CSA distribution #8 & newsletter

Our next CSA distribution will be Monday May 21 and Thursday May 24. It’s been a truly busy and tiring week for us as we’re fully occupied transplanting, seeding, maintaining, harvesting, packing, and delivering a wide range of produce to CSA and restaurants along with animal management on the side. That, and the pest pressure seems to be on the upswing. Things won’t slow down again until sometime in late fall. We actually took a partial day off on Tuesday to explore the back roads of north-central Missouri, our first such break in over a month. It was a wonderful day, but created the inevitable backlog of work that had us outside until after dark on Wednesday, finishing our chores with headlamps and eating dinner around 10pm. Thursday was a near repeat. The weather remains glorious and we’re very happy with the shares we’ve been able to put out so far. Read for more on this week’s share and what’s happening on the farm.

Above is a typical share from last week: scallions, herbs, saute mix, lettuce mix, garlic scapes, radishes, turnips, kale, & strawberries. That’s a great collection for mid-May. Here’s what’s expected in the coming week:

PRODUCE

NEW! Head lettuce
Replacing the cut lettuce mix, which is now finished, a variety of head lettuces will be available for the next few weeks. These also make great salads while being easier to use for things like sandwiches.

NEW! Mustard greens
These beautiful plants have a rich, spicy flavor that adds a lot to many dishes. We love it sauteed with garlic (scapes!) and kale, topped with a bit of vinegar. Try it also in soups/stews, Southern beans, and more.

Saute mix
The standard mix of baby greens, available for 1-2 more weeks (we’re starting on the last planting now). We eat near-daily salads of this mixed with lettuce, as well as sauteing it, adding it to egg dishes, pasta, and much more.

Kale
Similar bundles to previous weeks, cooks similar to mustard greens and mixes very well with them.

Scallions
A standard for weeks to come, a tasty addition to almost any raw or cooked dish.

Garlic scapes
Depending on how strong these come on, there could be a lot available this week. Try preserving some as garlic scape pesto, a delight to thaw later in the year and spread on fresh pizza, pasta, and so much more.

Radishes
Available for at most two more weeks, as we’re starting to harvest the last bed. We go through lots of these a week, chopped onto our daily salads and mixed in with most of our sauteed greens dishes. When they’re finally gone, many new things should be ready to take their place (like beets and peas).

Turnips (skipping a week)
These won’t be available in this share, as we planted two small test beds in succession and the next round isn’t ready yet. Probably the following week, bridging the gap between radishes and beets.

Strawberries
Probably the last week for these, as yields are starting to drop again and Eric’s back is rebelling against the schedule of picking for two hours every 36 hours. They’ve done great this year and we hope everyone has enjoyed and appreciated this treat. The quantity this week may depend on our ability to outsmart one or more mammalian pests (probably a possum, but maybe also a coon) that have gotten past our electric fence in the lower set of strawberry beds. The battery in the solar charger that keeps the zap on the fence seems to have failed, and in spite of running out to swap out chargers just after dinner last night at 10 p.m., the critter seems to have made it into the fence, and there don’t appear to be many ripe berries in the patch at the moment. Thankfully, we have two strawberry patches, and the other fence (which runs off of electric from the house) has been effective so far.

HERBS
There are a few new herbs, but all in limited quantities, so each household will receive no more than one bundle of the new offerings. There’s lots of cilantro this week, and I think I need to harvest it heavily this week to catch it before it bolts.

NEW: Dill (leaf): Delicious on salads.
NEW: Anise hyssop: Very limited quantities. I (Joanna) planted this last year, and it overwintered nicely. The leaves have a lovely anise/licorice flavor that I like to nibble on in the herb garden, but regrettably I haven’t yet gotten around to using it in the kitchen. A google recipes search will turn up some ideas. Looks like both leaves and flowers can be used; the plants that I’ll be harvesting are not yet flowering. I’d love to hear how members make use of it, and feedback on whether I should add more plants would be welcome.
NEW: Flat leaf parsley
: Just a little available right now, but there should be plenty more coming.
Cilantro:
This needs to be harvested heavily while it is still good. Cilantro almond pesto is a great way to enjoy a large quantity; we like the version in the Moosewood Celebrates cookbook, but other versions are available online.
Oregano
Sage: Bundles include some flower stalks as well as leafier stems.
Tarragon
Orange mint
Kentucky colonel mint
: Insect damage tends to become more problematic this time of year; it is still tasty, but maybe not quite as pretty.
Garlic chives

Chives
Lemon balm
Back later in the year:
Thyme needs some time off. It is flowering really heavily now, and it has been taking more and more effort to find nice leafy parts for bundles. We’ll leave it to the bees and butterflies for now, and start harvesting it again after a break.

EGGS (sold separately)
Eggs are $6/dozen and will be no more than a week old when distributed (usually just a couple of days). There will be 4-5 dozen available on each distribution day.

FRESH GOAT’S MILK (sold separately)
Milk is $6/ half-gallon, no more than 2 days old. Easy uses (beyond cheese & yogurt) include ice cream, egg nog, cream sauces, chowders, caramels, baking, and more.

RECENTLY ON THE FARM

Irrigation has been the theme this week, as we haven’t recorded rain since May 6 and this long stretch of clear weather with low humidity has been rapidly drying out the soil. These are the conditions that make southern California so amenable to vegetable production, except there farmers get heavily subsidized irrigation water drawn from distant mountains and rivers to make it possible to grow plants under otherwise near-desert conditions. Midwestern growers don’t get such handouts, one reason local produce in many areas appears higher-priced than the artificially cheap stuff at the grocery store.

Above left, you see an irrigation header line running from one of our all-weather hydrants. These feed a network of drip lines like those seen above right, watering young beets. The lines emit small but regular amounts of water along their length, allowing the water to soak into the ground instead of evaporating the way a sprinkler system would. It’s a very efficient way to get water to the roots zones of vegetables, which in general need the equivalent of 1″ of rain per week for maximum performance. Although irrigation is somewhat annoying to manage, it also has the benefit of not encouraging mass weed growth the way natural rain does. That being said, we’d be really happy with a good soaking rain this weekend to recharge soil moisture throughout the farm, including our pastures.

Other regular work has included weeding and thinning young plants, such as the beets Eric is working on above left. We continue to transplant swaths of summer items like the young cucumbers set out under the row cover fabric above right. The cattle-panel hoops are our favorite method of trellising cucumber vines.

Pest activity has started to pick up. Adult cabbage white butterflies have been flying around the field, and sure enough their caterpillars are hatching out on the cabbages. We’re willing to live with some holes in the cabbage to avoid spraying (even pretty benign & organic-approved things like Bt), but the population is big enough that we’re going to have to continue to hand pick some of these. Squash bugs and cucumber beetles managed to both get under the row cover of the young summer squash planting, so those are getting hand-picked as well. (The cucumber row cover is brand new with no holes and well secured to hopefully avoid such problems, now that we know the populations are heavy). And, of course, there are the mammalian pests in the strawberries. It’s that time of year…

COMING SOON
Late spring items like peas, beets, carrots, cabbage, and more are growing well. We’re starting to see the first significant populations of insect pests develop, and that will be a major factor in how the next month (and the rest of the season) unfolds after an excellent spring.

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