Thursday, January 31, 2019

What's New at the Farm for 2019?

Farm Update


The spinach in the coldframe is insulated by
three layers of protection:  the perforated low
tunnels that act as a blanket for the plants, the
coldframe above, and the layer of snow outside
the coldframe, which helps keep the wind out
of the structure.
Hi everyone!  Wow, is it cold out there!  We hope you are all staying safe and warm in this crazy polar vortex we've been having.  Since there isn't much growing at the farm right now, we've mostly been hunkered down inside by the fire for the last few days, working on the many indoor farm tasks that abound this time of year.  This is the time of year when we research and order seeds, put all of our records in order for our organic certification, submit the many tax forms that come due for businesses around this time, and get all of our 2018 business records together in preparation for tax time.  We've also been making our 2019 financial plans, trying to get the word out about the CSA, and talking with the buyers from the restaurants, stores, and food hubs we work with to make plans for the upcoming season.  Until a few days ago when it just got too cold, Fred had also been spending plenty of time at the farm fixing equipment and trying to improve upon our existing farm tools to make everything even more efficient in 2019.  Even though it's ridiculously cold out there right now, we're definitely glad to have the snow.  It's counterintuitive, to be sure, but having a thick blanket of snow on the fields actually helps to protect last year's plantings of strawberries, garlic, asparagus, and overwintering spinach from the wind.  This will help them be in much better shape once spring finally arrives.  So let the snow fall, and in a few months, it will give way to a new green, growing world.

What's New at the Farm for 2019?


It's no secret that during the main growing season, it gets pretty crazy around the farm.  We are always going, always running, and always doing, and there is very little time to stop and think about much of anything except what needs to happen at that particular moment.  The winter, however, is just the opposite.  It is our time to reflect, contemplate, project, strategize, and make plans for the upcoming season.  Each year we tweak a few things and make a few changes to help the farm and the CSA be even better than they were in the past.  This year is no different.  So without further ado, here are some of the changes you can expect for the 2019 season!

We're adding a third choice to the prepacked shares!  For those of you who pick up a prepacked share at the Lansing, Okemos, St. Johns, or Midland hospital drop-offs, or who have it delivered to you, we are adding a C share to the tried-and-true A and B share choices.  So now you can choose one of three prepacked bags for a half share, or two out of the three for a full share!  The C share will usually be just a different combination of the items in the A and B shares, and it will make it even easier to get exactly what you want!

We're excited to add Honeynut squash to the lineup this year!
Not only is it really delicious, it is also really cute!
As always, we're adding plenty of new veggie varieties this year.  The one we are most excited about is Honeynut squash, which is a really sweet winter squash that looks like a Butternut squash, but smaller.  We've wanted to grow Honeynuts for a while, but the seed always sold out before we could get any, and this year, we were able to get the seed!  To find out more about this fantastic squash, check out this article from Bon Appetit about its development, history, and uses.

Speaking of changes to the veggie roster, we're making plans to decrease the amount of kale in the shares (so to the kale haters among you, you're welcome!), and we're going to increase the amount of bell peppers, beets, broccoli, cabbage and squash we're growing.  We're really excited to bring more of these favorites to the CSA this year!  After taking a year off from growing garlic, we're going to be adding that back into the roster this year as well.

We're also increasing our greenhouse capacity this year.  Fred has been working on constructing a new heated greenhouse so we'll have additional space to grow microgreens and start our seeds, and we're also going to be putting up another coldframe as soon as the weather allows.  All in all, we're going to be adding 2700 square feet of covered growing space, so we can have more veggies earlier in the spring and later in the fall.

Another thing that will make our season a little bit crazier, but a lot more financially advantageous, is that we're adding a weekly route to Ann Arbor for this year.  We're not actually expanding our CSA out that way, but we're going to be making weekly deliveries to Argus Farm Stop, which is a store that sources entirely from local farms for the locavores in the Ann Arbor area.  We're also going to be contributing to a group CSA in that area that is made up of produce from several local farms.

Here is the new (old) potato digger right after Fred picked it up.
It's old and rusty, but it's effective.  The picture also
shows how gray and gloomy everything is at the farm in the
winter... I can't wait until everything becomes green again!
Fred also has plans to modify several pieces of farm equipment to increase our labor efficiency, particularly in the fall when most of our employees go back to school and we don't have as many helpers.  He recently bought a new (old) potato digger (yup, that's a thing!) on Craigslist, which he informs me is an improvement on our old potato digger because it's PTO-driven rather than ground-driven.  This means that the speed with which the digger operates is independent of how fast the tractor is moving, so if we need to slow the tractor down in heavy clay soil, the digger can continue to work effectively.  So he's planning to modify our old potato digger to be a sweet potato digger, which actually requires a different set of characteristics.  Sweet potatoes require a much gentler machine because they are prone to scuffing and breaking, so the jostling that is beneficial to potatoes (because it helps shake the dirt off) would just damage the sweet potatoes.  He also acquired a barrel washer to help clean the root vegetables.  Basically imagine a large barrel laying horizontally and rotating on a central axis.  Now imagine that there are jets of water shooting out of the central axis that help wash dirt off of carrots, potatoes, beets, and other root veggies.  That's basically what a barrel washer is.  These small improvements at the farm will help us save so much time this fall, because all of these tasks are things we've traditionally done by hand.

So that's it!  We're really excited about the upcoming changes, big and small, at the farm this season!  And we're especially excited to see you all again this summer!  Now's the time to sign up for the CSA, so just let me know if you want to sign up for the 2019 season!

Friday, December 21, 2018

CSA Newsletter for December

Farm Update


This spinach is overwintering in one of the
coldframes.  It is protected by two layers of
greenhouse plastic so it can survive the
cold winter.

Hi everyone!  We hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season, and enjoying getting to spend time with friends and loved ones!  Now that things have slowed down at the farm, we are getting a chance to rest and relax, which we've really been appreciating.  Our family got to go on vacation to Florida over Thanksgiving to visit my folks, and it was so nice to get away from the cold for a while and go to the beach!  Now that we're back, there is still some work to do at the farm, but not nearly as much as during the CSA season.  We were delivering veggies to some stores and restaurants until pretty recently, but now that everything is mostly frozen all the time, we've pretty much finished our deliveries for the year.  We have some leafy greens (lettuces, spinach, and mache) overwintering in the coldframes in preparation for next spring.  We planted some of the more coldhardy crops in the coldframes in the fall, and then we put an extra layer of greenhouse plastic over them for extra insulation, and now they'll happily wait out the winter.  They won't actually grow much until the spring, because the days are just too short for them to get enough sunlight, but they'll continue at their current size for a few months, and they'll have a good head start on their growth once spring arrives. 
Fred is taking advantage of the fact that it hasn't
been frozen for the last few days to construct
the new greenhouse.  He spent the other day
bringing in dirt and leveling out the foundation
for the new construction.
      We're also working on a number of projects around the farm now that we have some spare time.  Fred is constructing a new heated greenhouse to replace the small greenhouse that we took down when we built the barn.  We found that the seeds we were starting just didn't germinate as well in our other larger greenhouse because it was always a few degrees colder, so we're building a new greenhouse more similar to our old one, specifically for starting seeds.  The old greenhouse was actually built onto the south side of our old makeshift washing and packing area, so the north side of the greenhouse was completely insulated.  That made a huge difference in its energy efficiency, so we're replicating those conditions with the new greenhouse, which will be on the south (sunny) side of an adjoining seeding room.  These also have the benefit of being made almost entirely of pieces and scraps left over from other projects, so this will be a pretty green construction project!
     We're also continuing to sign people up for next year's CSA, so if you want to sign up, just send me an email and I'll get you signed up!  The cost for a half share will be $305 and a full share will be $560 at our regular drop-offs, and just let me know if you would like a quote for home or workplace delivery.  Also, anyone who signs up and puts down at least a half payment before the new year gets their 2019 CSA share for the 2018 prices, which are $300 and $550 respectively.  So just let me know if you have any questions or want to sign up for next year's CSA!  We so appreciate all of you being in the CSA this year and helping supporting our farm, and we are honored to have the opportunity to provide you with food that is not only delicious, but also good for the health of our bodies, our earth, and our communities.  Thank you so much for being a part of that this year!

Recipes



Photo of Amazing Chocolate Beet Cake by Kat
Chocolate beet cake!
Even though we don't have many veggies growing right now, December is a perfect time to make use of all of the wonderful root vegetables we've stored for winter!  I've heard from a lot of you that you saved some of the more storeable veggies, such as carrots, beets, celery root, potatoes, onions, and sweet potatoes to use throughout the winter, and we've definitely done the same.  And even if you don't have any root veggies left from the CSA, you're way more likely to be able to find these guys locally in a co-op or indoor farmer's market.  So for the Michigan locavore, root veggies are going to be the stars of your winter meals!  Here are some ideas for some hearty dishes to warm you up!

Slow Cooker Beef Stew:  We make a bunch of stews in the winter, and using the crock pot is such an easy way to do it.  Just prep it and throw everything in earlier in the day, and there's barely any work left to do at dinner time!

Savory Roasted Root Vegetables:  I've probably mentioned before how much I love roasted root vegetables, and it's even more true at this time of year!  They're so warm and comforting, you'll definitely want to try these out this winter!

Amazing Chocolate Beet Cake: If you want to bring a dessert to the Christmas party that's not just sugar, you can bring this awesome chocolate cake that has a secret redemptive ingredient:  beets!  This recipe calls for canned beets, but whenever I make it, I just chop up few beets, boil them until soft, and puree them in the blender.  It tastes like a really moist chocolate cake, and no one will know there are beets in there if you don't tell them!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Extra Special Thanksgiving Share!

Hi everyone!  We are so excited to be able to offer an extra special share next week, the Thanksgiving Share!  This will be available to everyone, not just people who were a part of the 2018 CSA!  It will include: 

  • Ida Red apples
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Choice of kale, beets, or Cippolini onions

Each Thanksgiving Share will be $15, and you can add on extra bunches of kale for $2 each (because we've got tons right now), and we've also got our free-range eggs available for $4 per dozen.  You can order as many shares as you'd like, and we'll deliver them to you as follows:

  • Alma:  Monday, November 12 from 4:30 to 5:00 PM in front of His Place.  Also, Fred and I are going to be teaching a free cooking class at His Place at 5:15 that evening, so if you're coming to pick up your share, pop in and join us!  Space is limited, so you'll want to let them know you're coming.  You can get more information about the class here.
  • Mt. Pleasant: Tuesday, November 13 from 4:30 to 5:30 in front of GreenTree Cooperative Grocery.
  • Lansing:  Wednesday, November 14 from 4:30 to 5:30 at the Soup Spoon Café.
  • Midland:  Thursday, November 15 from 5:00 to 6:00 PM in the back parking lot of the Eagle Ridge Church.


If you want to order a share but can't make it to the drop-off, we're also going to be offering home/workplace delivery for $5 to anyone within four miles of where we are already headed.  If you're not sure, you can email me the delivery address and I'll let you know if we can drop your share off for you at your home or workplace.

We have enough veggies for about 50 or 60 shares, and it's first come, first serve, so you'll want to let me know soon if you want to order a Thanksgiving Share!  You can just email me and include the following:

  • how many shares you'd like
  • whether you want the kale, the beets, or the Cippolini onions as your choice
  • if you want to add on any free-range eggs or kale
  • if you want to pick up at the standard drop-off or if you want to go with the home delivery option.

Then I'll email you an invoice, and you can either send us a check in the mail, or you can follow the link in the invoice to do a free electronic bank transfer, whatever is easiest for you.  We do ask that you pay in advance, because last year we had some people not show up to pick up their shares, and I want to avoid that for this year.  So just let me know if you want to order a Thanksgiving Share or if you have any questions!  We wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving and a great holiday season! :-)

Saturday, October 27, 2018

CSA Newsletter for Week 20

Farm Update


Carrots are one of my favorite cool-season
veggies!  Fortunately for all of us, we have
plenty of delicious carrots in the shares
this week!
Hi everyone!  Here we go into week 20!  It’s the final week of the CSA, which is both sad and exciting for us.  On the one hand, I’m really going to miss seeing everyone each week, being busy and productive, and having all these great veggies in my kitchen.  On the other hand, it’s really cold out there, and once we get to this time of year, we would just rather be inside.  Also, I’m looking forward to getting our house livable again, and I know we would both like to see our kids more often.  So it’s bittersweet.  This has been an excellent CSA season, but now it’s time to turn toward hearth and home, at least for me.  Fred still has another month or so out there, albeit one with far fewer hours than he’s been working.  Once the CSA ends, there is a lot less harvesting, washing, and packing to be done, but there will still be some of that.  If you’re wondering where you can get our veggies once the season is over, we’ll have produce available at Greentree Cooperative Grocery in Mt. Pleasant for a while, and we’ll also be making occasional trips down to Argus Farm Stop in Ann Arbor if any of you find yourselves in that neck of the woods.    And of course, we’re signing people up for the 2019 CSA season now too, so make sure to get on the list for next year!  The cost for a half share is going up from $300 to $305 next year, and a full share is going up from $550 to $560, but anyone who puts down at least a half payment before the new year gets their share at this year’s price.  Thank you all for a fantastic CSA season, and we hope to see all of you again next year!  😊



What to Expect in This Week's Share


If you are picking up at one of our traditional style drop-offs (Alma, Mt. Pleasant, or Midland), here’s what the options will be at the different stations.  If you have a half share, you’ll choose one item at each station, and if you have a full share, you choose two items at each station.  Now that we're getting down to the end of the season, many of the stations have less variety than earlier in the year, but it's all pretty yummy stuff.

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Apples
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Celery root, leeks, or cilantro
  • Kale or extra sweet potatoes
  • Onion

If you have a prepacked share (Midland hospital, St. Johns, Lansing, Okemos, or home delivery), here are your options.  If you have a half share, you’ll choose either share A or share B, and if you have a full share, you can choose two of them.

Share A:                               Share B:
Sweet potatoes                     Sweet potatoes
Apples                                  Apples
Carrots                                 Carrots
Potatoes                                Potatoes
Celery root                           Leeks
Extra sweet potatoes            Kale
Onion                                   Onion


Recipes



apple recipes slidersApples, apples everywhere!  Most years, the orchard doesn't produce more than a few crates of fruit, but this year, we've just got tons of good apples!  If you've eaten them plain, made an apple crisp and an apple pie, and are looking for something new to do, check out these 62 Apple Recipes from Country Living!  Even just looking through all these amazing recipe ideas, I wanted to make and eat them all right this minute.  Check out those Apple Cranberry Turkey Burger Sliders!  Seriously, yum!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

CSA Newsletter for Week 19

Farm Update


Fred was able to save a ton of time and conserve a lot of 
cover crop seed with our new(ish) grain drill.  This week was
the first time he used it, and he's really excited about it!
Hi everyone!  Things are really starting to wind down at the farm, especially with that hard freeze we had on Wednesday night.  That freeze actually did quite a bit of damage to our leafy veggies like lettuce, spinach, and arugula, but we still have plenty of fall goodies to take their place in the shares.  This week at the farm, we tilled under some old crops that are no longer producing so we could prepare that ground for next year and seeded some winter rye as a cover crop.  We also planted one of the coldframes with spinach for overwintering (basically it just hangs out there, staying really small until the days get warmer and there are enough sunlight hours for it to start growing again), and seeded some mache in the greenhouse.  As has been true for the last several weeks, most of our time at the farm has been spent harvesting, and with the horrible weather, that has been quite a task.  Huge props to Fred, Carson, Ben, and Danny for their dedication and ability to endure the near freezing temps and biting wind.  For them, the end of harvest can't come soon enough, but we've got two more weeks to go.  And just in case you missed the announcement last week, we're starting sign-ups for next year's CSA, so just let me know if you want to sign up!  See you all at the drop-offs this week! :-)


What to Expect in This Week's Share


If you are picking up at one of our traditional style drop-offs (Alma, Mt. Pleasant, or Midland), here’s what the options will be at the different stations.  If you have a half share, you’ll choose one item at each station, and if you have a full share, you choose two items at each station.

  • Sweet potatoes
    Until recently, this field contained the remains of the sweet
    potato vines, but now it has been tilled under in preparation
    for next year.
  • Apples
  • Carrots
  • Surprise veggie
  • Kale or a bag of onions
  • Leeks or radishes
  • Pepper, celery root, or onion

If you have a prepacked share (Midland hospital, St. Johns, Lansing, Okemos, or home delivery), here are your options.  If you have a half share, you’ll choose either share A or share B, and if you have a full share, you can choose two of them.

Share A:                               Share B:
Beets                                     Gold potatoes
Carrots                                  Carrots
Sweet potatoes                      Sweet potatoes
Apples                                  Apples
Bag of onions                       Kale
Radishes                               Leeks
Pepper                                  Celery root


Recipes



So I bet some of you are wondering, "What in the world is celery root?"  While it's not a thing we usually see in stores (mostly because it looks really weird), it used to be a winter staple for people in cold-weather climates like ours in the days before refrigeration and grocery stores.  People used to store celery root (also called celeriac) in the root cellar with their potatoes and beets to get them through the winter.  As the name implies, it actually is related to celery (over the years, celeriac was bred for the root, whereas traditional celery was bred for the stem and leaves, but it was originally the same plant), and it has a delicious and bright celery flavor.  So before you just throw the gnarly-looking ball shaped thing in the bottom of your fridge, here are Ten (Yes, 10) Things to do with Celery Root!  But if you do forget about it in the bottom of your fridge for three months, it will still be in great shape, because celery root lasts forever! :-)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

CSA Newsletter for Week 18

Farm Update


This happens pretty much every fall, but the farm is a big
muddy mess right now!  So far we haven't had to pull the
delivery vehicle out of the mud with the tractor yet this year,
but it's only a matter of time.  Also, can you believe it was
this warm on Monday?
Hi everyone!  What a week!  It went from really hot in the early part of the week to downright cold in the later half!  So far, we still haven't had our first major frost of the season, which is almost unheard of by mid-October.  The forecast called for one about a week and a half ago that never materialized, and we were supposed to get one a few nights ago too, but some cloud cover moved in just in time and acted like a big blanket over the farm.  We ended up with just a few patches of light frost, so amazingly, the natural dying back of the crops that occurs after the first frost has not yet occurred.  Now that we are winding down the season (just three CSA weeks left!), most of our work revolves around harvesting, washing, and packing the shares, and preparing the farm for it's long winter's nap.  With the weather turning colder, pretty much all of the farm tasks take a little longer and seem a little more daunting, and we are definitely wearing warmer clothing out there than we were a month ago.  This is the part of the annual life cycle of the farm where we start feeling like slowing down and coming in out of the cold, and in a month or so, the fields will naturally oblige us in that desire by stopping production for the year.  At that point, we'll still have some veggies coming out of the coldframes and greenhouse, likely until mid-December, and maybe even up until Christmas depending on the weather.
     But even as this year is starting to wind down, it's time to start thinking about next year!  We are officially opening up CSA sign-ups for the 2019 season, so if you want to sign up for next year, just let me know!  The cost of the shares is going to go up slightly for next year, so a half share will go from $300 to $305, and a full share will go from $550 to $560.  But if you sign up and put down at least a half payment before the end of 2018, you'll get your 2019 share for the 2018 price.  The 2019 prices go into effect on January 1st, so if you know you want to sign up for next year, you might as well do it early and save a few dollars!  That also helps us out, because we incur most of our farm expenses in January and February, so having that cushion there is really helpful!  If you have any questions about next year's sign-ups or anything else, just let me know!  In the meantime, we have three more weeks of the CSA left, so I'll see you next week! :-)


What to Expect in This Week's Share


If you are picking up at one of our traditional style drop-offs (Alma, Mt. Pleasant, or Midland), here’s what the options will be at the different stations.  If you have a half share, you’ll choose one item at each station, and if you have a full share, you choose two items at each station.

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Apples
  • Carrots
  • Spinach or lettuce
  • Arugula, kale, or microgreens
  • Radishes or bell pepper
  • Onions or leeks

If you have a prepacked share (Midland hospital, St. Johns, Lansing, Okemos, or home delivery), here are your options.  If you have a half share, you’ll choose either share A or share B, and if you have a full share, you can choose two of them.

Share A:                               Share B:
Sweet potatoes                     Sweet potatoes
Apples                                  Apples
Carrots                                  Carrots
Lettuce                                  Spinach
Kale                                       Arugula
Radishes                                Bell peppers
Leeks                                     Onion


Recipes



Photo of Sweet Potato, Carrot, Apple, and Red Lentil Soup by zhidaomaNow that it is consistently chilly out, I have really been digging soups.  We've been making a lot of puréed soups at our house lately, from tomato basil soup with the very last of the tomatoes, to a yummy sweet potato and squash soup that we served yesterday at our Janie's birthday party.  The wonderful thing about soups is that they are warm and comforting, and they are just as good a few days later as they are when you first make them, so you can make up a big batch and eat the leftovers throughout the week.  This Sweet Potato, Carrot, Apple, and Red Lentil Soup will stick to your bones, and it takes advantage of several major fall veggie staples!

Friday, October 5, 2018

CSA Newsletter for Week 17

Farm Update


Danny and Carson get ready to transplant lettuce in one of
the coldframes.
Hi everyone!  This week was definitely a transitional week for us at the farm.  We cleaned many of the summer veggies that are done for the year (such as zucchini) out of the coldframes to make room for some more cold-hardy crops like lettuce and spinach, which will last well into the fall.  We were glad to have missed the frost that seemed imminent on Thursday night/ Friday morning, which means that more of our veggies will be in better shape for longer.  Fred has made the executive decision that tomatoes are pretty much done for the year; for a while now, it has been pretty hard to come up with enough nice ones for the shares, and they're only getting fewer and farther between as the year wears on.  So with the exception of a few tomatoes that might make their way onto the trading table, we probably won't have any more in the shares for this year.  But as the tomatoes move out of the shares, we have more apples moving in!  The apples in the share this week will be Ida Reds, which are great for fresh eating and also for baking.  If you happen to be looking for a really phenomenal apple pie recipe, I made this one a few weeks ago, and it was amazing!  In other farm news, our very own Carson defended his doctoral dissertation on Lake Michigan Steelhead management this morning, so (after his official graduation in December) he is now our very own Dr. Carson!  A huge congratulations to him!


What to Expect in This Week's Share


If you are picking up at one of our traditional style drop-offs (Alma, Mt. Pleasant, or Midland), here’s what the options will be at the different stations.  If you have a half share, you’ll choose one item at each station, and if you have a full share, you choose two items at each station.

This tray of lettuce transplants waits to be
planted in the coldframe.
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Winter squash or potatoes
  • Lettuce, arugula, or Brussels sprouts
  • Apples
  • Radishes, microgreens, or leeks
  • Cippolini onions or kale
  • Bell pepper or onion

If you have a prepacked share (Midland hospital, St. Johns, Lansing, Okemos, or home delivery), here are your options.  If you have a half share, you’ll choose either share A or share B, and if you have a full share, you can choose two of them.

Share A:                               Share B:
Sweet potatoes                     Sweet potatoes
Apples                                  Apples
Winter squash                       Potatoes
Lettuce                                  Brussels sprouts
Radishes                               Radishes
Cippolini onions                   Kale
Bell pepper                           Onion


Recipes



It's Brussels sprouts season!  I always forget every year how good these wonderful little gems are, and then I'm reminded every fall when they come back around.  If you happen to be one of the haters of this delicious but oft-maligned veggie, let this be the year you give them another try!  The key is simple:  Do. Not. Boil. Them.  I'm convinced that's why such a large number people hate them, because so many well-meaning mothers and grandmothers completely ruined them in a pot of boiling water.  So now that we have the most basic rule down, you may be wondering what would be a better way to prepare them.  Never fear!  Here is a fantastic (and fantastically simple!) recipe for Roasted Brussels Sprouts to get you started.  Another favorite in our house is to simply pan-fry them in olive oil and toss them in an apple cider reduction with a pinch of brown sugar, but there are a thousand really awesome ways to make Brussels sprouts.  Enjoy!