Tuesday, February 11, 2020

CSA Newsletter for January: Winter on the Farm

Farm Update


The new hoophouse project is almost done!  Fred
put most of the plastic on yesterday, and we just
need to get the ends of the structure covered
before we can start planting crops in there
in a few weeks!
Hi everyone!  Normally this time of year things are pretty slow around the farm, but it's definitely been busier than usual this year!  Fred has been working on various construction and repair projects, so he's been outside in the cold weather getting things done pretty much every day lately.  This week, he put up our new 30x72-foot hoophouse, which was quite a big job for one person to do!  He put the frame up last week, and he got most of the plastic on yesterday, so it should be ready to plant with an early crop of carrots around the first week of March.  

We were also glad to see that the big drainage project we did in December was a success!  If you've ever been around our farm in spring or fall (or after a heavy rain in summer), you know that our driveway and areas of the front field can get to be a muddy mess.  Fred did a major drainage tile project a few months ago, and it was proved successful when the snow melt we've experienced over the last few months drained so much more effectively than it used to.  This gives me high hopes for our ability to get around the farm more easily once the season starts!

Pretty soon, Fred plans to start working on a project to turn the new tiller we got for our tractor into a reverse-tine tiller, which will improve the state of the soil in our seed beds and increase yields.  In the past, reverse-tine tillers have been prohibitively expensive, so we bought a much cheaper front-tine tiller that has the capability of being turned into a reverse-tine tiller with a few minor tweaks. 

We've now discovered just how much snow load the caterpillar tunnels we put up in November can hold, because many of them have had portions of the tunnels collapse.  The carrots inside are still looking good, even though the tunnels themselves look a little worse for wear.  We'll be making structural changes to the tunnels later in March so that next year, they'll be able to handle more snow without collapsing.  

Throughout the winter, our family of farm cats has
been guarding the hoophouses from mice, but once
we start planting crops there, the cats will have to
avail themselves of the warmer weather and find
one of the many other interesting places around
the farm to hang out.
Aside from structures and equipment, we're also doing work with actual plants!  All of the seeds we ordered last month have arrived, and they'll be ready to plant when the weather permits.  We also just got 60 new laying hens, so we're retiring our older batch, who haven't been laying as many eggs as they used to.  So our new group, who are pullets now (young hens whose eggs aren't that big yet), will be laying full-sized eggs by the start of the CSA.  We've given most of our older chickens to someone who wants a backyard flock and isn't super concerned about how many eggs they lay, but we've kept a few of the grannies around so we'll have enough eggs for our family until the new girls start laying more consistently.

We have started to see the first crops of the year coming out of the greenhouse!  We harvested the first arugula of the year, and we brought some of it down to Argus Farm Stop in Ann Arbor last week, which was exciting!  The green garlic has just started to peak out of the soil in the coldframe, and the overwintered lettuce and spinach are starting to grow again after being in "sleep mode" for the last few months.  But now that we are starting to get more daylight, our overwintered greens are slowly starting to get back into growth mode.  Just about everything in the hoophouses is too small to harvest just yet, but around the first week of March, we expect to have some spinach and freshly-dug carrots!  It has been so nice to have the few fresh carrots we've been able to harvest throughout the winter, because their flavor has just been awesome!  We're usually relying entirely on storage carrots most winters, and they start to get a little soft and spongy by March.  So when our new carrots hit Argus in Ann Arbor and Greentree in Mt. Pleasant next month, you'll definitely be able to tell the flavor and texture difference between those and the storage carrots you've probably been eating all winter from the store!  And a few weeks later, you'll start seeing our spring mix again in your local shops.  So even though there is still more winter to go, we'll be harvesting the first of the spring veggies throughout March.

And if you haven't signed up for the CSA this season yet and you want to, now is the time!  The cost for a full share is $560 and a half share is $305 at our regular drop-offs, and I can also get you a quote for home and workplace delivery if you're interested!  So just send me an email, and I'll get you all signed up!  We're really excited to be starting a new farm season, and we hope that you'll come along for the (probably crazy, certainly interesting, definitely delicious) ride!

Monday, January 6, 2020

What's New for 2020?

Farm Update


Fred got to rent an excavator to dig
up our old drainage tile, which pretty
much made his week! :-)
Hi everyone!  The weather lately has definitely been warmer than what we're used to this time of year, so we've been able to get some good work done at the farm!  Fred undertook a significant excavation project a few weeks ago that involved digging up and re-doing some drainage tile.  There is an area in our front field that has a tendency to stay pretty wet if we get a heavy rain (or when the snow melts in the spring), so this project will help that area drain more quickly this season.  We also had another hoophouse that needed to be constructed, and because of the wet, nasty spring we had, we just weren't able to put it up before the start of last season.  So Fred was able to get everything laid out for that and get the foundation posts in the ground.  That way, even if the ground freezes up entirely (which it will, because it's winter in Michigan), we can still put up the rest of the coldframe.  It will just be a really cold job for Fred!
     Even though production slows way, way down in the winter, we do have a few crops biding their time until they're ready to harvest.  We have some arugula in one of the hoophouses that is looking promising even though it's still pretty small, and we have some carrots under our caterpillar tunnels that are getting pretty close to harvestable.  We've brought a few home already although they're on the small side, and they taste amazingly sweet!  I'm pretty used to awesome carrots, but these are the sweetest carrots I've ever tasted.  I can't wait until they get a little bigger, and we can harvest more of them!  We have some plantings of spinach and baby lettuce in the coldframes that are pretty much in sleep mode, but they look really nice!  They're kind of in a holding pattern right now, but once we get into February, they'll likely start growing pretty fast.  The green garlic we planted last month is also now well-rooted in one of the coldframes, and will start to poke its greens out any day now!
     
Look at the arugula we have growing
in our coldframe!  Doesn't that just
look like summer?  But that's a picture
we took last week!
Along with the outdoor stuff we've been working on, we've also spent plenty of time inside by the fire, making plans for next season and getting our seed orders together.  Fred gets super excited every winter about all the possibilities for the next season, from new crops to grow, to improved seed varieties, to new growing techniques to try.  He's especially enthusiastic about the new plans for the 2020 season, so be sure to read about them below!

      And if you haven't signed up for this season yet, now's the time!  The cost for a full share is $560 and a half share is $305, so just send me an email, and I'll get you all signed up!  If your new year's resolution for 2020 is to eat healthier, eat more deliciously, help the environment, or buy local, use the momentum you have now in January to make a great decision on behalf of your June-October self, and sign up for the CSA!  Your future self will thank you for it!  :-)



What's New for 2020?



Here is Fred's report on all of the things he's geeking out over for this season!

New crops we're growing:
  • Asian Green Stem Cauliflower:  A newer, better tasting, more tender version of cauliflower.
  • Ethiopian Kale: Rich tasting yet mild in flavor, kind of a mix between kale and mustard greens.
  • Verigo and Rubygo: Lettuce, mostly added to the spring mix, that is a frilly, crunchier baby leaf lettuce.
  • Malabar spinach: A warm-weather plant with thick leaves that are very similar to spinach.
  • Parsnips:  A root vegetable that is kind of halfway between a carrot and a potato.  It's very delicious and will make an appearance in late fall.
  • Rutabaga:  A turnip-like fall root crop with light orange flesh.
  • Honeynut Squash:  This is actually a second try after our difficult squash year last year.  It's a really delicious personal-size squash that is an even better tasting version of butternut squash.
  • Galahad and Celebrity Tomatoes:  An old variety and a new variety of red slicing tomatoes that are highly rated for flavor.
  • Citrine:  A new round orange cherry tomato that should rival all of the tomatoes in our current mix for flavor.
  • Mint:  It will probably be towards the end of the season before we have some ready to harvest, but we are starting a perennial mint planting for the future.
  • Ginger:  It seems crazy to grow ginger in Michigan, right? But it looks like we have the space in our coldframes, and we wanted to give it a try since it can be fairly productive, and it's extra delicious when it's harvested fresh.



Things we're hoping to have this season, but they're still in question: 

  • Asparagus:  We should finally be able to harvest the asparagus we planted three years ago!  It will be interesting after a year of prolonged soil saturation to see if the asparagus can still thrive after a season of tough weather.
  • Blackberries:  New breeding improvements have made blackberries a real possibility to succeed this far north, and we are looking seriously at putting in a sizable planting.  This will likely require acquiring some new sandier soil, which is something we are still trying to work through.
  • Rosemary:  We love using this great herb at home, but it is typically not winter-hardy this far north. We are considering a potted system that can be brought indoors when the weather gets cold.



These are some of the carrots we
harvested from the caterpillar
tunnels.  So delicious!
Usually a couple new things we try each year don’t work out in the end, but we are excited to try these new items along with all the old favorites!  This season, with our new caterpillar tunnels, we will have over 60% more covered space than last year (for a total close to ½ an acre)  so we are looking forward to a longer season for the CSA on potatoes, cucumbers, red and green peppers, carrots, and beets in particular.

Last season had some of the worst weather of any season we have experienced, so we are looking forward to hitting the reset button and seeing what 2020 has in store!

This year we'll also be reshuffling some of the equipment we bought when we first started the farm, and that we've outgrown over the last nine years.  At first we thought we might even have to upgrade our beloved green tractor to a larger model, but we're going to stretch its life with us for a few more years with some creative use of different implements.  We will also likely be a part of a research project from MSU that will bring some other equipment to our farm.

We never know what a new season will bring, but we are really excited about all of the new changes we're making for the 2020 season, and all the possibilities this year holds!

Friday, December 6, 2019

CSA Newsletter for December

Farm Update


We're already planting ahead for next
season!  Under the straw is next year's
garlic, and to the left of the garlic, we
have spinach overwintering under the
plastic tunnel.  To the left of the
spinach, there is a taller caterpillar
tunnel, under which are some carrots
we planted earlier in the fall.
Hi everyone!  Well, it's definitely winter out there!  The winter weather came abnormally early this year and ended our farm season rather abruptly with a hard freeze during the second week of November.  It's been pretty miserable outside at the farm with the freezing rain, so instead of the outside projects Fred usually does this time of year, he's been using his time to tackle all of the home improvement projects that have been building up.  He's also been poring over the seed catalogs that have been arriving at the house over the last few weeks, which is one of his favorite December activities.  It's pretty fun watching him get all geeked out about new varieties of kale and squash, and we're planning on unveiling in the January newsletter all of the new vegetable varieties we'll be growing next year.  Fred is also going to the New England Fruit and Vegetable Growers Conference next week to talk with other growers and learn about new techniques that other farms like ours are using.  Most of the farms on the East Coast are on the cutting edge of season-extension and organic production techniques, so he's really excited to learn all he can at the conference.  It will be good to look forward and make plans for next season, because this season definitely didn't go the way we hoped and expected.  With the cold, rainy spring and the cold, rainy fall, we experienced more crop loss than we have in any other year.  Every year, we have one or two crops that don't do so well, but this year, quite a few of our crops fell short of our expectations.  We so appreciate all of our CSA members being with us throughout this season.  Your continuous support and encouragement have been huge for us, and we can't thank you enough!  I was reflecting over Thanksgiving about how grateful I am for all of you, who sign up for the CSA every year and put your faith in us, and make our farm possible.  You are really the ones who allow us to keep doing what we do and provide good, high-quality organic veggies to the community. So THANK YOU!  We so appreciate it!
     And just in case you were interested in signing up for next season and haven't done it yet, don't forget that anyone who signs up and puts down at least a half payment by December 31 saves $5 on their share!  The cost for a full share will be $560, and a half share will be $305, but if you send in a payment before the end of the year, you can just subtract $5!  So if you have any questions or want to sign up, just send me an email!  We would love to have you in the CSA again for the 2020 season!


Recipes



It's a tricky December for Michigan locavores this year.  Most years, you can still find all sorts of potatoes, carrots, cabbage, beets, onions, celery root, sweet potatoes, squash, kale, and lettuce at indoor farmer's markets, co-ops, and local grocery stores.  But pretty much all of the Michigan farmers I've talked to are in the same boat as we are, and they have a lot less food than usual for this time of year.  So what's a person to do if that person happens to be committed to eating local(ish) this December?  Root vegetables to the rescue!  Many farmers still have some potatoes, carrots, and beets in storage, so they'll be the stars of the show this winter!  Root vegetables can be stored for a long time after harvest as long as you keep them in temperatures similar to what you'd find in a refrigerator, so people relied heavily on the root cellar throughout the winter before the advent of modern produce shipping.  So if, like your great-grandparents (or any hard-core locavore), you're relying on whatever food your own community can produce, here's a wonderful recipe for Delicious Ham and Potato Soup!  It's great as written, or you can add in whatever else you might have on hand, like kale or carrots!  I'd just trade out the chicken bouillon the recipe calls for in favor of a quality chicken stock, and then adjust the quantity of water accordingly.  So put on a big pot of soup, build a fire in the fireplace, and settle in with a cozy blanket and a good book, because it's time to embrace the winter!

Saturday, November 2, 2019

CSA Newsletter for Week 20 1/2 :-)

Farm Update


The farm kitties love to sit on the soft onion skins that
 gather around our onion cleaner!
Hi everyone!  Welcome to week 20 1/2, which is the final week for the Alma and Mt. Pleasant drop-offs!  Since we started the Monday and Tuesday drop-offs the week after the Lansing and Midland drop-offs started, the folks who pick up in Alma and Mt. Pleasant get an extra week of veggies!  So we'll see you guys over the next few days for your final drop-off!





What to Expect in This Week's Share


If you are picking up at the regular drop-offs this week, here are your options:

  • Potatoes or a bag of small onions
  • Lettuce
  • Squash or sweet potatoes
  • Beets, leeks, or cabbage
  • Radishes, kale, or turnips
  • Baby carrots or Brussels sprouts
  • Onion

If you have your share delivered to your home or workplace, here are your options this week:


Share A:  Potatoes, romaine lettuce, squash, leeks, kale, Brussels sprouts, and a red onion.

Share B: Bag of small onions, romaine lettuce, squash, cabbage, turnips, baby carrots, and a red onion.

Share C:  Potatoes, spring mix, sweet potatoes, beets, radishes, baby carrots, and a red onion.

             

Recipes



Photo of Smokey Sausage, Kale & Sweet Potato Soup by Hillshire Farm® BrandIs it just me, or when the weather gets like this, do you just want to eat hot soup for pretty much every meal?  Here is a great recipe for Smokey Sausage, Kale, and Sweet Potato Soup to warm you up!  This is a great way to use many of the fall veggies that are available this time of year, and it's so versatile that you can switch out ingredients and throw in other items that you have kicking around in your kitchen.  Enjoy and stay warm! :-)

Saturday, October 26, 2019

CSA Newsletter for Week 20

Farm Update


Don't all of these colorful beets just make you
smile?  Not only are they delicious, they are
also totally pretty!
Hi everyone! Here we are in week 20!  This is the last full week of the CSA, and the last time we're going to see the Lansing, Okemos, and Midland folks this year.  The Alma and Mt. Pleasant drop-offs will have another week after this, because technically this is only the 19th week that they've gotten veggies.  As you might recall, we started the Wednesday and Thursday drop-offs the first week, but didn't start the Monday and Tuesday drop-offs until week 2, so you Alma and Mt. Pleasant members will actually get veggies in the first week of November! 

It's always bittersweet to wrap up the CSA for the season, because I love getting to see everyone at the drop-offs each week, and I won't get to see most of you until June.  But on the other hand, when the weather gets cold and rainy and generally nasty, that's nature's signal that it's time to give the fields a rest and head inside to a nice warm fire.  And I'm definitely looking forward to that too.  Thank you all for another great CSA season!  We are so grateful to all of you who have supported our farm this season, and especially to all of you who have come back year after year.   You make this whole crazy farm thing possible, and we really couldn't do it without you.  So THANK YOU!!!

And if you're interested in signing up for next year, just let me know!  The price is going to remain the same next year ($560 for a full share and $305 for a half share at the regular drop-offs, and just hit me up for a quote if you are interested in home/workplace delivery).  And anyone who puts down at least a half payment by December 31 gets $5 off their share price.  So if you know you want to join again next year, let me know, and I'll sign you up!  



What to Expect in This Week's Share


If you are picking up at one of our traditional style drop-offs (Alma, Mt. Pleasant, and 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!

  • Baby carrots or beets
  • Bag of small onions
  • Potatoes or cabbage
  • Lettuce or Brussels sprouts
  • Squash or sweet potatoes
  • Radishes, kale, or cooking greens
  • Microgreens, shallot, 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, B, or C, and if you have a full share, you can choose two of them.  So just email me by lunchtime the day before your drop-off to let me know which share you want for this week!  If I don't hear from you, I'll just choose for you. :-)

Share A:  Baby carrots, bag of small onions, potatoes, lettuce, sweet potatoes, radishes, and microgreens.

Share B: Beets, bag of small onions, potatoes, lettuce, butternut squash, kale, and a shallot.

Share C:  Baby carrots, bag of small onions, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, Tetsukabuto squash, cooking greens, and an onion.

             

Recipes



Roasted Root VegetablesThis time of year just calls for Roasted Root Vegetables!  This is a delicious, hearty, and WARM way to enjoy all of the awesome root vegetables in your share this week!  And the recipe is so easy, even the kitchen-phobes in your family can help make it.  We like to use rosemary as our herb of choice with roasted root vegetables, but parsley or thyme would be pretty good too.  (And I am now going to have that song in my head for the rest of the night.  Oh well.  There are definitely worse things than some Simon and Garfunkel, haha!)

Saturday, October 19, 2019

CSA Newsletter for Week 19

Farm Update


A lot of people don't realize that carrots
come in colors other than orange, but
they do!  We're going to have our
multicolored carrot mix in the CSA
shares this week!  Just look at these beauties!
Hi everyone!  Welcome to week 19 of the CSA!  We've been doing a lot of fall tasks this week at the farm; Fred was able to pull out most of the old tomato plantings that were past their prime, which frees up space in the coldframes to plant hardier crops that will last for the next few months.  He's been prepping the soil in the recently vacated coldframes, and over the next few days, we'll plant that space with spinach, lettuce, and mache.  We've had a few significant frosts this week, which fortunately haven't done too much damage, except to the tomatoes and peppers, which we pretty much expected this time of year.

We're also opening up sign-ups for next year, so you can get on the list for the 2020 season any time!  You know the old joke about how if you don't like the weather in Michigan, wait five minutes?  Given the variability in Michigan weather, especially in the spring and fall, we feel like we've had a harder time having the variety of vegetables we want to be able to offer until the 20th week of the CSA. So we've decided that starting next year, we'll have 19 weeks of the CSA instead of 20.  Most years, we raise the price of CSA shares by a few dollars to account for inflation and the increasing cost of labor, but we're going to leave the prices exactly where they are for the 2020 season.  So full shares are going to continue to be $560, and half shares are going to continue to be $305 for next year.  That said, it really helps us out when CSA members put down a payment early for the following year, because it allows us to manage expenses throughout the winter.  So anyone who signs up and pays at least half of their share cost before December 31 will get $5 off their CSA membership for next year!  So if you know you want to sign up, let me know, and I'll put you on the list for CSA season 2020! :-)

What to Expect in This Week's Share


If you are picking up at one of our traditional style drop-offs (Alma, Mt. Pleasant, and 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!

  • Potatoes or a bag of small onions
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Squash
  • Surprise veggie
  • Kale, cooking greens mix, or microgreens
  • Radishes or beets
  • 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, B, or C, and if you have a full share, you can choose two of them.  So just email me by lunchtime the day before your drop-off to let me know which share you want for this week!  If I don't hear from you, I'll just choose for you. :-)

Share A:  Potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, kale, multicolored carrots, radishes, onion.

Share B: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, cooking greens mix, Brussels sprouts, beets, onion.

Share C:  Potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, microgreens, multicolored carrots, beets, onion.

             

Recipes



I was talking to someone at the drop-off last week who was asking about all the different things we do with sweet potatoes, and I was reminded of this amazing Sweet Potato Pie that I make every fall!  You can also make it without a crust (either if you're gluten free, or if you just don't want to take the time to make a pie crust), and it comes out like more of a custard.  I usually make this for our son Timmy's birthday in November, but I think I'll make it early this year, because it just feels like time.  I hope you all enjoy it as much as we do!

Saturday, October 12, 2019

CSA Newsletter forWeek 18

Farm Update


Right now, most of the crops growing
in the fields are fall veggies like these
carrots, because the summer vegetables
have been put to rest for the year.
Hi everyone! This is definitely a week where you win some and you lose some.  We were able to turn under a lot of ground that used to be planted with onions, and we've planted a cover crop of rye on those plots.  That will help the soil to store up nutrients throughout the winter and spring, and we'll have stronger soil to plant in when again it is the season for planting.  On Thursday and Friday we were able to get the rest of the sweet potatoes out of the ground and safely into the barn before the ground starts to freeze, so we're glad to have them stored up in the barn and ready to bring to the CSA drop-offs!  We've also been pretty successful at keeping the deer out of the farm and away from our veggies this week.  The downside is that the almost incessant rain and cold have really caused a lot of our crops to go downhill quickly.  While many of the crops are turned under and put to rest for the year, some of the vegetables that are still in the field are really struggling.  We have several successive plantings of carrots that do not seem to be growing in size, which confounds us to no end.  The Brussels sprouts are late in becoming ready to harvest, but they should start trickling in next week or so.  It feels like fall came upon us really quickly, and most of the summer crops dried up almost overnight.  So now is the time to really embrace the root vegetables, squash, and hearty greens of autumn!  The list of what we'll have have in the shares this week reads like a menu for Thanksgiving dinner!  So bring out your autumn decorations, pick up some apple cider, and put the extra blankets on the beds.  Because ready or not, fall is here!

What to Expect in This Week's Share


If you are picking up at one of our traditional style drop-offs (Alma, Mt. Pleasant, and 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 or beets
  • Potatoes
  • Squash or a bag of small onion
  • Surprise veggie
  • Cabbage, kale, or cooking greens mix
  • Radishes, turnips, or 2 peppers
  • Onion, garlic, or microgreens

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, B, or C, and if you have a full share, you can choose two of them.  So just email me by lunchtime the day before your drop-off to let me know which share you want for this week!  If I don't hear from you, I'll just choose for you. :-)

Share A:  Sweet potatoes, potatoes, butternut squash, surprise veggie, cabbage, 2 peppers, garlic

Share B: Beets, potatoes, butternut squash, surprise veggie, cooking greens mix, turnips, onion

Share C:  Sweet potato, potatoes, acorn squash, surprise veggie, kale, radishes, microgreens

             

Recipes


Normally we don't do a lot of casseroles at our house, because we really love meals where the freshness and quality of the vegetables can really shine.  But in the fall, sometimes you just want some good old-fashioned comfort food, and these Creamy Au Gratin Potatoes are exactly the thing for weather like this!  Try out this awesome potato goodness on a damp, windy evening and relish the fact that you don't have to go outside!  :-)