CSA share #1 & January newsletter

Weather permitting, the first CSA share of 2013 will be distributed Monday January 7th and Thursday January 10th.This will be a good trial run of the initial delivery routes, while functioning as an early-signing bonus for members who join up in time. We’ll be accepting members throughout spring until we fill up; the next share will probably happen in April. If you’re considering joining or rejoining the CSA, this would be a great time to do so.

NOTE ON BAGS & COOLERS FOR FIRST SHARE
New members especially, please remember to set out a cooler the morning of your delivery, letting us know where if it isn’t visually obvious (work deliveries will also want some way of keeping produce reasonably stored during the day). Even in winter, this helps buffer the temperature of your produce and keeps it stable. Like last year, shares will be delivered in household-specific cloth bags that you’ll exchange the following week (each household will have at least two bags dedicated). You don’t have to wash these, as we do them in batches each week.

THIS WEEK’S PRODUCE
Contents of this share are somewhat weather-dependent, being divided between storage crops already on-hand and in-field crops that can only be harvested if we have a stretch of above-freezing temperatures within a week of distribution. Click links on each item for more about its proper handling & use.
Butternut squash (full shares only)
Sweet potatoes
Onions
Garlic
Parsnips
(weather dependent)
Carrots 
(harvested in just-above-freezing temps on 12/30) These are sweet as candy.
Leeks
(weather dependent)
Mercuri winter-keeping tomatoes
(see note below)
Spinach
(weather dependent)
Thyme
(weather dependent)

ITEM NOTES
Mercuri tomatoes are a type of heirloom storage tomato that we harvest just before frost and put on shelves to ripen until needed during the winter; read this old 2008 blog post for background & description. We particularly like these roasted; just halve them, toss with olive oil and salt, spread on a baking tray cut side up (above, with garlic & onion), then roast at 450ºF for 20-30 minutes, stirring once. Full shares will only get about half the amount pictured above, still enough to blend into a small sauce or add flavor to a nice soup. Also, remember to store onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, squash, and tomatoes on your kitchen counter, NOT in the fridge.

MENU IDEAS
– Roasted root vegetables (sweet potato, onion, garlic, carrot, parsnip, tossed with oil and a bit of salt, @450ºF for 20-30 minutes, stirring once or twice)
– Spinach salad (spinach, shredded carrots, other toppings)
– Leek & parsnip soup (blend sauteed then boiled vegetables with milk to make creamy soup)
– “Pumpkin” pie (follow any recipe for pumpkin pie using either baked & pureed winter squash or sweet potatoes instead of pumpkin, or skip the crust and bake it as a custard)
– Vegetable stew (onions, leeks, garlic, tomatoes, parsnips, sweet potatoes, broth)
– Roasted tomato sauce (tomatoes, onions, garlic; use on pasta or as salsa)

Many root vegetables make excellent cast-iron skillet dishes. Above left, diced sweet potatoes, often tossed with homemade pepper sauces. Above right, Elliot Coleman’s Breakfast Parsnips with organic Missouri pecans and maple syrup.

Above left, roasted sweet potatoes. Many of the roots we’ll distribute are small in diameter; we actually prefer these to the fat ones because they’re so easy to slice into consistent coins like those above for easy and even roasting. Above right, a classic winter soup made with mixed root vegetables, Mercuri tomatoes, and farm-grown beans. It’s hard to go wrong with basic soups/stews when the starting ingredients are good.

RECENTLY ON THE FARM
We’ve been busy with end-of-year office & accounting work, while starting to plan for next year including putting together our 2013 seed order. Logging & biochar burning allow us to enjoy outdoors work whenever possible (we can only handle so much time indoors). We’re also culling old hens and helping a neighbor family butcher their multiple home pigs.

WHAT’S GOING RIGHT
Last year at this time, we were putting a ton of stressful time and energy into planning/discussing CSA details, making the huge transition from our experiences as a market farm. We also put a lot of time into developing a long-term rotation plan. This winter, we’re really feeling the beneficial effects of all that planning, as well as the increased stability of the CSA system, as it’s making our winter planning work & seed orders more straightforward (though still time-consuming).

WHAT’S NOT SO GREAT
Uncertainty over future weather conditions (see below) is a significant stress right now, as has been more computer trouble.

WEATHER NOTES
We’re delighted with the recent cold weather, as it’s desperately needed to help knock back overwintering weeds and pests. We do not want to repeat last year’s consistently mild winter that had all sorts of long-term implications for the year. We’re still desperately dry, though. Barring any unlikely massive precipitation event in the last few days of 2012, this area will end up around 12″ below average precipitation for the year (see the NWS’s 2012 climate graph for Columbia). Keep in mind that, as bad as the 2012 drought was, as of late as May we were above average in precipitation. We’re really worried about 2013 being another hot, dry year, but starting from a much harsher position. Thus, any rain or snow this winter is highly welcome, particularly snow as it ensures all the moisture soaks in gradually, whereas heavier rain just runs off the parched ground.

 

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