Hi everyone! The weather outside is frightful, and the holiday season is upon us! It's just the type of weather that makes you want to start a nice fire in the fireplace and work indoors, which is exactly what I'm doing. The farm is officially in the off-season, which has a much different rhythm than the main growing season. My farm related work takes place mostly indoors these days, and can be compressed into a few hours a week. It's mainly administrative work like doing payroll, invoicing our few remaining stores who are still getting deliveries, and keeping the books up to date. Fred still spends a few hours at the farm each day, preparing orders, harvesting the remaining leafy greens we still have in the field (pictured at left), and doing general maintenance stuff, but it's a lot less intense than it was for so many months. Once the snow starts flying, it's finally time to take a break.
Farm work looks a lot different late November and December than it does during the active farm months. Fred has been checking the mailbox every day like a kid anticipating birthday cards, hoping that his favorite seed catalog will arrive soon. Each year when the Johnny's catalog makes its appearance, you can find Fred sitting by the fire with a cup of coffee, poring over all of the new seed varieties, deciding what to try, and preparing our massive seed order that we usually put in in early December. We used to do that in January, but the last few years have taught us that we have to get our order in before anyone else is even thinking about seeds, or we run the risk of not being able to get the quantities or the particular varieties we need. Choosing our seed varieties and ordering the right amount of everything to keep our 20 acres producing all of the veggies we love, in the right quantities, at the right times, is a big process. It is a mental feat of strength that results, after a few days, in a massive spreadsheet that represents the growing plan for the following season, a large order of thousands of dollars worth of seeds, and then a few more smaller orders throughout the season.
And once the seeds are chosen and the order has been placed, we've got another big project on the docket for December! We purchased a pretty large used greenhouse at an auction from a flower nursery in Muskegon that is going out of business. Fortunately, it was very inexpensive, but the tricky part is that it requires deconstructing it at its current location, loading all the parts up, hauling them to Alma, and reconstructing everything at the farm. Fred anticipates that it will take him, Callie, Taran, and whatever other friends are crazy enough to help, anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks to take it down, and probably a lot longer to put it back together after the new year. Obviously, December in Michigan is not the time of year you want to be spending outside deconstructing a greenhouse all day, but it is the time of year we have available, so it kind of is what it is. In the interest of not having to drive back and forth from Muskegon constantly for a week or more, Fred is considering renting an Airbnb near the deconstruction site for a few days where everyone involved can stay, and just working all-out for a few days to get it done. We're not exactly sure yet what this project is going to look like, but I'll keep you all posted in the next newsletter and let you know how it went. I guarantee there will be blood and sweat, but hopefully no tears. Or frostbite.
Once we get the greenhouse torn down, brought to the farm, and reconstructed, the plan is to have all of our tomato production in the greenhouse next year! This year was a great year for cherry tomatoes, which were all in the hoophouses (unheated greenhouses), and a very underwhelming year for our slicing tomatoes, which were primarily outside in the field. In order to have our slicing tomatoes earlier, have more of them, and have them all be the quality we expect in order to bring them to you, they really need to be in a hoophouse. Hence, the new greenhouse, which is about twice as large as any of our current hoophouses. We're not intending to use any supplemental heat this year, but the greenhouse does come with all the materials and equipment to set it up for heating if we want to in the future. Because if there's anything we've learned about the farm over the last 12 seasons, it's that we have to be ready to pivot on very short notice!
But for right now, it's time to settle in and enjoy the indoor part of the year. The busy part of the season, where I can count the number of waking hours spent indoors each week on one hand, will be back before we know it. As I write this, I'm looking out my window at a harsh winter landscape, all stark white and naked branches. But in my mind's eye, I can see those same bare trees in all their leafy glory, and our neighbor's horses grazing in the field across the road. It will all return in its season, and with the summer will come next year's CSA! If you haven't signed up for next year yet, here is the link to the 2023 Sign-up Form! As a reminder, the prices will be going up next year (from $330 to $340 for a half share, and from $610 to $630 for a full share at the regular drop-offs). But if you sign up and put down at least a partial payment before the new year, you'll get your 2023 share at the 2022 price! And if you're interested in home delivery, just indicate that on the sign-up form, and I'll check your address to make sure it's within our delivery radius. Just let me know if you have any questions about next year or anything else, and thank you so much for another great farm year! See you in June! :-)
Thanksgiving is coming up, and there is nothing that says "fall harvest abundance" like a table surrounded by loved ones and loaded down with turkey, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberries, and all the rest! You probably already have your favorite recipes for all of these delicious foods that you or someone you love will be preparing later this week, but just in case you don't, here is what Fred and I will be bringing to family Thanksgiving at my parents' house on Thursday! Feel free to steal our ideas, especially if you still have some of these long-lasting storage veggies from the CSA!
Spicy-Sweet Roasted Sweet Potatoes. When I was a kid, I thought I didn't like sweet potatoes because the only time I had them was on Thanksgiving, and they were always mashed and covered with marshmallows. So now, since we have a farm with a ton of sweet potatoes, I always sign up to bring them to Thanksgiving dinner. These are savory with a little kick, and no marshmallows in sight!
Apple, Bacon, Kale, and Goat Cheese Salad. This is the closest recipe I could find on the internet to the recipe Fred created a few years ago, and that we always bring to family Thanksgiving. I probably won't be adding the pomegranate seeds (because I'm too impatient to get them all out of the pomegranate) or the pepitas (because we already ate all of the ones we had left over from our various pumpkin adventures), but other than that, this is extremely similar to the kale salad that will grace our Thanksgiving table. The trick is to rub your hands with olive oil and massage the kale in your hands first, so it can break down the toughness and slight bitterness. If you're not a fan of raw kale, this might be what you've been missing all along! Give it a try!