The Valley Flora Beetbox

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

Week 13 from Valley Flora!

  • Carrots
  • Sweet Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Strawberries
  • Zucchini
  • Red Slicer Tomatoes
  • Heirloom Tomatoes
  • Kale
  • Hot Peppers - Serrano & Jalapeno
  • Cipollini Onions - Gold and Red - a flattened Italian onion that's very pungent raw (get ready to cry!) and incredibly sweet when cooked (wonderful caramelized atop homemade grilled pizza!)

Onion Harvest!

The past few weeks we've been pulling our onions out of the field, variety by variety, as the tops start to dry down and flop over. We pulled our last variety on Monday and wow: what a beautiful onion year! Our yields are up so much that we quickly ran out of drying space on the greenhouse tables and have been scavenging pallets to create more room on the floor. We used to dry our onions in the field: we'd pull them and then lay them down in a windrow with the tops covering the bulbs. You have to let the leaves dry down until they're crispy, like a dessicated umbelical cord, before you can trim the tops for storage. One too many times we got caught unawares by a surprise August rain while our onions were drying in the field, which was the motivation to start hauling them straight to the greenhouse for safe curing. Once they're all under cover, THEN we start hoping for a rainy day or two (or three) so we can settle in for the many hours of indoor scissor work ahead of us trimming tops and roots, sorting by size and recording yields for each variety. Loading cured onions into the barn is the first act in filling our treasure chest of storage crops for the fall and winter to come. It's a good feeling.

In the coming months we'll be sharing the full porftolio of onion varieties with you, including a couple different types of red storage onions, our long-keeping yellow storage onion, and shallots. 

 

Newsletter: 

Week 12 from Valley Flora!

  • Beets - Red and Chioggia
  • Eggplant
  • Cilantro
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Walla Walla Sweet Onions
  • Strawberries
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes
  • Heirlooms

On Rotation

  • Sweet Corn

For anyone who read last week's newsletter and tried to u-pick on Saturday, I hope you had a good laugh when you discovered we were closed. After all the expounding I did in last week's newsletter about how much I don't know when it comes to farming, with the huge ALL CAPS EXCEPTION that there's one thing I DO KNOW, which is that AUGUST IS THE BEST MONTH FOR U-PICK, well, then we had to call it off this past weekend because the berries didn't ripen due to all the smoke/haze last week. I am truly sorry if anyone drove all the way out to the farm only to find the gate closed (we did put out a post on social media, but I wholeheartedly understand and applaud you if you don't pay attention to that realm). I personally found it perfectly ironic and like all things farming, ever-humbling. Further proof that there's no point in pretending to know, especially in this day and age of climate-in-crisis.

Honestly, in the grand scheme of catastrophic headlines, having to shut the u-pick down for a day probably shouldn't even make the back page of the Capital Press, but it is a sobering/terrifying/devastating reminder of what's afoot just over those hills to our east. All of us who live here - hugging the edge of the giant Pacific, waking up to fog, bundling up against the howling north wind - are largely spared the smoke. The heat. The anxiety of living in a crispy-dry tinderbox ready to explode at even the suggestion of a spark. But it is mere miles away from us, and directly affecting more and more people I know. Dear friends in the Applegate Valley who have grown organic seed crops for 23 years on their land just emailed me to say they've come to the heartwrenching conclusion that they cannot continue to farm there. There's no longer enough water. The heat and the smoke are oppressive and getting worse. Do I know of any pieces of ground on the coast with water rights where they could relocate? Wherever they go they'll be leaving the place that they've homesteaded and farmed for a lifetime, saying goodbye to the hand-built house where their babies were born. Another organic seed farm in Talent - Chickadee Farm - had their irrigation ditch turned off completely this season and without water they had to throw in the towel. They're currently scraping by on GoFundMe donations while they look for new land to the north in the Willamette Valley. My friends, my fellow farmers, are becoming climate refugees. Not in 2050, but now. 

My seed rep at High Mowing Organics told me on the phone the other day that all of this is going to affect seed supply this year and in years to come. There will be shortages and plenty of "out of stock" varieties. It means that even if the sky is blue today - almost blue enough that you could turn your back and pretend it's all fine - the affects of climate change will trickle down all the way to my home office this winter, where crop planning and ordering seeds has become a semi-panic stricken ordeal the past few years as I try to source the many different vegetable varieties that fill your Harvest Basket throughout the season. 

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued their latest report this week, calling it "code red for humanity." Maybe you don't believe in science. Maybe you think it's all alarmist politics. But I bet you like strawberries on a Saturday in August. I bet you like blue sky. I bet you like the idea of your grandkids thriving on a livable planet. I do, too. I still believe the little things count: If you can bike to your CSA pickup instead of driving today, please do! If you can hang your clothes on the line outside instead of using the dryer, take advantage of that north wind! If you can eat more vegetables and less meat, it will make a difference. And the big things count extra: Governments and companies signing on to binding commitments, investing in renewables, incentivizing the shift away from fossil fuels. We only get this one planet. Maybe, quite possibly, the human presence on Earth will be short-lived. The dinosaurs didn't last forever, either. But I love this place so much I'm not willing to go down without doing what tiny little bit I can. And if everyone did that, tiny + tiny + tiny  x  a few billion = real change.

Newsletter: 

Week 11 from Valley Flora!

  • Rainbow Chard
  • Rainbow Carrots
  • Sweet Corn - the first pick of the season! This is a slightly diminuitive but extremely tender and sweet organic variety called "Sweetness," which ripens first in our sweet corn line-up. We grow five successive plantings of corn each year, the last four all being a variety called "Allure." Allure makes big, fat bicolor ears and huge towering plants, which become an essential feedstock in our compost production in the fall after we're done harvesting all the ears. This week's share is a little teaser of what's to come in the corn universe over the next 6 weeks :)
  • Cucumbers
  • Red Long of Tropea Onions
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Heirloom Tomato
  • Serrano Pepper

On Rotation:

  • Green Beans - Folks are receiving either French filets (long and squiggly) or Romanos (wide and flat). Both delicious lightly steamed or sauteed.
  • Head Lettuce - Every year in August we experience a marked slowdown in lettuce growth until it regains its stride for fall. We might have enough heads for everyone this week, but if not it will be on rotation this week and next.
  • Fennel

August + Strawberries = Yum

Mostly as a farmer I feel like I don't know things. All kinds of things. Why the chard is taller than me this year, and how those pesky symphylans made their way into that one field, and if we're going to have an early fall, and which of the overwintering onion varieties will bolt and why. But there is one thing that I think I reliably know: our strawberries taste the best in August. Why? I don't know. But I could wager a Male Answer Syndrome kind of guess: Warmer days, cooler nights, fully-mature well-established plants that can support the whole-hearted production of berries with higher brix levels? Whatever the reason, they are really good right now. A little fragile on Tuesdays when we go to pick because they're dead ripe after a warm weekend of ripening, but loaded with extra sugars. Incidentally, we also see more bug damage in August. Why? Maybe the invertebrate population knows a good thing when it tastes it. Once again, pure conjecture. But I'm good with all this unknowing; it keeps a person perpetually humble and in awe of the many forces at work in the natural world that are much, much smarter and more amazing than us. Or at least me.

The point is, the moment has come to u-pick! The crowds have thinned out (we are no longer getting picked out within 45 minutes of opening the gates) and the berries are abundant, so please come revel in the glory of bountiful red, glossy, super-sweet strawberries in a more relaxed setting (I need to re-brand them as "August-bearers" to try to quell a little bit of that early season strawberry hype).

Also, if you are a CSA member and are on the list for a special order flat, we will get to you this month! We failed at filling any special orders for today because we are down one person on the crew this week, but hope to start sending out more flats again next week (and maybe even this Saturday for all you Bandon and Port Orford members who are patiently waiting).

If you are not on our special order strawberry list and would like to be, email us you name, pickup location, a cell number we can text to (if possible) and the quantity of flats you'd like. We'll try to take care of as many orders for CSA members as possible between now and the end of the berry season (which is usually mid-late September).

Enjoy the August food! It doesn't get much better.

 

Newsletter: 

Week 10 from Valley Flora!

  • Cucumbers
  • Basil
  • Tomatoes! Red slicers and an heirloom. Heads up that some of you are receiving a pink heirloom, which looks sorta like an under-ripe red tomato, but less uniform in shape. Yum!
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Eggplant!
  • Red Long of Tropea torpedo onions
  • Strawberries

August!

This might be the most dramatic switcheroo of harvest basket produce I've ever witnessed from one week to the next. We've been crusing along filling totes up with all kinds of green stuff: peas, broccoli, lettuce, bunch greens, zucchini, parsley, etc. and then wham! August arrives and it's suddenly all about tomatoes and eggplant. With horses you're supposed to gradually transition their feed when you make a change to their diet, but fortunately the human gut is a little more forgiving, which is good news for all of you who are suddenly confronted with a pile of Solanums in your tote this week. So begins our journey into late summer, perhaps the best time of year for eating seasonally. Few people can argue against the idea of a vine-ripe homegrown tomato, fresh-picked sweet corn, and juicy sweet peppers (both of those last two things coming soon!). And a lot of you longtime CSA members have learned to love eggplant, even when it shows up in your tote in catastrophically abundant quantities, like a summer monsoon. Can you really have too much baba ganoush in your freezer, giving you that awesome superpower of whipping out a mediterranean mezze plate in January and outsmarting winter?

Please Mask Up!

Given the recent surge in COVID cases in Coos and Curry counties, we are reinstating our mask policy on the farm and at CSA pickups. PLEASE mask up at your CSA pickup location and at our farmstand and u-pick, whether you are vaccinated or not. We want to be part of the public health solution in our small community and masks and vaccines can help stop the spread!

And to Close, a Little Levity...

Last spring I was approached by the Port Orford Library kids program to participate in their Local Heroes and Helpers project. They collected profiles and headshots of various people in the community and then young artists painted portraits of each person for a public art exhibit in town. The display just went up in the front window of Uptown Frames in Port Orford and can be viewed on the Port Orford Library Facebook page. I'm always out of the social media loop and haven't been to town in weeks, so a friend forwarded me some of the images yesterday. They are fabulous. Here's a sampling, which includes some of our very own CSA members, neighbors, and fellow sustainable food system movers and shakers:

And then, there's yours truly:

P.S. if you haven't met me in person yet, I DO have a face-splitting grin that stretches earlobe to earlobe, but my eyes are brown not blue. 

Newsletter: 

Week 9 from Valley Flora!

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

Trinity Alps Spectacular

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

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

Newsletter: 

Week 8 of the CSA Season!

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

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

On Rotation:

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

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

 

An Adventure 35 Years in the Making

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

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

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

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

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

Newsletter: 

Week 7 of the CSA Season!

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

On Rotation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Newsletter: 

Week 6 of the CSA!

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

On Rotation:

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

Fava Beans

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

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

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

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

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

Bulk Green Beans by Special Order

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

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

Newsletter: 

Week 5 CSA from Valley Flora!

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

On Rotation:

  • Dazzling Blue Lacinato Kale
  • Collards
  • Broccolini

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

CSA Member Exclusive: Strawberry Flats Available by Special Order!

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

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

Have a Happy 4th of July weekend!

Newsletter: 

Week 4 of the CSA from Valley Flora!

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

On Rotation:

  • Broccoli
  • Broccolini
  • Collards
  • Tatsoi
  • Zucchini

Strawberry U-Pick Opens This Week!

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

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

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

CSA Member Exclusive: Strawberry Flats Available by Special Order!

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

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

Fennel, How I Love Thee....

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

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

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

Newsletter: 

Week 3 of the CSA!

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

On Rotation:

  • Broccoli
  • Broccolini

Rain, Sweet Rain!

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

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

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

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

 

Newsletter: 

Week 2 of the Valley Flora CSA!

What's in the Harvest Basket this Week:

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

On Rotation:

  • Baby Spinach
  • Braising Mix
  • Collards 
  • Rainbow Chard

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

The Dream Team

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

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

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

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

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

Newsletter: 

Week 1 of the Valley Flora CSA!

Hello CSA Members!

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

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

What's in the Harvest Basket this week?

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

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

  • Radishes

Cherry Tomato Plants!

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

Too Much Sun!

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

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

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

 

Newsletter: 

Week 10 - The Last of "Winter"!

In Your Share this Week:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hugs to all,

Zoë

Newsletter: 

Week 9 of the Winter/Spring CSA!

In the share this week:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Newsletter: 

Week 8!

In your share this week:

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

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

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

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

xox

Zoë

Newsletter: 

Winter CSA: Week 7!

In Your Share this Week:

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

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

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

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

Thanks everyone,

Zoë

 

Newsletter: 

Winter CSA: Week 5!

What's in your Share this Week:

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great week!

Newsletter: 

Winter CSA: Week 4

What's in your share this week:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a lovely week! Celebrate winter cauliflower!

Zoë

 

Newsletter: 

Winter CSA: Week 3

What's in the Winter Share this Week:

  • Candy Carrots
  • Red Beets
  • Leeks
  • Micro Mix
  • Curly Parsley
  • Winter Greens (baby arugula, mizuna, tatsoi, mustard, kale)
  • Bunched Asian Greens
  • Spaghetti Squash - Like most of you, spaghetti squash is not usually the first winter squash I reach for in my kitchen, but out of the blue I had a spurt of spaghetti squash inspiration a few weeks ago. I cut some squash in half and baked them face down in the oven (I always add a good layer of water to the sheet pan to help steam-cook my squash in the oven and prevent sticking). Meanwhile I made up a pressure-cooker batch of homemade chili from our farm-grown pinto beans that I'd soaked the night before. When the spaghettis were done we ladled chili into the cavity of the squash and ate them as spaghetti-chili boats. The spice of the chili played off the sweet mellowness of the squash, and it saved me the effort of having to bake cornbread. It won approval from the whole gang, age 4 to 46. Highly recommend!
  • Butternut Squash - last of the season.
  • Kohlrabi - still ugly on the outside, still pearly white on the inside. This is it for the season.

On Rotation:

  • Spring Raab and Purple Sprouting Broccoli - Bandon members will see a bag of kale & cabbage raab with some purple sprouting broccoli mixed in this week. Raab is the flowering tips of overwintered Brassicas - the final edible gift from our kale plants that have been in the ground for almost a year. It has wonderful, sweet flavor when steamed or sauteed. We usually drizzle it with olive oil and some ume plum vinegar after it comes out of the steamer. It's also fantastic roasted in the oven at 400 degrees with olive oil and salt until you get some crispy browning. Just keep an eye on it so you don't cross the line into blackened raab. It cooks quickly! FYI, we got a new shipment of biobags last week so the raab is packed into a fully compostable/marine degradable wood fiber cello bag. It's been hard to source them, but we've finally found a supplier who can provide an eco option in the volume we need. We'll be using them for all the bagging we can from here on out.

The Ubiquitous Chickweed

Some of you who garden probably recognize this plant, scientific name Stellaria media. Chickweed. Perhaps the most ubiquitous fall/winter/early spring weed we have on the farm, it thrives in cool, moist weather and forms a low-growing succulent mat of greenery capable of swallowing entire plantings of cilantro, onions, greens, lettuce, chicory, carrots, or any other early or late-sown crop that ends up in its path. We spend our fair share of time battling chickweed in the cooler months of the year. If I were to tally up all the hours our crew member, Allen, spent crawling through our onion planting pulling chickweed last spring, it would probably add up to weeks of his life. (Sorry about that, Allen).

You will most definitely find a few sprigs of it in your baby winter greens this week, and probably your bunch greens, too, despite the countless eye-straining hours we spent trying to sort it out of the mix during harvest, wash and bagging this week. The good news is it's entirely edible. Not only that, it's really, really good for you: super high in vitamins, minerals and protein, and it actually tastes good. So why all the painstaking effort to keep it out of the salad mix? Good question. Chickweed is one of those plants that has always belonged in the "weed" category of our farming minds; something we battle so that other cash crops can thrive instead. But little by little I have begun to wonder if it's time for a paradigm shift. A "weed" is purely a human construct. It's "a plant that is not valued where it is growing, usually of vigorous growth, especially one that tends to choke out or overgrow more desirable plants" (thank you Merriam Webster). What if, instead of fighting the chickweed we embraced it? Harvested it? Washed it? Bagged it? Sold it? 

We'd be rich!

(And you'd be really healthy!)

One of my favorite seed farmers/organic ag gurus is firebrand Frank Morton. He founded Wild Garden Seed in Philomouth and has dedicated his life to developing regionally adapted, open-pollinated, open source, organic varieties for farm and garden. He's also been a champion of the fight to protect Oregon's world-class, specialty seed-producing Willamette Valley from intrusion by GMO canola production (great article on this issue here). Frank once preached a mighty e-sermon to our farmer listserv about all the virtues of chickweed (this was in response to someone's post about "how do you deal with all the f***ing chickweed on your farm in the winter!?!"). Frank hotly contested that chickweed was nature's gift to our farms, covering and nourishing our soils through the winter, providing early spring forage for hungry pollinators and beneficial insects, AND to top it all off, it tastes great and is way more nutritious than kale! We should all be getting down on our knees and thanking the chickweed gods. And oh by the way, you can buy chickweed seed to INTENTIONALLY PLANT ON YOUR FARM from me, Frank, on my website. Amen.

I think most of us chortled at Frank's sermon that day (gotta love that Frank!) and then promptly hit "delete," cuz after all, what's the second word in chick-weed? Us farmers don't grow weeds, we grow hifalutin, specialty veggie-tables. I bet you money though that, as usual, Frank is ahead of his time. Chickweed will be all over those fancy menus in Portland someday - if it isn't already - maybe under the more elite auspices of "stellaria" at first - and it'll only be a matter of time before the culinary chickweed diaspora spreads down to Curry County. When that day comes and we find ourselves weeding the arugula out of the chickweed bed, I will think of Frank in all his infinite wisdom, vision, genius and foresight as a pioneering ecological seed breeder/farmer and thank him. (And honestly, I kinda hope that day comes sooner than later, cuz man do we have a vigorous patch of chickweed in our winter greenhouses!)

P.S. If you get some chickweed in your greens this week, try it! If you like it, let me know! If you'd like to see more chickweed in your salad in the future, please email me immediately! We could spearhead a reverse diaspora where Coos/Curry county teaches Portland how to eat high on the chickweed hog and yours truly could spend less of her life culling out tiny little delicious tendrils of chickweed in the washtub.

 

Newsletter: 

Winter CSA: Week 2

What's in your Winter CSA share this week:

  • Costarossa Radicchio - the last of the season. I am crying bitter radicchio tears because I have to wait unti next November to make that Tasty n Sons salad again.
  • Hakurei Turnips
  • Carrots
  • Italian Parsley
  • Celeriac
  • Yellow Potatoes
  • Autumn Frost Winter Squash - a new variety we trialed this year that I'm falling in love with. It's a specialty butternut with extra-long storage superpowers, thanks in part to that natural "frosty" wax layer on the skin (which also makes it look extra pretty while it sits on your counter waiting it's turn to jump in the soup pot). The flavor is stellar. I made the best squash soup of my life out of this variety a couple weeks back. Squash soup is six-year old Uma's favorite dinner, which is good news for mom cuz it's a 10 minute meal in the pressure cooker: chop up a couple leeks and saute them until soft and slightly browned. Peel and cube your winter squash and add it to the leeks. Dump in two cans of coconut milk, a couple cups of water, and a big spoonful of Better than Bouillon chicken stock. Lock the lid in place and cook at high pressure for 6 minutes. Quick-release the pressure and use an immersion blender to puree it smooth. If you don't have a pressure cooker, you can do the same thing stovetop at a slightly mellower pace. And if you don't have an immersion blender, you can use an egg beater or transfer the soup in batches into a regular blender to render it silky-smooth. And then, 10 minutes later, you're wearing the "best mom ever" badge, handmade by your six-year-old. It's a great feeling. 
  • Bulk Kale
  • Savoy Cabbage
  • Yellow Onion
  • Micro Mix
  • Baby Winter Greens

The bag of winter salad in your share this week marks the almost-end of the Persephone period here at our latitude. Gardeners and farmers talk about the "Persephone days" to refer to that part of the year when there are fewer than 10 hours of daylight. For us, here at 42 degrees N, the Persephone period begins around November 7th and ends around the first of February - aka, "winter." It takes its name from the Greek myth in which Hades, king of the Underworld, falls in love with beautiful maiden Persephone when he sees her picking flowers in a meadow. He kidnaps her in his chariot and carries her off to the dark underworld to be his bride (some say with the blessings of her father Zeus...yeah, the women's movement still had a long way to go back then). Persephone's mother, Demeter - goddess of vegetation and grain - is beside herself and searches the earth for her daughter, to no avail. At that point she withdraws into her temple and causes a great drought - a nice tactic to strongarm Zeus into releasing her daughter. But Hades tricks Persephone and gives her a pomegranate seed to eat, which seals her fate to remain in the underwold forever. Meanwhile up on earth, plants are shriveling and the ground is parched and Demeter is playing her cards well. In the end, a deal gets brokered where Persephone is released but has to return to Hades for three months of the year - winter, or the Persephone period.  

As a farmer, it's significant because most plants require 10 hours of daylight for active growth, so the Persphone period is a time of dormancy (and the greatest mental relaxation for those of us who tend plants). I used to think it meant that things don't grow at all. But that's really not true here in our climate where it doesn't get that cold. Plant growth simply slows down dramatically. Once I realized this, I started playing around with somewhat bizarre planting dates in our unheated field tunnels. The greens you're getting this week were seeded on December 3rd. In the summer, they'd be ready for harvest within three weeks, but through the Persephone period it took 2 months. The good news is that I've been seeding greens in our tunnels every other week since December 3rd, so we have tender baby greens - mizuna! arugula! kale! mustards! tatsoi! - to look forward to all season.

Enjoy your last week of the Persephone period in all it's icy rain glory. The wild plum just broke into brave bloom outside my window, and our first daffodils are showing their heads. Persephone will be climbing up from the Underworld any day now and delivering us into our long, drawn-out, wonderful, Oregon springtime - and the end of mental relaxation for farmers!

Newsletter: 

Winter CSA: Week 1

What's in the First Winter CSA Basket...

  • Winter Carrots - a true labor of love at this time of year, but worth the effort! 
  • Leeks
  • Red Beets - our storage variety, acclaimed for it's high brix (sugar) content even after months in storage
  • Bulk Kale - a mix of our various lacinato types
  • Curly Parsley
  • Storage Kohlrabi - ugly as all get out until you peel it, but crispy-juicy-perfect on the inside
  • Parsnips
  • Costarossa Radicchio - a new winter variety we trialed this year, with great results. Planted way back in August, this plant has weathered ALL the weather we've had since then and still came out of the field looking beautiful! Not overly bitter. Try the radicchio "Caesar" recipe below if you still need convincing.
  • Hakurei Turnips - also on the ugly side, especially the tops, but a welcome fresh addition to January salads
  • Delicata Squash

Winter CSA shares are often a mix of striking beauty and blatant unattractiveness. Exhibit A: bright, lofty bunches of green parsley nestled next to wine-red radicchio juxtaposed with gnarly, discolored storage kohlrabi. It's a lesson in trusting that there's good inside, even when things are looking really ugly. That might be a helpful message for all of us these days as our country roils.

Kicking off the winter season, I wanted to share a couple of of my favorite winter recipes that might come in handy for two of the more controversial vegetables in your tote this week: radicchio and beets. These are deeply flavorful, satisfying winter meals that err almost completely on the side of pure plant - which can be hard to do in the more produce-scarce winter months. I crave these two salads regularly in the winter and trust that it's my body telling me what it needs to get through winter feeling happy.

Carrot and Beet Slaw with Pistachio Butter and Raisins - This is a recipe from Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables by Joshua McFadden. I highly recommend owning this cookbook if you like to eat seasonally. It's often my go-to any time of the year, but especially in the winter. McFadden helps you turn things like parsnips, beets and kohlrabi into culinary wonderment.

Radicchio "Caesar" from Tasty n Sons - Apparently people line up on the sidewalk in Portland and wait for two hours to get an order of this salad. If you have some sourdough from Farmstead Bread, it makes the best homemade croutons. We've been making this weekly and can't seem to grow tired of it. 

Have fun with your first installment of January produce, and thanks for being part of our winter season!

Newsletter: 

CSA Newsletter: Week 28, la última!

  • Beets
  • Green Cabbage - very long keeping in the fridge (months!)
  • Carrots
  • Leeks
  • Shallots
  • Potatoes
  • Pea Shoots
  • Hakurei Turnips - for Wednesday members this week (Saturday members got them last week)
  • Tetsukabuto winter squash - The squash of choice for the apocalypse! This kabocha/butternut cross stores FOREVER. As in, I once ate one that was over a year old and it was still delish. Tetsu has sweet nutty flavor and wide-ranging versatility in the kitchen: roastable, mashable, curry-able, soup-able, stuffable.

A Short Winter's Nap...

Winter is a fleeting thing around here - about two weeks in December, flanked on either side by spring and fall, which go on for months and months. By January the daffodils will already be blooming and by February green things will be growing like mad again. It doesn't add up to much dormancy - or make for much of a mental break from farming. But rather than chafe against our quasi-Mediterranean climate and its botanical repurcussions, I've embraced the opportunity to grow food year round. Hence, the Winter CSA and farmstand. For those of you signed up for our winter CSA season, we'll see you in a month! The farmstand will likely be back in action that same week on January 13th. It turns out I really enjoy winter production, but I'll admit I'm also quite keen on the little break ahead - a chance to dive into extracurricular projects, hunker in with family, and relish winter.

A mighty mountain of thanks to all of you for your CSA commitment the past 28 weeks. It's been an anxious year, but once again the CSA and our beloved cadre of loyal local customers - farmstand shoppers! co-ops and stores! restaurants! - kept the farm humming. Back in college while I was studying agroecology as an idealistic 20-year old - penning my honors thesis about the pitfalls of the global economy and making the case for local food systems - one of the arguments was always that local food systems are more resilient in the face of a system shock. Like, for instance, when a global pandemic shuts down institutions like colleges and universities, shutters restaurants, forces people into lockdown, and brings the economy to a grinding halt. Sure enough, industrial-scale ag was sent reeling last spring as it struggled to adapt to the abrupt new COVID-19 landscape. Truckloads of zucchini were getting dumped in farm fields because there was no market; slaughterhouses were shut down due to COVID outbreaks among workers so that you couldn't buy chicken for weeks; small blocks of cheese were sold out everywhere but there was a glut of 10 pound cheddar bricks - because everyone was cooking at home instead of eating at the restaurants that buy in volume.

That "resilient-in-the-face-of-system-shock" theory was exactly that, a theory. But I'd never really seen it tested. Last March we weren't sure what the pandemic would mean for us on Floras Creek, but as it turned out more people sought out Valley Flora than ever before amidst this crisis. Restaurant sales slackened predictably, but sales to stores jumped, our CSA membership was up 25%, and our farmstand fed more folks than ever before. We had to expand our crew to get all the farming done each week. We befriended new customers who had never been to the farm before who no longer wanted to shop for produce at the supermarket. People wrote us notes and sent us emails thanking us for helping to keep them safe and healthy through all this, and for nourishing them in more ways than calories alone. And when all was said and done, you guys ate every last stick of food we could grow! At least this time around, the farm weathered a major system shock with flying colors thanks to all of you. 

I have always loved the diversity we tend on the farm (the season's not even over yet and I'm already thumbing through my seed catalogues and notes, excited for the new varieties I want to trial next year). It's been clear to me for a long time that diversity equals resilience when it comes to crop production. That theory has been proven time and time again on the farm in the past twelve years. But diversity also equals resilience when it comes to market channels. If we had been geared to sell to only restaurants when COVID-19 hit, we might have gone under. But the fact that we had all of you supporting the farm in various ways - as CSA members; as farmstand customers; as cafés and delis and restaraunts; as co-ops and stores and caterers - that allowed us to keep on going and to feed more of our community than ever before. Thank you so much.

So here's to our next trip around the sun. I'm optimistic that we have a lot to look forward to in 2021, if nothing else then more of those hot pink mini daikons we trialed this fall! It's what I love about farming: every year is a new beginning, a new adventure, another chance at doing life well. 

Wishing you all good health and a happy solstice. And as always....Eat your vegetables!

Love,

Zoë

Newsletter: 

CSA Newsletter: Week 27 of 28 from Valley Flora!

  • Kale
  • Carrots
  • Kohlrabi
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Celeriac
  • Yellow Onion
  • Head Lettuce - the final harvest! We've never made it into December with head lettuce before, so I was pretty tickled to pull off one last harvest this week. 
  • Rosalba Radicchio - Third time's a charm? This is the final radicchio variety for the season and it's the bell of the ball! She goes by the name "Rosalba" and is a unique novelty among her chicory cousins because she blushes a bridesmaid pink. I'm taken by her because she likes cold weather - in fact, she requires it to turn pink - and it's always fun to make a salad the color of spring blossoms in December.

The Final Two Weeks!

It's not over yet! We're back to our normal schedule this week and you've got two more tote of veggies coming your way this week and next to cap off our 28-week season. On the heels of a hearty Thanksgiving we like to give you some roughage and bitter greens - kale! radicchio! - to reset your system. Then next week we'll hook you up with one final tote replete with lots of things that store well - beets! green cabbage! shallots! potatoes! kabocha squash! - to help you greet the winter solstice with an ample pantry. On the farm, the to-do list has trimmed itself down considerably so that we're mostly focused on harvest, a few final field projects, and getting the horse palace buttoned up (the big ponies are delighted with their new cozy digs!). It means we get a revel in the mellowing workload and savor some long evenings by the woodstove. I love winter!

See you next week for the last hurrah!

 

Newsletter: 

CSA Newsletter: Week 26 of 28 - Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Purple Brussels Sprouts on the stalk
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Rosemary
  • Shallots
  • Yellow Potatoes, great for mashing
  • Winter Crisp lettuce, which miraculously survived last week's hail storms!
  • Delicata Winter Squash
  • Parsnips - the prettiest ones we've ever grown! I suppose it's a stretch to call a parsnip "pretty," but if you've been a CSA member in the past then you're familiar with our persistent parsnip struggles. It's the only vegetable I've ever threatened to divorce - year after year of disappointment! But like that ridiculous disfunctional relationship that everyone rolls their eyes at, we stay together and keep trying. So much effort for so little reward. So much heartbreak (and so many broken shovels digging the damn things out of the sucking November mud)! I can barely believe it, but the somehow the trying actually paid off this year. We grew nice parsnips for the first time ever. But here's the embarassing thing: the solution was so easy. Row cover. That's it. Just cover the beds with insect netting - the same stuff we use to protect our carrots from rust fly, and our turnips and radishes from cabbage maggot, and our baby greens from flea beetles - and instead of ugly, blemished, tarnished, hideous-but-still-tasty parsnips we got pretty-pearly-white-tasty parsnips. Amazing. So I guess the moral of the story is, if you're stuck in a disfunctional relationship, try.....row cover? Good luck! Oh, and as for eating your parsnips: if you fall into the parsnip-skeptic category, I always suggest this recipe to woo you over to the parsnipophile side of the aisle. It goes great on the Thanksgiving table: Roasted Winter Squash and Parsnips with Maple Syrup Glaze and Marcona Almonds. Your Delicata squash or Butternuts would be a great sub for the Sunshine kabocha squash, in case you don't have one of those lying around.

Our Heartfelt Thanks

In Spanish, "Thanksgiving" translates to "El Dia de Acción de Gracias" (the day of action of thanks, more or less). I love that translation, because it suggests that giving thanks and expressing gratitude are actions. It's easy for Thanksgiving to be about eating too much, falling into a tryptophan-induce food coma, and collapsing onto the couch to watch the football game. But thinking of this holiday as a day of action inspires me to experience it differently, with a little more intention. 

I want to say a huge thank you to the farm crew - Roberto, Jen, Allen, Donna, Sarah, Bets & Abby - for all their hard work. The Thanksgiving harvest always strikes me as a special culmination of our collective effort all season. The CSA tote is full of long-season crops like Brussels sprouts and parsnips and celery - things that we seeded way back in March, April & May and are only just now harvesting. That represents months of labor: transplanting, weeding, irrigating, covering with row cover, weeding again, until finally it's time to harvest, wash and pack the totes here at the end of November. I'm grateful to work with such a competent, dedicated and fun crew. They make my life better in every way. We laugh a lot.

I'm also infinitely grateful to all of you, our CSA members, farmstand customers and wholesale customers who support the farm week after week, year after year. Many of you send us little notes of thanks each week, expressing your appreciation for the produce and the hard work. Well, it's mutual: thank YOU for choosing to buy from this little local, family farm and keeping us in business. But honestly, you're not just keeping us in business; you're supporting our livelihood, which is about a lot more than a business. Valley Flora is what feeds us - yes, financially and nutritionally - but also spiritually and emotionally. We love this valley, this little reach of bottom land along the creek, and we are so grateful to get to spend our days here coaxing life and beauty out of this deep, loamy soil. Thank you for being the bellies that clamor for the fruits of our labor. We are delighted to oblige all your vegetable cravings :).

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving, as diferent as it might be this year. In spite of it all - oh 2020! - there is always something to be grateful for. I hope you find that thing and hold it close tomorrow.

Love,

Zoë

 

Newsletter: 

CSA Newsletter: Week 25 of 28 from Valley Flora!

  • Red Beets
  • Red Cabbage: Big, heavy, and dense. This variety stores for a long time in refrigeration, so don't feel like you need to eat the whole thing in one night. Slice off what you need, put it back into the fridge in a plastic bag, and the next time you need red cabbage just shave off the discolored cut edge to reveal fresh cabbage below. 
  • Carrots
  • Celeriac: It's a balled-up hamster! It's a hairy meteorite! It's celery root! Maybe as foreign as a hunk of hirsute space rock to some of you, but this is a great winter vegetable that doubles as a softball! Imagine you took a stalk of celery, crossed it with parsley for flavor and gave it the heft of a potato: Voila, celeriac! What should you do with it? Soup! Latkes! Puree! Mash! Gratin! Here's a nice little collection of recipes to get you started: https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/15-best-celeriac-recipes-article
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Radicchio: They say that it takes 20 tries for a kid to learn to like a new food. If you're that kid and radicchio is that food, here's your second chance to love it, or even just like it a little bit, or OK, at least not spit it out this time. Remember these secrets to success if you're especially averse to bitter:
    • If using raw in salad:
      • Soak your torn/cut up radicchio in cold water for at least 10 minutes.
      • Pair with things salty and sweet: nuts, aged cheese, fresh or dried fruit, cured meats, zippy dressing.
    • Cook it! It's great in risotto and if you have a pressure cooker or instapot and a bag of arborio rice you can make dinner in about 6 minutes (busy farmer-mom trick #3,427).
  • Hakurei Turnips

Contrary to a decade of CSA tradition, we are giving you a little breather on winter squash this week. I interviewed a few members to ask how big the pile of squash on their counter was right now and it seemed sufficiently large across the interview sample to merit a week off. Next week we'll be back with some jumbo Delicata for your Thanksgiving feast. This week you can play catch up with that spaghetti squash that I know you haven't touched yet. (C'mon, what are you waiting for!? Spaghetti squash pizza crust! Recipes and photos abound here: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/photos/top-spaghetti-squash-recipes).

Thanksgiving Delivery Schedule Next Week (PLEASE READ!):

Since the beginning of Valley Flora time, we have observed a beloved, if somewhat masochistic, tradition: the week of Thanksgiving we squish our 6-day work week into three days and we deliver ALL Harvest Baskets to ALL pickup locations the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Why do we inflict this temporary insanity on ourselves? 

  1. So that all of you have your Thanksgiving veggies in time for Thanksgiving, and
  2. So that all of us can take a true break over the Thanksgiving holiday.

That means that if you are a Port Orford or Bandon member, your pickup will be on WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 25th instead of Saturday, November 28th. There will be no pickup on Saturday, November 28th. Pickup hours will be the same as usual, but on Wednesday instead of Saturday.

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

Mark your calendars/set a reminder now to avoid any confusion! It should read: "PICK UP VF VEGGIES ON WEDNESDAY, NOV 25th!!!!" And just for safe measure - if you're a Bandon or PO member - maybe another one that says: "NO VF VEGGIE PICKUP ON SATURDAY, NOV 28th!!!!"

That should do the trick. I hope to be offline as much as possible next Thursday through Sunday and not troubleshooting pickup site SNAFUS, so set that reminder right now and commit to picking up your produce on Wednesday! 

Your Thanksgiving share will most likely include purple Brussels sprouts, Carrots, Celery, Rosemary, Shallots, Parsnips, Potatoes, Delicata Squash, and with any luck a head of lettuce.

Have a great week!

Zoë

Newsletter: 

CSA Newsletter: Week 24 of 28 from Valley Flora!

  • Brussels Sprouts - on the stalk, alá Dr. Seuss. For easiest and longest storage in your fridge, snap the sprouts off the stalk and store them in a plastic bag. We were excited to harvest them this week on the heels of a couple sweetening frosts at the farm. Freezing temps stoke sugar production in Brussels sprouts - and all its cruciferous cousins (kale, broccoli, collards, cauliflower, etc). The sugar in the plant cells acts as antifreeze, making them winter hardy and extra delicious.
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Yellow Onions
  • Black Winter Radishes - Hailing from Germany (variety name: Runder schwarzer; translation: round black; sometimes also called black Spanish radish), this is one tough radish! It's hardy for fall and winter harvests and long storage. The rough black exterior contrasts with bright white flesh that has moderate spice. A fun new trial for us this season, if only slightly macabre in appearance...
  • Butternut Squash - oh glorious soup-making squash, smooth, sweet, delicious, easy to peel, meaty and dense, inspirer-of-so-many-great-adjectives-to-throw-into-a-run-on-sentence!
  • Kohlrabi - Meet Kossack, our biggest, baddest, sweetest, yummiest kohlrabi variety. Peel it, slice it, eat it raw. This is Uma's favorite vegetable (that's my five year-old daughter; she gets exceedingly excited when I bring one of these home from the farm. Kossack has inspired from her all kinds of spontaneous improv dances-of-joy in the kitchen...).
  • Cauliflower

We have arrived squarely in the "Germanic" phase of the season: guttural vegetable names, heavy blunt things you could lob off the castle wall to fend of barbaric intruders, vegetables that will store forever and see you through the potato famine (if need be, although I encourage you to eat them this week, plus we had a good year for spuds so we don't anticpate any famines of that sort this year). 

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 25th. 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 25th instead of Saturday, November 28th. There will be no pickup on Saturday, November 28th. 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 Delicata Squash.

Have a great week!

Zoë

 

Newsletter: 

CSA Newsletter: Week 23 of 28 from Valley Flora!

  • Acorn Winter Squash
  • Pink Mini Daikon Radish - a new variety trial this season, and we love them! The thick magenta skin is perfectly edible but also pretty spicy, so if you want to dial down the heat a little then peel them. Beautiful streaked pink flesh inside. 
  • Hakurei Turnips
  • Carrots - and now they're itty bitty instead of jumbo-lunker!
  • Head Lettuce - we only have another couple weeks of lettuce left in the field, all of which is at the mercy of a hard freeze, hail or pelting rain at this point. With any luck we'll be able to keep you in salad until Thanksgiving. We're harvesting a limited number of "winter" varieties now, so you'll mostly see our red-leafed winter crisp (pictured above) or little gem from here on out.
  • Yellow Onions
  • Red Potatoes - not the prettiest variety this year, unfortunately, so be prepared to get out your peeler here and there. We were unable to source our standby red variety last spring so had to plant a new variety, which we don't love. I'm ordering my seed 
  • Kale
  • Chicory - As lettuce winds down, the chicories ramp up. Think escarole, radicchio, endive: this family of cold-hardy heading greens are a wonderful winter staple and a great strategy for keeping salad on the table well into the darkest corner of winter. They can be somewhat bitter, but if you are averse to that there are ways to circumvent it. For raw eating, cut your chicory into ribbons and soak it in cold water for 10 minutes to leach out the bitterness. You can also grill, roast and braise chicory, addit to soup, pasta, lasagne and risotto. Cooking all but eliminates any trace of bitterness. The chicory in the your tote this week is a "gateway" variety: a sugarloaf type that is less bitter, more lettucey. Epicurious.com has a good guide to chicories and how to use them, as well as lots of yummy recipes, here: https://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/how-to-cook-with-chicories-endive.... A good rule of thumb when you're making a chicory salad is to pair the greens with things sweet, rich and salty: fruit (fresh or dried), candied nuts, hard-boiled eggs, smoked salmon, bacon/lardons, and a bracing vinaigrette or a creamy rich dressing (think caesar, blue cheese, etc). The combo of bitter/sweet/salty is delicious.

On Rotation

  • Cauliflower

A Love Letter to Chicories

We love things for different reasons, not all the same. Sometimes we love things that are completely perplexing to others. Now and then we learn to love something we never imagined we could have the capacity to love. That's a remarkable feat of growth, testimony to the wonder of the human heart.  

One of the things I love is chicories - something that many of you may not love, may never love - but perhaps if I tell you why I love them it will spark your curiousity, and from there love might be just around the corner. As a farmer whose very being is tied to the magic of seeds, the miracle of gerimation and photosynthesis, the vibrancy of plants and the wax and wane of seasons, this time of year can be accompanied by a tiny trace of grief. It's marked mostly by senescence, things dying, going dormant. All around me the life force of the farm is drawing inward, downward, going quiet. There is no longer the robust energetic noise of seeds sprouting everywhere, new plants popping out of the ground, an endless list of colorful new things to harvest. And sometimes there's a subtle feeling of loss that attends that shift. Also, and without a doubt, I enjoy this time of year immensely because it means we finally get a little break from the madness (picture cozy fire lit in woodstove, soup on stove, reading books with my kids in the evening, hallelujah!).

But also, that tiny trace of grief...

So here are the exceptions to the inevitability of senescence right now: 

  1. cover crops (sprouting and growing like crazy in all the fields, delighting me); 
  2. parsnips and celeriac (not my favorite crops, but yes I'm glad they're out there gearing up to be dug for Thanksgiving); and
  3. chicories

Perhaps the best way to explain my love for chicories is with a photo or two, and save us all a few thousands of words:

The colors! What else is flaming magenta or bridesmaid pink at this time of year, contrasted against the black sky of a pacific storm on the march?

What else withstands hard frost and holds up against the fiercest squall?

What else can you turn into a fantastic, fresh salad in pastel pink and deep purple, at Christmas - or even Valentine's day no less!?

In short: What's not to love?!

There is enormous diversity in the world of chicories, and often quite a bit of phenotypic variability within a given variety. They are beautiful, startling, a gift of winter. You'll see a couple other varieties in your share in the coming weeks and I hope they win you over - if need be, with a little help from bacon.

Here's an icebreaker recipe to get you started down the path to love: Chicory, Bacon and Poached Egg Salad

 

Newsletter: 

CSA Newsletter: Week 22 of 28 from Valley Flora!

  • Rainbow Chard
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Leeks
  • Head Lettuce
  • Sunshine Kabocha Squash OR North Georgia Candy Roaster Squash: This week we're sending Sunshine Kabocha to our Coos Bay and Bandon members; Farm and Port Orford members will get North Georgia Candy Roaster. We had limited yields in both varieties this season and there wasn't enough of either variety to feed everyone. That said, both are great eating with smooth skins that make kitchen prep easier. Sunshine has sweet, orange flesh with flavor tilted towards the tropical. The North Georgia Candy Roaster is an unusual heirloom with fantastic flavor, but most people find more to comment on in the curious looks department. If a giant pink banana and a mutant sweet potato got together, North Georgia Candy Roaster would be their lovechild. Size-wise, we're talking large baby (rest assured we made our best effort to sort out the 15lb+ specimens so as not to scare anyone off from the CSA for good). Both types of squash can be roasted, stuffed, churned into soup or whipped into pie filling. You can also bake or steam them, scrape out the meat and freeze it for later if you're feeling some trepidation about eating 10 lbs of squash in one sitting. Also, both varieties improve in storage, so feel free to add them to your seasonal squash decor until the spirit seizes you to preheat the oven.

On Rotation:

  • Cauliflower

BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY THIS WEEK...

Only 6 more days until Election Day, which means if you haven't already voted, do it today! It's too late to be dropping them in the mail, so your best bet is to drop your ballot off at one of the secure ballot dropsite locations in your county.

If you live in Curry County, 24-hour drive-up ballot dropsites are located at:

  • Curry County Courthouse
    E Moore Street
    Parking lot
    Gold Beach, OR 97444
  • Brookings City Hall
    898 Elk Drive
    Brookings, OR 97415
  • Port Orford City Hall
    555 W 20th Street
    Port Orford, OR 97465

If you live in Coos County, ballot dropsites are located in Bandon, Coos Bay, North Bend, Lakeside, Myrtle Point, Coquille, and Powers. Details for each site are listed here: http://www.co.coos.or.us/Portals/0/County%20Clerk/Elections/Elections%20...

If you've already voted and want to check on the status of your ballot, you can do so here: https://sos.oregon.gov/voting/Pages/myvote.aspx?lang=en

It's a quick, easy way to ensure that your ballot has been received.

If you don't have a way to get your ballot to a dropsite before next Tuesday, email us and we'll help make it happen!

In the meantime, thanks for voting with your food dollars and your fork to support VF and the kind of farming that's local, family-scale, solar-and-horse-powered, organic, and full of love. 

Remember to breathe this week.

xoxo

 

 

 

Newsletter: 

CSA Newsletter: Week 21 of 28 from Valley Flora!

  • Savoy Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Head Lettuce
  • Yellow Onions
  • Violet Queen Turnips
  • Pie Pumpkin - truly meant to be turned into pie, with drier/sweeter flesh bred specifically for pie filling. But also perfectly happy to be seasonal Halloween decor in the meantime until the right baking day comes along.
  • Italian Parsley
  • Beets - Red, Gold and/or Chioggia

On Rotation:

  • Romanesco
  • Broccoli

Notes from the Field

This week is the final major push to get cover crops seeded. The eastern half of the farm is mostly already seeded and germination looks fantastic on the heels of our last rain. This Thursday I'll be seeding the western half of the farm and then hitching the horses to cultipack the seed in. The cultipacker is a heavy set of metal rollers packed closely togther over a 6' span that presses the seed into the ground to create better soil-to-seed contact, which improves germination. It's a piece of equipment I salvaged off an old homestead outside of Powers over a decade ago, and with the help of some friends with welding skills, put it back to use after a half a century of sitting in a blackberry thicket. My fingers are crossed for enough precip on Friday & Saturday to get this next round of cover crops to sprout. Our goal is to have as much of the farm planted to winter cover crops as possible by the end of October, at which point it's too late to coax most things to grow. 

Most of our winter squash are done curing and are tucked into the bulging bays of the barn now. I ate my first Delicata this week and was blown away by how sweet they are this season. 

Our strawberry crowns are scheduled to arrive from the nursery this week, so we'll be plenty busy for the next few weeks getting 9000 new bare-root strawberry plants into the ground. I'm excited to get them planted while we still have some good growing weather left; every day counts right now as the sun dips farther and farther south. The more growth the plants can put on now, the better our yields and fruit quality will be next summer. 

We're harvesting our storage kohlrabi this week. As you can see from the photo below, they err towards the bigger-than-a-baby's-head size. You'll see them in your share in a few weeks. They're the sweetest, juiciest kohlrabi we grow.

Savor these last couple weeks of October. What a month.

Newsletter: 

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