maria would be back, proudly foisting rucola into our arms with the loud, insistent "Rucola! Rucola!" As if saying to us, this plant is a part of me, of my people, of my culture, of my country. The most important part. And then we would promptly bury/stomp/dismember it as soon as she left.

That was a great trip, albeit hot and sticky, with an un-ending radio soundtrack of accordian polkas, daily gelato, and shops that sold only pasta (a mind-blowing array of it, including 50 lb bags of dry pasta for dogs, and a super-long, corkscrew spaghetti with a hole down the center that you could suck wine through like a 5' straw). 

We returned home to life on the creek, where it took quite a few years before rucola found us again. When it did it was called "rocket" or "arugula" and it was all the craze in the foodie scene. Everyone had to be seen eating it.

Fast forward a couple more decades, and arugula is very much the foundation of Abby's Greens. Baby arugula. It wasn't until this week though, when I nibbled that mature leaf, that Maria came flooding back into my memory in such vivid detail. I'm not wearing a house dress, I still have my top teeth, and I don't yet own a pair of squishy granny shoes (though they might be a great idea for those long days standing on concrete in the barn), but here I am thrusting a bunch of wire-stemmed arugula at you, imploring earnestly, "Rucola! Rucola!" 

Thank you, Maria. 

(p.s. I suggest dismembering your arugula and then EATING IT: pluck the arugula leaves from the stems for the most refined eating experience. The stems are edible as well, but will be woodier lower down. And I will know, intuitively, if you bury, flush, burn, or stomp your rucola. I will feel it as as deep pain in my soul.)

 

Newsletter: 

Week 1 of Winter CSA from Valley Flora!

  • Parsley
  • Rainbow chard
  • Celery
  • Leeks
  • Chioggia Radicchio
  • Delicata Squash
  • Purple Moon Potatoes
  • Leeks
  • Mixed Mini Daikon Radish
  • Carrots

Happy 2022! We're off to a colorful start with the first harvest of the year (I LOVE those vibrant mini-daikons!). The change in weather was well-timed this week - we were able to whiz through harvest on Monday and Tuesday without our hands turning into useless numb claws. The problem was more to do with overheating than losing feeling in our extremities! A couple of quick notes on your first winter share (aka, the "why some of your food is not as pretty as we wish" disclaimer):

  1. Carrots: you'll notice that most of your carrots have the tips cut off. It's been such a wet fall and winter thus far that our candy carrots are rotting at the tip in the field. Tragic, because they are the best tasting carrots of the year. Rather than withholding carrots from the CSA altogether, we bit the bullet and decided to give you imperfect, juice grade carrots this week. They are still great eating, but don't meet our usual cosmetic standard. We hope you understand and enjoy them nonetheless!
  2. Purple Moon Potatoes: this is our best storage potato, holding well into the spring in the cooler without sprouting. It's also usually very pretty with dark purple outer skin and a yellow interior. Unfortunately, this variety came out of the field with more skin blemishes than usual this season (we're not sure why, given that our yellow storage variety was nearly flawless this year). You'll probably want to peel the roughest of your spuds, unless you don't mind the bumps.
  3. Celery & Chard & Radicchio: bonus! Somehow our celery and chard made it through the vicious winter lashing of the past month. We've never been able to harvest these two crops in January before, so it was fun to be able to include them in this first winter share. We were also delighted to discover that our ongoing trials with diferent radicchio varieties paid off for this harvest. Rubro, the variety in your share this week, performed amazingly well through this late season winter slot and allowed us to put a beautiful little head in your tote this week. I don't know about you, but I've been eating the Insalata Nostrana at least three times a week since November and will be crushed when we pick the last radicchio from the field. Our household has burned through a half case of anchovies and a few fat wedges of pecorino making that addictive dressing! In case you lost that recipe, here it is again (I vow to make radicchio lovers out of all of you....that and fennel, my two most potent life goals as a farmer :)......):

Happy winter eating, and mark your calendars for your next CSA delivery on January 26th!

Newsletter: 

Week 28 from Valley Flora - Our Final CSA Delivery of 2021!

  • Red and Gold Beets
  • Red Cabbage
  • Shallots
  • Autumn Frost Winter Squash - a wonderful specialty butternut with excellent flavor and incredible storage potential (until April/May for us last year)
  • Celery
  • Celeriac
  • Parsnips: my crew has been raving about this parsnip loaf recipe, from Six Seasons cookbook, which I gave to my team last year as an end-of-season gift. Make it!
  • Winter Crisp Lettuce (we made it all the way to the end with head lettuce this year! No hard frosts yet, so we're still harvesting outdoors from the field!)
  • Costarossa Radicchio - a "Verona" type, often used in cooking. I made a riff on this risotto this week using a head of Costarossa and Delicata squash. Of course I made six times the amount so we'd have leftovers, and I did it in the instant pot cuz it only takes 6 minutes. The pressure cooker risotto formula I use is from "Cooking Under Pressure" (the perfect title for a cookbook in my kitchen, where making dinner often doesn't even get started until 8 pm or later for much of the year....). It's basically 1.5 cups of arborio rice to 3.5 cups of stock. If you know that ratio, you can make any kind of risotto any time of the year in about 10 minutes. I tend to throw in whatever's on hand and in season: I usually start by sauteeing leeks, onions or shallots in a combo of butter and olive oil; add the rice and stir it around in the fat; throw in whatever veggies I'm adding (in this case, winter squash and radicchio, but sometimes it's olives and sundried tomatoes and frozen artichoke hearts, or celeriac and rosemary, or wild mushrooms - anything! If it's something I don't want to overcook, like greens or broccoli or cauliflower, I add those after I've released the pressure at the end of cooking.) Add your stock (I used mushroom stock this time) and white wine. Lock the lid in place, cook at high pressure for 6 minutes, do a rapid release of pressure, then stir in your parmesan/pecorino and any tender ingredients (greens, broccolini, etc) and cook a few minutes longer while stirring. It's our version of fast food around here. Plus, at the end of the night all you have to clean up is a single cutting board, a knife and one pot. I always feel pretty pleased with myself when that's the sum total of the evening's kitchen destruction.

Thank you All for your CSA Support this Season!!!

Here we are in Week 28 - your final CSA tote for the season! Looking back, it's been a great season overall: no major catastrophes, an all-star seasoned crew, good-to-great yields in most crops, and a not-too-hot summer (even if it was scary dry here and apocalyptically hot elsewhere). All told, when we take into account every item we put into a Harvest Basket this year, the total value of a share added up to $1006.86 - about 15% more value than the $865 we charged for, or a bonus month's worth of produce. That's often one of the perks of being a CSA member - quite a bit of free food! :)

Every year - for the past 13 years of doing the CSA - I've strived to fine tune and improve the CSA share to make it as diverse, colorful and abundant as possible for our members. It's a great challenge, and it's fun to look back at photos of the CSA shares we've put out over the past decade and see how things have changed and evolved. We are definitely farming better than we were in 2008 and the farm is more diverse than it's ever been. The main focus of my crop planning this year is Brassica reduction: trying to cut back wherever we can on the number of beds of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, radishes, romanesco, kohlrabi, kale, etc. that we grow. It's a tricky task, because these are the crops that thrive in the cooler weather of winter, spring and fall, and carry us through the shoulder seasons. We need them in the mix, without a doubt.

But I've also started to consider a theory, based on some fascinating things I've learned about soil biology this year, that Brassicas are connected to our relatively new problem with symphylans (those little soil-dwelling arthropods that feed on root hairs and stunt seedlings, usually causing partial or complete crop failure). Most plants on planet earth have a mutualistic association with mycorrhizal fungi: plants provide food (sugars and carbohydrates) to the soil fungus, and in exchange the fungus gathers water, minerals and nutrients for the plant using its network of threadlike hyphae. Research is slowly helping us understand that most plants could not survive without this symbiotic relationship with beneficial soil fungi.

One of the few exceptions in the plant world is Brassicas. They do not have a symbiotic association with mycorrhizal fungi, and in fact Brassicas produce certain chemicals that can be toxic to soil fungi.  

So what's all this have to do with symphylans? Well, it turns out that symphylans like to eat soil fungi. It's their primary food source. But in the absence of fungi, they will munch on root hairs instead. Therefore, if we're growing too many Brassicas we might be inhibiting the population of soil fungi and inadvertently driving the symphylans to eat the roots of our crops instead. That could be why we experienced an almost complete crop failure in our early spring Brassicas at the start of 2020, and why we are seeing symphylans pressure in various parts of our field. We have been "treating" the problem by growing potatotes in the afflicted areas. Potatoes mysteriously "clean up" the symphylans problem for a few years, proof of which we saw in our fall Brassicas this year. Where we had the 2020 spring Brassica crop failure, we planted potatoes last year. Then this season, we crossed our fingers and planted our entire fall and winter Brassica field there (a scary gamble, given how important those crops are to our fall production and our winter CSA). It ended up being the most vibrant, beautiful field of Brassicas we've grown in years, suggesting that the potatoes worked their magic, at least temporarily. 

Even if we have the potato trick up our sleeve, I'm still interested in bringing the farm into better balance below ground, which is why some of our Brassica beds are getting the axe. I doubt you will notice a huge difference in the CSA next year, but we might not have as much extra to sell into our other market channels, like the farmstand or wholesale.

This is what my desk looks like right now, and will continue to look for the next month or so as I work through our massive crop planning spreadsheet - some crops getting deleted from the mix, and other new ones being added. It's that time of year when I'm farming a little more with my brain and a little less with my brawn.

I hope you'll join us next season (sign-ups for the 2022 season will likely begin sometime in late January or early February)! And if you're a winter CSA member this year, we'll see you in January!

Thanks again for your support this season, and happy solstice and holidays to all!

Zoë

 

 

Newsletter: 

Week 27 of 28 from Valley Flora!

  • Carrots
  • Leeks
  • Winter Crisp Lettuce
  • Delicata Winter Squash
  • Rainbow Chard
  • Rosalba Radicchio
  • Kohlrabi - some of the bulbs this week have small black spots on the skin, which can develop in the field under wet, late season conditions. Just peel the outer skin as usual and you'll find crunchy white kohlrabi beneath.

I'm feeling a little self-conscious about all my waxing-on about radicchio (if you haven't grocked my love for it by now, you haven't been reading the weekly newsletter of late), but you must permit me at least a tiny mention of the PINK BRIDESMAID WONDER in your tote this week. Even if you aren't sure you like eating radicchio yet, can you still not appreciate the unbelievable frufru pink-ness of this vegetable? I especially like the juxtaposition of it in a tote with the very masculine, very Germanic, somewhat ugly Kossack kohlrabi.

Harvesting Rosalba feels a little indecent on an early December morning. I cut the heads at the base and then have to strip all the outer leaves that have been hammered by the elements, revealing a shock of pink within. It's like rummaging through the petticoats of some 15-year-old's quinceañera dress, Exhibits A through D below:

If you haven't tried it yet, this is a great week to make the Insalata Nostrana recipe that I put into the newsletter two weeks ago. When was the last time you ate a pink salad?!?

CSA Delivery Schedule Back to Normal for Last Two Weeks of the Season

This week we resume our regular Wednesday/Saturday CSA delivery schedule, for the remaining two weeks of the season. Next week will be our 28th and final week of the season (the last Wednesday CSA pickup is December 8th; last Saturday CSA pickup is December 11th). Enjoy your final two weeks of produce!

 

Newsletter: 

Happy Thanksgiving! Week 26 from Valley Flora!

  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Rosemary
  • Shallots
  • Parsnips
  • Potatoes
  • Winter Crisp Lettuce
  • Kabocha Winter Squash

REMINDER: All Harvest Baskets are being delivered TODAY! There is no CSA delivery this Saturday.

  • Bandon Pick-up hours today: 10:30 to 5 pm
  • Port Orford Pick-up hours today: 8:30 to 5 pm (please try to pick up before 11 am or after 3 pm to avoid congestion on the loading dock at POCC)

I love this holiday above all others: a day that boils down to the simple basics of food, family, love, gratitude. This year I am especially excited because we are reuniting (after a round of nose-swabbing COVID tests today) with my Dad's side of the family, most of whom have traveled from Chicago, Boston and the Bay Area to spend the week in Bandon. It's been 7 years since I've been seated around a Thanksgiving table with all of them - enough years ago that they have never met Uma, my 6 year old (she was a taut 8-month basketball in my belly the last time we were in Chicago together), nor have they met Jules, Abby's 5 year old. Blame it on a too-big country, spreading ourselves amongst multiple families during the holidays, juggling the baby and toddler years, and then COVID.

But aside from not knowing our kids, perhaps the worse travesty of so many years apart is all the missed meals together. My aunts and uncles and cousins love cooking and they love eating and they love food. Better put, LOVE (all caps, underline, bold, italics). We've had an elaborate family email thread going for the past three weeks in anticipation of this reunion and the entire thing has been about the menu - not just for Thanksgiving day, but for the whole week. Thanksgiving will be quasi-traditional tomorrow, but all the meals before and after are what really make me hungry: Catalan fish stew, seafood thai curry, goat cheese Delicata enchiladas, lots of salad (radicchio!!! Abby's Greens! Slaw!), and much more.

That epic family email thread was transformed into an equally epic excel spreadsheet listing all the ingredients we needed for every single meal, which was then further distilled into a produce order that we harvested and packed this week on the farm. I am immensely proud to say that my family stood toe to toe with our largest wholesale buyers this week, ordering as much produce as Coos Head or the Port Orford Co-op. That's what I mean about loving food. We have our work cut out for us the next five days: lots of chopping, lots of chewing.

I hope you have the opportunity to celebrate food and family and friends this week, too, and are reminded of all there is to be thankful for. I felt a wave of gratitude for so many things while I was bent over harvesting those petite little heads of winter crisp lettuce for you on Monday morning. The first sensation was: thank you for this sunshine! It's been a beautiful, easy week of farming - no hellacious Thanksgiving storms like those that have challenged us in year's past. Sure, it's those years of driving rain and gale force winds that make for the best storytelling now, but I was just fine with sunny skies this time around.  

As I continued cutting and counting lettuce heads with the sun warming my back, the next thing I thought of was all of you - the reason we bother planting and harvesting all this lettuce. Thank you dear CSA members for your commitment to the farm, for riding out the whole season with us, and for rising to the challenge that a weekly Harvest Basket can present.

Then, a wave of gratitude for my crew - Allen, Jen and Roberto - who were simultaneously bent over other crops in the field that morning. There are times when I don't know why they come to work day after day when they could certainly earn more money and benefits doing something else. But they do: they show up early and they stay late, and they throw themselves into it with a dedication that leaves me humbled and thankful. They also make me laugh and feel bouyed by the strength of a team. I could not do this alone, and would not want to.

For Sarah and Donna and Maggie for their smiling faces at the farmstand, and so much more. For Evan for shuttling empty CSA totes back to the farm each week in trade for strawberries and onions :). For Charlie for all his greenhouse and irrigation expertise and volunteerism. Sondra who raises such beautiful eggs and shows us so much love and generosity; for Farmstead Bread who bakes such beautiful bread for us; for our CSA hosts - the Port Orford Co-op, Coos Head Food Co-Op, and Well Within Acupuncture - for welcoming us and our CSA circus to their space each year. For all of our customers - u-pick, farmstand, and wholesale alike - who keep this place humming.

Gratitude for my mom and my sister who have built this farm up from its earliest inception and are so part of my life they are like external organs or limbs. For my loyal dog, Juno, sitting zen-like while sniffing the morning air. For my big shaggy ponies grazing across the road and all they do for the farm - all the hours of labor they save us by virtue of their quiet willingness to work in harness all season. For the creek that waters this farm, flowing fast and filling with salmon right now. For the soil itself and the 7 billion microbes teeming in each teaspoonful. Mycelium, wow! For the other farmers who grow my seeds, for the ladies at B&B feed store and the guys at Western Growers Supply and the crew at Coos Curry Supply who keep us supplied with so many essentials. For all the people who support the farm in various capacities (scientists! the Small Farms team at Oregon State University!). My step-dad, who saves the day by making quesadillas for my hungry kids all the time and gives them music lessons and makes a mean margarita on Friday night. My husband, who keeps loving his wife in spite of the extreme hours she puts in at the farm all season.

Sometimes when you turn the gratitude spigot on, it barely drips at first. But if you leave it on, eventually the drip becomes a trickle, becomes a gush. And it's one of those things where less is not more. More the better. I felt so good, so full, but the time I got to 250 heads of lettuce on Monday morning that I was practically floating. Cup runneth over.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! 

(And remember, this is not the end of the season! There are two more weeks of CSA deliveries post-Thanksgiving: the week of Nov 29th and the week of Dec 6th.)

 

Newsletter: 

Week 25 from Valley Flora

  • Beets
  • Green Cabbage
  • Celeriac
  • Yellow Onions
  • Butternut Squash
  • Hakurei Turnips
  • Head Lettuce
  • Radicchio - Chioggia type (variegated or classic red)

I think the overwhelming theme of this week's harvest basket is "food that stores forever." Or, almost forever. Pretty much the only things that need to be eaten this week are the radicchio and the lettuce, and even the radicchio will keep for a couple weeks in your fridge. As for the rest of it, no worries if you're not hungry! Cut the tops off your turnips and store them refrigerated in a plastic bag for weeks. Same goes for the celeriac - you might find it in the back of your fridge in February and it'll be the perfect thing for an impromptu winter soup. The green cabbage is a storage type that'll hold for a couple months in the fridge, no problemo. And the butternut and onions have a great shelf life on your counter, unrefrigerated.

If you're wondering what in the world to do with celeriac (the hairy, knobby, round root in your tote this week), check out this eclectic collection of recipes: https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/15-best-celeriac-recipes-article

If you don't want to get fancy, celeriac is always a wonderful base note in soup, any soup.

And this week is your second chance to fall in love with radicchio. This is the recipe - from a restaurant called Nostrana in Portland - that made me happy to bid lettuce farewell in November and start filling my salad bowl enthusiastically with radicchio each night instead:

Remember, if you're averse to anything bitter but want to make salad with it, the trick is to soak your radicchio in cold water for 10 minutes. Cut it up into ribbons or wedges and submerge it in a bowl of cold water while you're prepping other things in the kitchen. Spin dry and voila, you probably couldn't tell the difference between the radicchio and lettuce in a blind taste test. I have a farmer friend near Portland who sells radicchio at the farmers market. Sales were slow at first, but then he started calling it "winter lettuce" and people couldn't get enough of it. Paradigm shift? Savvy marketing ploy? Whatever, it worked :)

Also, a quick note on the recipe above. I make my own croutons with the butt ends of Farmstead Bread, but I don't bother with the butter and herbs in this recipe because it's often one too many steps on a busy weeknight. Instead, I just toss my cubed bread with some olive oil, salt and pepper, spread them on a small tray and pop into the toaster oven at 375 until lightly browned. 

Send me your stories of falling in love with radicchio if you have any. There's nothing like a good love story, especially when it involves vegetables.

 

Newsletter: 

Week 24 from Valley Flora!

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Savoy Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Head Lettuce
  • Leeks
  • Delicata
  • Mini Daikon Radishes: I had a Daikon pickle party with a couple friends this weekend and I highly encourage you to try this recipe for Do Chua (Vietnamese Pickled Carrot and Daikon). It's delicious on just about anything, but is a classic garnish for banh mi sandwiches. There are lots of recipes out there for Do Chua, and you can play with the recipes to taste - for instance, change the ratio of radishes and carrots (you're getting 2 lb daikon and 1 pound carrot this week, which would make a nice balanced pickle). A lot of the recipes call for equal parts carrot and daikon, which will make it sweeter. In Vietnam it's often made with 100% daikon instead because carrots are more expensive than radish there (the opposite is true here in the States). You can also use less sugar and more vinegar or vice versa, depending on your preference. We shredded our radish and carrot in a cuisinart (using the shredder blade, not the chopping blade) instead of using a mandolin slicer, but we were processing about 30 lbs of daikon not 2 lbs :). Have fun with it!

On Rotation

  • Parsley

Thanksgiving CSA Schedule - Mark Your Calendars!

Thanksgiving is two weeks away - time to alert you to our Thanksgiving delivery schedule! 

The week of Thanksgiving we will deliver ALL Harvest Baskets to ALL pickup locations on Wednesday, November 24th. We do this for two reasons:

  1. To ensure that everyone has their Thanksgiving veggies before Thanksgiving, and
  2. To give everyone on the farm a Thanksgiving holiday break.

That means that if you are a Port Orford or Bandon member, your pickup will be on WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 24th instead of Saturday, November 27th. There will be no pickup on Saturday, November 27th. Pickup hours will be the same as usual.

For Farm and Coos Bay members, there is no change to the pickup schedule: Wednesday as usual, same time, same place.

Mark your calendars now to avoid any confusion!

For menu-planning purposes, you can expect to see the following in your Thanksgiving share: Brussels sprouts, Carrots, Celery, Rosemary, Shallots, Parsnips, Potatoes, and Kabocha Squash.

Have a great week!

Newsletter: 

Week 23 from Valley Flora!

  • Kale
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Yellow Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Treviso Radicchio
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Cauliflower - white or purple

On Rotation

  • Parsley

On harvest mornings, everyone on the crew has their first thing. Roberto's first thing is carrots: he heads straight for Molly, the field where all the carrots and beets are planted this year, and begins to dig (aside: all of our fields are named after our maternal grandmothers: Molly, Santos, Lorraine, Ida and Helen). Allen jumps straight into bunch greens. Jen starts the morning by combing throught the beds of broccoi and cauliflower. And I head for the lettuce. We do this all season long, so each of us develops an intimate relationship with those crops as the year goes by. Right now, Roberto's job is getting muddier as he yards fat carrots out of our rain-soaked soil. Allen's job is getting harder as growth slows down, as the kale becomes less leafy and abundant, and as the aphids move in. Jen is buried right now as our fall brassicas peak in a flurry of cauliflower, romanesco, broccoli, broccolini, kohlrabi, cabbage, turnips and daikon. Her job has been made harder by wet conditions that invite in the slugs and rain rot.

In my lettuce world things are winding down with only a couple more outdoor beds remaining plus a few greenhouse beds. The heads are getting smaller and you might notice that this week the lettuce is bedecked with sprouting cover crop seed. While broadcast seeding our cover crops in September and October, some of the seed flew into the neighboring beds of juvenile lettuce. Ample rains created perfect little germination pockets, which is why you might encounter sprouted oats, clover, vetch and/or peas when you wash your lettuce this week.

I'm always sad to see the lettuce go, but my consolation is the radicchio. I got to harvest our first variety yesterday, a dense, upright, wine-colored treviso type. Over the past five years I've fallen in love with chicories (escarole, radicchio, etc), more and more each year. From a production standpoint, I love how hardy they are, thriving through the difficult weather of late fall and winter. From an aesthetic standpoint, I love the beauty of them all: so many deep, vibrant colors in myriad shapes and forms. And from a culinary perspective, I love eating them. I've included a recipe for one of my favorite radicchio salads below.

I get that they can be a challenge for the uninitiated, due to their bitterness. But that can be overcome by cooking, or by cutting them up raw and soaking in cold water for 10 minutes. The treviso type you're getting this week lends itself well to braising, grilling, or other applications of heat, but you can just as easily use it raw in salad. Choose from any recipe in this collection and you can't go wrong: https://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/13-ways-to-love-radicchio-gallery

Or make what I'm making tonight: a radicchio salad that a friend turned me onto from a restaurant in Portland: https://food52.com/recipes/15806-tasty-radicchio-salad

I think I ate that salad every week all of last fall and winter, a meal unto itself.

There's another radicchio salad that I love that originates with yet another Portland restaurant, but I'll save that one for next time.

You'll see a few other radicchio varieties before the season is over, so use this first opportunity to get on good terms with it, and maybe like me, learn to love it...

Newsletter: 

Week 22 from Valley Flora!

  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Head Lettuce
  • Red Onion
  • Hakurei Turnips
  • Butternut Winter Squash
  • Purple Cauliflower
  • Broccoli

We finally got brave and decided to try to harvest some of our celery this week. I mentioned a few weeks ago that we've been avoiding it and giving it the stink-eye cuz it's been a dud year: the stalks have been spongy and stringy and the hearts had tip burn all summer. The hope was that the shift into fall weather - cool and wet - would help it bounce back and get juicy before a hard frost knocks it down for good. The wishful thinking played out, enough so that you're getting a small juicy heart this week - juicy enough that you might even consider it a vegetable instead of a cooking herb :). Celery has always been tricky for us. It requires crazy amounts of water - at least twice as much as anything else on the farm - and we always struggle to grow that picture-perfect store-bought head of blanched, mild, crunchy, juicy, California-esque celery. The one thing ours does have going for it is FLAVOR, so I always encourage our members to cook with it: soup base, stock, etc.

Also this week, I'm thrilled about the purple cauliflower. Our spring cauliflower got knocked out by cabbage root maggot, so it was deeply satisfying to fill up dozens of bins with big, neon purple heads of fall cauliflower from the field yesterday. This variety holds most of it's color when cooked, but it will be brightest and most vibrant if you eat it raw.

Butternut squash! Soup it up! I made this recipe last week and it tasted like I had roasted the squash next to a chicken and mixed all the drippings in, ala Thanksgiving. I think the rosemary and sage were key for that savory effect, and I skipped the ginger - so good! https://www.loveandlemons.com/butternut-squash-soup/

And our beloved Hakurei turnips are back for fall! The mildest, juiciest, tenderest turnip on earth. They played a central role in the wooing of my husband 16 years ago, so don't underestimate their magic.

Have a great week with your fall veggies!

 

 

Newsletter: 

Week 21 from Valley Flora!

  • Fennel - I love fennel all the time, but especially in the fall when the bulbs get extra juicy, fat and sweet. This is the last fennel you'll see this season - sniff - so enjoy it to the max, or if you haven't learned to love it yet give it to someone who has!
  • Beets - Mixed Red, Gold and Chioggia
  • Kohlrabi - This is our giant fall variety, and the best tasting of all our kohlrabi. Their huge size can be intimidating, but underneath that tough skin it's tender, crisp and sweet. I prefer eating kohlrabi raw as crudites or in salad form like this: https://www.loveandlemons.com/kohlrabi-slaw/. Kohlrabi will store, topped, for months in the fridge. Remember, you can also use the leafy tops like kale if you want to aim for zero veggie waste in your kitchen.
  • Leeks
  • Carrots
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Mini Daikon Radishes - I'm extra excited about sharing these daikons with you this week. We trialed them last year and loved them: great flavor, striking colors, awesome size, and they store (topped) in the fridge for months. For years I've been disappointed by regular radishes and have been looking for a subsitute to put in the fall Harvest Baskets. I tried growing regular daikons a few times but they were always too inconsistent and variable to be practical for the CSA. There are three varieties in your bunch this week: red with white interior - the mildest of them all; hot pink with fuschia interior - awesome color with some spicy kick; and purple with a puple-starburst interior - similar in spice to the pink ones and extra juicy. If you don't like spice, peel them cuz all the heat is in the outer skin. We've been eating them raw, sliced up in rounds to showcase their beautiful insides. Daikons are also the cornerstone of traditional Korean kimchi; if you want to pickle them you might start with this simple recipe: https://www.adayinthekitchen.com/pickled-daikon/
  • Sugar Pie Pumpkins: This is a pie pumpkin with superpowers: it makes great pie, but it is also filled with hull-less seeds that you can roast into delicious pepitas! Every other pumpkin variety in the world only does one or the other: pie or seeds. Either way, you end up tossing the seeds out or you toss the meat out. We hate waste on the farm, so when I learned that this variety does both, and does them both well, I was sold. To roast your seeds, scoop them out, rinse them off, pat them semi-dry, toss them with a little salt (and olive oil if you want, but not necessary), and roast at 300 in the oven until lightly browned, stirring now and then. And you could be baking your pumpkin at the same time to make that homemade pie.....

On Rotation:

  • Broccoli
  • Lettuce

A Big Shift

If you've been paying attention to the weather forecast, you might imagine that life is starting to look a little different for us on the farm. The produce this week is full-on Fall: radishes! leeks! pumpkins! kohlrabi!. But our to-do list is shifting radically as well, paring down to the essentials of harvest, packout and delivery, with far fewer tasks to attend to in the field. The crew switches to a four-day work schedule this week, something we all celebrate after so many months of full on, more than full-time farm hustle. We have a few big projects still ahead of us - like planting all 10,000 strawberry crowns for next year's berry patch - but for the most part the farm is tucked in, cover cropped, and ready for the change of seasons. It's great to be able to take a deep breath and feel it ease up, knowing that many of the seeds we sowed and tended over the season are still to yield all kinds of seasonal bounty between now and December. In the coming 7 weeks you'll see purple cauliflower, neon green romanesco, green and purple brussels sprouts, hakurei turnips, three kinds of cabbages, lots of potatoes, four more kinds of winter squash, fat white parsnips, alien-looking celeriac and hopefully some celery (it's been misbehaving this season and I'm hoping the cool, wet weather will snap it out of its hissy fit). Plus, maybe even a few other surprises that we're trialing in the field this fall. Stay tuned and keep on picking up your produce each week. This last chapter is one of the tastiest, weirdest, and most fun of the CSA season. 

Enjoy the real Oregon rain!

Newsletter: 

Week 20 from Valley Flora!

  • Carrots
  • Eggplant - winding down for the season. This might be the last of it, unless we get one more bonus harvest next week. I made a yummy Korean-inspired recipe this week that I recommend: Eggplant Bulgogi. I found it to be on the almost-too-salty side, so you might omit the salt in the marinade.
  • Yellow Onions
  • Crimson Potatoes - pink inside! This variety is on the starchier side of the spectrum, which makes it great for potato salad or fries. I made a potato salad a few weeks ago with our crimson and yellow potatoes and then added in all the veggies I had on hand: carrots, peppers, celery and fresh herbs, plus olives, capers and hard-boiled eggs. I'd never seen such colorful potato salad - the full rainbow!
  • Scarlet Queen Turnips
  • Scarlet Kabocha Winter Squash - a wonderful squash that will do it all: peel (or not), cube/slice, and roast; steam and mash; pie! It has sweet, semi-tropical flavor. It's not the best keeper in our squash line-up, so better to eat it sooner than later.
  • Thyme

On Rotation:

  • Broccoli
  • Lettuce
  • Romanesco

THIS IS THE FINAL WEEK OF ABBY'S GREENS SALAD SHARES!

If you are a Salad Share member, this week will be your final delivery of Abby's Greens for the season. Salad Shares operate on a 20 week season, whereas the Harvest Basket season goes for 28 weeks. Hats off to Abby for another year of beautiful salad! As long as the weather allows, Abby's Greens will continue to be available at the Wednesday and Saturday farmstand by pre-order (if you haven't ordered farmstand produce but would like to, here's all the info: https://www.valleyflorafarm.com/shopthefarmstand). They will also be available at the Langlois Market, Port Orford Co-Op, Mothers, Coos Head Food Co-Op, and McKay's, as well as at a number of restaurants (Barnacle Bistro, Redfish, The Nest Cafe, Lord Bennett's, Edgewaters, and sometimes 7 Devils Brewery). 

Remember, if you are a Harvest Basket member, there are still 8 MORE WEEKS to go, so don't forget to pick up your tote of veggies each week, through the week of December 6th! There's still lots of fun fall bounty to come!

 

Newsletter: 

Week 19 from Valley Flora!

  • Violet Queen Turnips
  • Carrots
  • Sweet Sixteen Apples
  • Delicata Winter Squash 
  • Eggplant
  • Rossa di Milano Red Onions
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Nijiseiki Asian Pears

On Rotation

  • Romanesco Cauliflower
  • Head Lettuce

Two of my all-time fall favorites are coming into season this week: romanesco cauliflower and Delicata winter squash. The romanesco will be on rotation for the next month+, so you should see it once or twice in your tote this fall. It has wonderful, nutty, cauliflower flavor - great roasted, but also steamed or raw. The only problem with romanesco is bringing yourself to actually eat it! Many a CSA member has opted to gaze at it instead, celebrating the visual feast of neon green spiral fractals.

We're kicking off our fall winter squash line-up with Delicata this week. If ever there was the perfect "gateway" winter squash, this is it: incredibly sweet, easy to cook, and palate-pleasing for anyone who can manage soft foods (6 months to 120!). :-) Delicata have always been my favorite, and seem to be the most popular among our customers in general. Here are a few tips and tricks to Delicatas, and winter squash in general (which you'll see in your tote every week for the rest of the season, until mid-December. This is week 19 of 28, for anyone who's wondering how much longer the CSA will go....):

  • Delicatas have thin skin by winter squash standards, and it's edible. If you don't feel like peeling them, no need to bother. Personally, I like to leave the skin on if I'm cutting them in half and baking them. To bake: cut in half the long way, scoop out the seeds, place face down on a baking pan with enough water to cover the bottom of the pan, and bake at 400 until soft. Then, fill the piping hot squash boats with butter, watch it melt into a delectable pool, and dive in with a spoon! If I'm cutting them up into smiles or cubes to roast, I like to peel them first: grab a veggie peeler to remove the skin, cut ends off, then cut in half and scoop out the seeds. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 400 until soft and crispy-brown on the edges.
  • The rest of the winter squash you'll see this fall can be slightly more hazardous to work with in the kitchen, due to their large size, round shape, and/or tougher skins. Knife safety is paramount. If you are timid with knives and have a microwave, you might consider poking a few holes through the skin with a the tip of a sharp knife and then popping your whole squash in the microwave just long enough to soften it a bit. Then proceed with cutting it in half or into pieces. If you don't have a microwave like me, I am strategic about using my heavy duty pointy-tipped chef's knife when I tackle a squash. I insert the tip into the squash (careful to not let the squash roll to the side and cause your knife to slip), then carefully work the blade around the circumference of the squash until it's cleaved in two. Some varieties, like butternut and various kabochas, lend themselve to peeling. Other types, like spaghetti and acorn, have hard outer shells that I always leave in place (acorns have such a hard shell they double as a great soup bowl).
  • All of the winter squash are shelf-stable and will keep on your countertop for weeks, if not months. No need to refrigerate.

Have a great week and enjoy the new fall flavors!

 

Newsletter: 

Week 18 from Valley Flora!

  • Eggplant
  • Yellow Onion
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Hot Peppers
  • Potatoes - These are our yellow storage potatoes, a great variety called "Nicola." We're giving them out right on the heels of last week's new potatoes because we've had mind-boggling high yields on this variety this year. A "good" potato year would be about 500 pounds per bed, but we've been pulling upwards of 800 pounds of Nicola per bed. It means we're currently buried in potatoes. Our walk-in cooler is stacked floor to ceiling with spuds, which makes packout days a black diamond Tetris challenge. We still have two more beds in the field to dig, so we need to offload some spuds and make room for the final harvest. All to say, we thank you for helping draw down our potato stores a little this week! They are an excellent keeper, so if you still have plenty of new potatoes from last year, just bag up your Nicola and keep them in the fridge. They'll hold for months. 
  • Tomatoes
  • Chojuro Asian Pear - This is my favorite Asian pear. It's the one with the deep bronze skin. Dense, deeply-flavorful, with big hints of butterscotch when they're fully ripe. We have four different Asian pear varieties in our orchard, all of them distinct. If you were to compare them all to beer, Chojuro is the porter.
  • Nijiseiki Asian Pear - This is Uma's favorite. It's the yellow-skinned variety, super juicy, mild, light, bright. Think, Pacifico or Corona. 

On Rotation

  • Kale
  • Napa Cabbage
  • Italian Parsley
  • Curly Parsley
  • Lettuce

The horses and I put ourselves to the task of seeding the first wave of fall cover crops on Saturday in hopes of taking advantage of all the free irrigation that fell from the sky Sunday and Monday. September and October bear a lot of resemblance to spring on the farm: a big time of transition that requires hawkish attention to the weather forecast and a constant dance with sun and rain. It's the time of year when we hope for rain every week, but not too much. The perfect week gives us an inch or two on one side of the week or the other, and then 4 or 5 sunny days to get back into the field, seed more cover crops, get caught up on fieldwork, and then revel in the next rain. 

In the spring we're making the shift from overwintered cover crops to our seasonal cash crops. In the fall, it's the reverse: cash crops come out to be replaced by cover crops. So what's a cover crop? It's a mix of species - typically grains and legumes - that we grow to nourish and replenish our soil, to add organic matter to the field, to provide erosion protection during the winter, and to provide habitat for beneficial organisms that are part of our farm ecosystem. Cover crops are the backbone of our soil health, and also happen to be my favorite thing to plant and grow. We use different mixes of cover crop species depending on what cash crop is rotating into that space the next year: early crops get cover crops that either winter-kill (die back in a frost) or are easy to incorporate in the cool, wet conditions of early spring - things like Sudan grass, field peas, clover. Late-season cash crops are preceded by cover crops that we can mow and re-grow to generate maximum biomass into early summer, and/or by species like crimson clover that don't bloom until May but are gorgeous and provide ample food for the bees when they do. There are all kinds of considerations that go into the cover crop planning and it's always a fun puzzle to solve as we map out the cash crop rotation and subsequent cover crop plan at this time of year.

The mix I seeded on Saturday was our standby combo of Saia oats, red clover and common vetch. The oats grow taller than me by spring and provide a fanastic amount of organic matter to the soil. The vetch provides nitrogen to the field. The clover hangs out in the understory until we mow the oats, at which point the clover either gets turned in with the oats and vetch or is to left to become the dominant species in the mix. Red clover will persist as a perennial and can be mowed and grow back over and over to provide ample nitrogen and organic matter. It makes for super-yummy soil, especially when it can work its magic over the course of 9 months to a year, or longer.

I love cover cropping because it's the moment we give back to the soil, after a summer of taking. And I love it because it involves working my horses on these beautiful fall days, quiet and steady.

 

Newsletter: 

Week 17 from Valley Flora

  • Napa Cabbage
  • Rainbow Carrots
  • Eggplant
  • Rossa di Milano red onions - an open-pollinated Italian variety with high sugar and pungency, great for cooking. Excellent keepers - should store for months in cool, dry conditions.
  • Sweet Peppers
  • New Potatoes - the last dig from the field, a mix of Harvest Moon, Painted Purple, Red Gold and Yellow
  • Tomatoes
  • Beets

On Rotation:

  • Sweet Corn

Fall, Officially!

The autumnal equinox takes place at 12:21 pm today, making it official: the next of my favorite seasons is here. I'm pretty sure they're all my favorite, but the arrival of fall is something I relish especially - in particular when it's attended by 3" of wondrous rain, like we had this past weekend. I think for all of us on the farm it feels like a much-needed change from the knock-down, drag-out final round of summer, when we are all feeling our dustiest and most tired. Our final week of summer was a squirrel-scurry ahead of the rain: everyone on the crew teamed up to get all the winter squash out of the field (by far, our heaviest endeavor), to get the dry beans harvested, and to get our final variety of onions cleaned and stored safely under cover. We were all ready to go home on Friday and take it slow while the rain came drumming down on Saturday (I got my tomatoes canned, and some cherry bomb peppers, too). It was well worth the scramble, though: the barn and greenhouse are bulging at the seams now with squash, onions and potatoes and we've used up every last storage bin and box on the property. All that, and there are still four beds of potatoes to dig and put somewhere...

It's startling how quickly dry grass goes green on the heels of that first rain. There's humidity in the air and every now and then during this warm week I've gotten little wafts of east coast - some hard-to-pinpoint combination of leaf moulder, steamy soil, September air, which spin me back momentarily - just a flit of the synapses - to my early college days in Massachusetts. I love the tilt of the earth, all 23.5 degrees of it. This occurred to me this morning when my kids and I were talking about the equinox and balancing eggs (turns out that's a myth, BTW; you can balance an egg any old day of the year if you practice enough): but what if we were spinning straight up and down on our axis and the seasons never changed?! 

That'd be terrible! I'm so glad our planet went wobbling out into orbit partially tipped over, all cattywampus and perfect.

Newsletter: 

Week 16 from Valley Flora!

  • Carrots
  • Sweet Corn
  • Eggplant
  • Chard
  • Leeks
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Fennel
  • Zucchini

On Rotation:

  • Cucumbers

Real Rain!

We've been peering around the corner of every 7-day forecast for the past couple of weeks, wondering when that first rain would show up. Finally here it comes: one to two wonderful inches over the weekend. I'm thrilled we're going to get some much-needed precip and am relishing the idea of a cozy Saturday in my kitchen, canning tomatoes and savoring the downpour. Maybe a pot of soup will even get made...

The imminent rain puts the squeeze on our to-do list this week: our focus is almost 100% on getting all our winter squash harvested and under cover. It's looking like a bumper squash year. Since Monday we've been hauling in some of the biggest squash specimens we've ever grown at VF. It bodes well for a happy winter of butternut soup, roasted delicatas, and acorn squash big enough to double as soup tureens. Also on the pre-rain list: bringing in the dry beans; getting the rest of our onions cleaned and safely stored; and maybe with a lot of luck, digging the last few beds of potatoes. It's all about the storage crops right now.

Some of our summer mainstays might take a little beating this weekend, namely the outdoor tomatoes and the strawberries. The strawberry u-pick will be closed this Saturday, September 18th, due to the weather. We hope the berries will rebound after the weekend rain so that we can re-open it for the last couple weeks of September. We'll be tearing out the berry patch in early October to make way for winter cover crop, so get your berries while you still can! 

The farmstand will be open as usual on Saturday, but we recommend bringing an umbrella in case you find yourself waiting in the queue for your produce.

Have a great week!

 

 

 

Newsletter: 

Week 15 from Valley Flora!

  • Carrots
  • Sweet Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Head Lettuce
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Hot Peppers
  • New Potatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes

On Rotation:

  • Green Beans
  • Walla Walla Sweet Onions
  • Red Onions

Spud Magic

If you've been a CSA member in year's past, you might be wondering why you're getting new potatoes in your share rather than the usual cured potatoes we typically give out. New potatoes are smaller, have fragile skins, need to be refrigerated and don't hold up in long-term storage like cured potatoes. AND they are delicate and tender and delectable! Most people associate them with early summer, when you "rob" your potatoes of their first tubers just when the plants begin to flower.

This year on the farm, in addition to our usual storage potato crop, we're growing successions of new potatoes intentionally and strategically as an offensive tactic against symphylans. Symphylans are a dreaded soil-dwelling pest that feeds on root hairs and can do extensive damage to certain crops. They are a major mystery to researchers and farmers alike and hard to control. The one thing that has shown promising results in organic systems is potatoes: if you grow potatoes in symphylans-infested soil, you can usually get one to three good years of symphylans-free crop production from that ground. No one knows why. We used that information last year when we discovered we had a major symphylans problem in the early spring. We lost all of our early brassicas in one zone, forcing us to do a quick juggle of our crop rotation. We replanted the spring brassicas elsewhere and put potatoes where the symphs were rearing their head. We had a great potato year from that ground (the symphs don't damage or reduce yields in spuds). This summer we planted our fall and overwintering brassicas there - crops that are very susceptible to symphs - and they are thriving! It was nerve-wracking to commit our entire fall and winter brassical field to a spot where brassicas bit the dust a year earlier, and amazing to see how healthy and vibrant the plants are right now. Quasi-miraculous. I wish we understood WHY the potatoes supress the symphylans, but thus far no one knows.

A researcher and friend at OSU, Nick Andrews, has been doing trials with new potatoes and has found that even 4-6 weeks of new potatoes in the ground can achieve this result. Which is great news because it means we can use quick crops of new potatoes to spot-treat other zones in the field. The benefit of this approach is that we don't have to commit the ground to a full season of potato production, and it means we're all eating yummy new potatoes in September! Meanwhile, we've been pulling major tonnage of our storage potatoes out of the field with the help of the horses, so no matter what there are lots of spuds in your future this fall and winter. Hopefully the sum total of all this potato effort is a significant reduction in the symphylans population and more healthy, productive plants in every corner of the farm.

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Week 14 from Valley Flora!

  • Carrots
  • Cucumers
  • Eggplant
  • Curly Parsley
  • Strawberries
  • Zucchini
  • Red Slicing Tomatoes
  • Heirloom Tomatoes
  • Sweet Peppers

On Rotation:

  • Green Beans
  • Sweet Corn
  • Walla Walla Sweet Onions
  • Red Long of Tropea Onions
  • Cantaloupe
  • Head Lettuce

Happy September everyone! Late summer - this moment right now - is pretty much the most abuandant, diverse and colorful moment of the season, when it's nearly impossible for us NOT to stuff the whole rainbow into your Harvest Basket each week. There is a lot getting picked on the farm these days, and all of it - save for those lofty bunches of parsley - is heavy. We had actually intended to put potatoes in your share this week, but when suddenly the melons were ripe and the first sweet peppers turned color and the eggplant harvest broke all records and the totes started buckling under all that weight, well then we decided to hold off on the spuds until next week. 

It IS eggplant season - typically the time of year when one or two of our new CSA members decide they won't be signing up again next year. Alas, it's true: I think we have lost more CSA members over the years because of too much eggplant in September than any other reason for attrition. We've been trying to manage this problem for years using various strategies.

Strategy numero uno has been to provide encouragement, recipes and eggplant inspiration to help you love eggplant and embrace the myriad ways you can use it for this fleeting, very abundant moment while it's in season (broiled! grilled! in pasta sauce! eggplant parmesan! thai curry! plus any number of asian-inspired recipes!). Or preserve it for later (fill your freezer with baba ganoush or ratatouille, or prep and freeze slabs of breaded eggplant for a winter eggplant parmesan, or make eggplant chips). We're your number one eggplant cheerleading squad when it comes to making the most of eggplant season (which - if you're counting the days until it's over - lasts through September).

Strategy numero dos for keeping the eggplant situation under control has been repeatedly scaling back our planting, which we did yet again this year. But alas, the eggplants are really, really happy where we planted them. We have big, tall, bushy robust plants that are making a LOT of babies. We could have easily put 5 eggplants in your share instead of 3 this week, but we decided to donate 100 lbs to the Common Good Foodbank in Port Orford instead, in hopes that everyone would be happier for it - you and the foodbank alike. That's the goal after all: to do whatever we can to boost Gross National Happiness a little bit, one (or three) eggplant at a time.

Have a great first week of September.

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