CSA distribution # 14 & newsletter

Our next CSA distribution will be Monday July 2 and Thursday July 5. We’re past the solstice, but not the halfway point of the CSA season yet. We’ll personally be very grateful when the days start becoming noticeably shorter, especially given the likelihood of a very hot summer to come. Lots of summer produce is about to start appearing; read on for more along with farm photos and menu ideas for this week.Three new & exciting products will likely appear in this share:

The first cherry tomatoes, though probably only a few once these early-ripeners are divided up amongst everyone. Lots more on the plants though. Green beans are yielding, too, as seen on the plant above.The cucumbers are booming, and these will definitely feature in this week’s share. When we scheduled the July 14 member event on food preservation, we were wondering if we’d have much to demonstrate canning with. This year, not an issue (unless everything cooks on the plants). Not quite ready but coming soon are the peppers, which are loaded with green fruit (above right). Slicer tomatoes will also be available soon, too.

THIS WEEK’S PRODUCE

NEW! Cherry tomatoes Just a few tantalizing tastes. Orange ones are Sungold, the only hybrid tomato we’re growing. We had been sticking to 100% open pollinated tomatoes for the past few years, but Sungolds are just too sweet & yummy to resist.
NEW! Cucumbers Green & white/yellow varieties; the latter are especially tasty.
NEW! Green filet beans We tend to pick these small & tender.
NEW! Cured garlic First of the season, likely softnecks, as these were the first to be harvested & thus also cured. Softnecks tend to have a mix of larger and smaller cloves, and the flavors tend to be excellent but less spicy than some of the hardnecks. We adore softnecks for many raw uses (including pesto), as they provide an excellent garlic flavor but not so much of a lingering aftertaste.
Scallions Lots more of these, a good standard allium for all uses.
Cabbage Two more weeks of these. These are in storage now.
Beet roots Lots more of these, as we harvested ~180 lb this week to escape the heat. These will hold nicely in the cooler for a while, giving us something to distribute even if everything else roasts on the vine.
Summer squash Producing absurdly well and members are taking more than we could have hoped, but few restaurant sales. Tell us if you want a preservation batch with quantities greater than the survey offers; we will likely be able to fulfill such requests. Otherwise, the pigs will enjoy some tasty squash.

HERBS
We’re going to back off on the quantity of herb bundles for the next couple of weeks. The excessive heat means that herbs have to be harvested in the precious cool hours of the morning when many other tasks also need to be done. Also, some of the herbs are suffering from the heat. Those factors, combined with the fact that we’re short on employee time next week means we need to ease off on these temporarily.

Shiso: This is the first time we’ve grown it. We’ve read that it has a cinnamon-like flavor, but we think the flavor is much more reminiscent of cumin. Shiso is related to basil and is also cold sensitive (according to this site); thus, the flower-bouquet style storage (as for basil) is probably best. Currently harvesting green shiso. We also have a few plants of red, but they were more troublesome to get started & thus aren’t ready to harvest yet.
Basil:
We’re going to list this in the produce section of the survey so you have a chance to request extras. Basil generally does not store well in the refrigerator; it will usually turn brown from the excessive cold & drying. Long stems can be stored in a jar of water at room temperature (as you would a bouquet of flowers). Short stems will store in the refrigerator in a bag or sealed container for a little while.
Green coriander
Sage
Tarragon

Orange mint
Kentucky colonel mint
Chives
Lemon balm:
Flowering, but we think the flavor is pretty good right now.
Catnip: Also flowering.

Taking some time off: Oregano is flowering and could use a break. We’ve had some trouble with garlic chives getting droopy in extreme dry & hot conditions.

ON-FARM FOOD
We had a great time hosting last Sunday’s June member pizza dinner. Upon arrival, Joanna and our guests took a walk around the farm to harvest fresh ingredients, then returned to the house to assemble a series of excellent farm-based pizzas. Below are just a few; on-farm ingredients in italics:

Above left: Siberian garlic, tomatoes, basil, farm-raised/cured pancetta, chevre.  Above center: garlic, squash, pancetta, aged goat cheddar, basil. Above right: garlic, kale, goat ricotta, tomatoes, peppers. Other ingredients included filet beans, a green pepper, a new potato, and rosemary.Other good meals this week included more of our beloved Asian cabbage slaw (above right) and a nice vegetable stir-fry of garlic, scallions, squash, green beans, peppers, tomatoes, fennel, kohlrabi, cilantro, goat chevre, a friend’s homemade habanero sauce, and organic rice. Meals like these really don’t need other flavorings; just lightly cook the veggies together and let their fresh quality stand out.

OTHER FARM HAPPENINGS

It’s bone-dry and hot, near-record temps for late June. The St. Louis forecast office notes that the region hasn’t seen a June stretch of weather this hot, this long, in over 60 years. Above, you see the NWS 8-14 day outlook for temperature (left) and precipitation (right). Here in central Missouri we’re likely to be hotter and drier than average for at least the next few weeks. Argh. While dry conditions have their benefits, too-hot conditions are just plain negative.

Below is the goats’ current and future stretch of pasture, the lowest and wettest area on the farm. It should NOT look that brown in late June. Last year this area was lush green and around shoulder-high; this year it’s below our waists and already dying back. The goats are rotating through their paddocks far faster than desirable, and the already-grazed areas aren’t growing back much.

Thus we chose Tuesday, the coolest day of the week and foreseeable future, as butchering day and did away with three of the seven goat kids. One for us, one for each of our main two employees, one of whom was able to come help us on short notice (thank you!). We got up around 4am to beat the sun & heat, and had all three dealt with and the area cleaned up by 10am. About the last thing we wanted to have to do, and the meat yield was a lot lower for the same work than it would have been in November, but the herd size had to drop if we’re going to make it through this year.

On the other hand, the pigs are doing great so far, benefiting from the extra whey produced from all our cheesemaking (with 4 milking does and milk sales low, we’re making lots of cheese for ourselves) and all the extra produce around like unsold zucchini and beet greens (taken off beet roots so they’ll store better).

This week marks our transition to a summer hot-weather work schedule (also a month ahead or more). We wake up around 4:30 am, have a quick snack, work outside until around 9 or 10am, have another breakfast, try to sleep again until noon or 1, do office/barn/low-energy work until late afternoon, eat an early dinner, then work outdoors again until dark, have another late snack, then try to make it to bed by 10:30. It messes with our bodies until we get adjusted, but makes handling these temperature conditions a little more manageable. This sort of flexible schedule is one benefit of self-employed farming as opposed to some other outdoor jobs, but also makes it hard to integrate workers into the system, as their availability is generally driven by “normal” peoples’ schedules, not weather and other natural factors. We like to joke that we work the opposite of banker’s hours: 5-9, except we do so twice a day.

While these conditions are harsh and frustrating, on their own for a week or so they’re not unexpected at some point in a Missouri summer. What makes this so worrying is that (a) they’re coming after nearly two months of drought already, (b) far earlier in the season than average, and thus (c) the high potential for the rest of the summer to remain this hot and dry, or worse. As we started saying back in the absurdly warm March, the real worry was if this temperature anomaly remained throughout the summer. So far, that’s showing every sign of coming true. Enjoy the produce while you can, before it or we wilt for good.

One thought on “CSA distribution # 14 & newsletter

  1. We really appreciated the beautiful abundance of summer squash this week. In addition to a zucchini curry on the menu, we shredded, blanched and froze several batches for later use in baked goods and also used our dehydrator to make zucchini chips that were wonderful!