CSA distribution #22 & newsletter

Our next CSA distribution will be Monday August 27 and Thursday August 30. We’ve gone over two months now without an inch of rain in a week’s time (even close only once); the August total is 0.08″ so far. One benefit of this is an absurdly low weed pressure, meaning the farm is about as manicured as it’s ever been and we can focus a little more time on other work. Like last week, we’ve also been taking a little more personal time, partly just through exhaustion, but it still feels good to do special things like attend the opening of Trey Bistro or watch a movie on a hot afternoon. Significant orders from Trey will likely start to draw CSA shares back down to a reasonable size, along with an expected dropoff in production as the drought continues. There’s a chance for decent rain this weekend, but we’ve seen this too many times before to believe it until it happens. Read on for more about this week’s share, and our loose forecast for fall crops.

THIS WEEK’S PRODUCE
Green beans (maybe) The first pole beans of fall are just starting to yield, with other bush beans growing as well. We’re not quite sure if there will be enough of these to include in the shares. If not this week, there should be some by next week.
Tomatillos
These will likely skip a week before returning. Though tomatillos have a reputation for being easy to grow, we’ve found them to be anything but easy, with a great susceptibility to stem borers.
Cherry tomatoes Small quantities; we suspect the plants are finally showing the results of earlier heat waves that interfered with proper fruit-set. Hopefully production will pick up again, but we’re not sure. Whatever the plants produce will be divided among members.
Slicer/sauce tomatoes
Diverse mix of tomatoes. Likely smaller amounts & no bulk this week due to increased restaurant orders.
Onions We didn’t grow enough onions to distribute them weekly for the rest of the season, so now that you’ve had a good taste we’re going to skip them for a couple weeks as a reserve against other, less storable products dropping off. We know we need to fiddle with the planting plan for next year to make more space for onions.
Okra 
Same as last week; some of you seem to be getting tired of okra, which is useful information for us. Unfortunately, the plants produce regardless of demand, so those who enjoy extra okra will certainly get it, though production does tend to slow when days are cooler &/or cloudy. At some point we’ll start cutting down plants to reduce harvest if needed.
Sweet pepper mix
Same as previous weeks.
Hot pepper mix
Same as last week, mix of Jalapeno, Anaheim, and Cayenne. We’ve been making lots of simple and tasty roasted pepper sauces by sticking halved & seeded hot & sweet peppers under a broiler for a few minutes, then blending with garlic/onion/tomato and so on. So easy and so tasty.
Garlic:
German Extra Hardy (good roaster & all-purpose) and Georgian Fire (spicy/hot raw, all-purpose cooked). German will be cut with a long neck this week.
Summer squash
Same as last week, up to a pound of young squash.
Cucumbers
Same as last week, up to a pound of mostly yellow cukes.

Above are the first green beans, and some typical sauce tomatoes that will become more and more common as the season progresses.

HERBS
We’ll stick with 4 herb bundles/full share and 2/part share this week.

Thyme
Oregano
Sage
Tarragon

Garlic chives
Orange mint
Kentucky colonel mint
Basil

Parsley
Shiso
Coriander

Dill heads

FALL EVENT SCHEDULE
Please keep in mind our two fall on-farm events: the September 8th potluck and October 27th goat roast party. We’d love to have good turnouts for these to allow more members to meet each other and celebrate this excellent first year (at least from our perspective). Please visit the Potluck Event Post for details, and to RSVP with what you plant to bring. Both events will be vegetarian/vegan friendly despite the second one’s headline feature, which may have to be altered a bit anyway if we don’t get enough rain before then (no moisture, no fires, no outdoor roasting).

A few comments last week noted that both events fall on Saturdays that also host MU home football games. As we stated in a response, we’re aware of that but set this event schedule back in February based on the farm’s fairly strict weekly/monthly schedule and the best overall days/times people said would work in last winter’s initial survey. These events need to be on Saturdays to work for our 7-day weekly schedule, and there are few Saturdays actually free of home games during September and October. Football is not a priority to us, though we understand it may be to others, and we’re sticking with event timing that works for us in our very tired and busy lives. Members will just have to decide what’s most important to them.

FALL SCHEDULING
By early September we’ll have hit our minimum goal for the number of CSA distributions (24) with several months to go. We’re working to get a wide variety of fall crops planted, though are unsure how many will succeed under current drought conditions (see below). We hope to stick with our original plan of delivering weekly shares through September, with a switch to every other week by mid-October, then possibly one or two through November and December (we’d like to get a nice Thanksgiving share to members). By late (or even mid) September, shares will largely depend on weather & crop conditions, such as first frost date, how long summer stuff like tomatoes & peppers last into fall, and whether we can get enough fall stuff started. As the season progresses and hard freezes start to happen, we will at some point have to take irrigation out for the winter, and so we’ll be more dependent on natural rain; that will also affect whether late-season shares happen.

Even as a market farm last year, we skipped every other week in October because it’s such a busy month, with first frosts prompting a lot of bulk harvest & cleanup work. By then, much of what we distribute has a shelf life of well more than a week: storage crops such as sweet potatoes & garlic are obvious, and fresh fall greens can last for two weeks in the refrigerator. For what it’s worth, the delivery schedule for the remainder of the year looks roughly like this:

September:
Weekly unless something catastrophic happens
October:
Monday 10/1 & Thursday 10/4: Possible share
Monday 10/8 & Thursday 10/11: Probable share
Monday 10/15 & Thursday 10/18: Definitely NO SHARE no matter how much produce is around. (We’ll be celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary.)
Monday 10/22 & Thursday 10/25: Probable share
Monday 10/29 & Thursday 11/1: NO SHARE due to fall party & family visit
November:
Monday 11/5 & Thursday 11/8: Share if sufficient product available.
Monday 11/12 & Thursday 11/15: NO SHARE
Monday 11/19 Thanksgiving share FOR ALL MEMBERS. Unless all of our storage crops catastrophically fail, there will be a Thanksgiving share, possibly including sweet potatoes, parsnips, garlic, leeks, winter squash, cooking &/or salad greens, etc. ALL SHARES WILL BE DELIVERED MONDAY UNLESS OTHERWISE ARRANGED.
Monday 11/26 & Thursday 11/29: NO SHARE
December:
Maximum of one final share, if sufficient product available, tentatively the second week of December, or whenever weather cooperates for harvest.

FALL CROP FORECAST

We’ve been trying to get lots of fall crops started (beets, radishes, carrots, lettuce, escarole, radicchio, mixed greens, broccoli, cabbage, kale, mustard, radishes, dill, cilantro, radishes), but it’s an uphill battle in these conditions. Getting any direct-seeded crops to germinate & survive in sun-scorched soil is a real challenge. Though we have had some success with germination, some seem to be dying back and/or growing slowly. Grasshoppers tend to be good at seeking out young, tender, recently germinated seedlings. Setting out transplants gives a slightly higher chance, but even these can suffer, especially when rodents burrow along right under the irrigation line, undermining the plants. Row cover fabric that’s needed to protect young plants from bugs (& rabbits) can also fry them. We’ve been seeding a larger field in bulk turnips & collard greens for winter goat food (trying to buffer rising hay & feed costs), but we’re not sure if anything will germinate or grow properly without real rain. Regardless of planting success, our diversity makes it likely we’ll have something to distribute over time. Long-season crops like sweet potatoes (above left) and parsnips (above right) look pretty good right now, though we never know until harvest just how many other critters have helped themselves to the goodies first. Garlic & onions store well and should be available through the fall. A couple more rounds of potatoes are fully harvested and being stored for later distribution as other crops give out.
Winter squash will be interesting to monitor. Our plants have a healthy flush of squash (above photos show Butternut squash, a still-green pumpkin, and Sunshine squash), but are also clearly suffering from conditions & pests and we’re not sure how much longer they’ll last. A very professional CSA farm we know near Kansas City, Fair Share Farm, recently reported struggles of their own with an initially excellent planting, so we wouldn’t be surprised if ours look like theirs in a few weeks. The double blast furnace that was Wednesday (98F, 15% humidity) and Thursday (97F, 18%), both with strong southerly winds, didn’t do the plants any good at all. We think there are enough ripe or nearly ripe squash to get some to each household even if the plants die young.

This weekend could well be a tipping point for fall crops. A good, soaking rain is just what they need to have a chance at getting better established, and to distract the rodents from their root zones for a few days. If we miss out, then the situation seems more dire. This growing season has been outside of our realm of experience since about…well, March. So far, so good, but we’re not sure for how much longer.

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