CSA distribution #5 & newsletter

The next CSA distribution will be Monday June 3 and Thursday June 6. It has been a bit of a rough week, but what food there is still tastes plenty good.

THIS WEEK’S PRODUCE
Spring radish mix Even the late-planted radishes are bolting, but we’ll get you what we can.
Green onions
Kale 
Head lettuce
These have grown nicely
Mustard greens This rich, spicy green is great sauteed or in soups.
Strawberries
We should have enough ripening by next week to get a small amount to everyone. Hopefully we can maintain these for a couple weeks, but we’re also seeing a far higher incidence of rotting berries compared to past years because of the continued heavy rain & soggy conditions.

It’s important to know that the varieties we grow, mostly Sparkle and some Earliglow, are NOT your standard commercial strawberries. These have excellent, intense flavor but as with many fruits and vegetables, the tradeoff for that quality is poor storage properties, especially for Sparkle. We don’t distribute berries harvested more than a day beforehand, and you should eat and enjoy them right away. (Note: We also have a few plants of Annapolis strawberries that we put in as a trial; we will be ending that trial as these taste about as good as cardboard in our opinion; big, beautiful, blech.)

Coming soon: We’ve seen the first hint of garlic scapes forming; hopefully these will make an appearance in share #6. Hakurei turnips & kohlrabi should be ready soon, as well. Some of the pods of the bush snap peas are developing, and the pole peas (which are usually more productive than the bush peas) are just starting to flower.

HERBS
4 bundles/full share and 2/single share.

Garlic chives
Chives: Bundles may or may not contain flowers.
Orange mint

Kentucky Colonel mint
Thyme
Oregano
Tarragon
Lemon balm: We’ve been making a lot of tea lately with a combination of mint & lemon balm. We bring the water to just shy of boiling then pour it over a bundle of leaves in a teapot & let steep for at least 4 minutes or longer to taste. Good hot or iced.
Catnip
Sage: Flowering has begun; the sage flowers are edible and also beautiful.
Dill leaf (maybe): Getting close; might be ready by Thursday. Dill leaf is a lovely addition to salad.
Cilantro (maybe): Getting close; might be ready by Thursday, or maybe the week after. This seems to be one of the most popular herbs among our  members.
Lavender blossoms (maybe): The buds are forming, so flowers should be open soon, but this is only our second year harvesting lavender, so we’re not sure on timing. We fell in love with lavender last year. Our favorite preparation was an infusion of lavender in milk, sweetened with honey, that we froze as ice cream for a wonderfully refreshing treat. Lavender cookies are good, too.

MENU SUGGESTIONS
Kale and mustard greens make excellent sautes and soups. Try them wilted over high heat with bacon and/or mushrooms. These rich greens are also really good cooked with lentils, either as a salad or as various forms of dal. If you’re tired of radishes on salads, try mincing them and using as a garnish in Mexican dishes; their crunchy, sweet tang adds a lot when combined with salsa and beans.

FRESH EGGS
Eggs will be available this week ONLY for home/work delivery, not for pickup at the Edgewood location.

RECENTLY ON THE FARM
This year’s round of new chicks hatched in our incubator, though as with many things this year it didn’t go as well as hoped. We only had 15 chicks out of 42 eggs hatch successfully, when we’d expected more like 35. It’s still nice to have young chicks around; we greatly enjoy watching them develop into new laying hens and tasty meat roosters. We also brought home this year’s two feeder pigs from a pastured breeder in Howard County, which will form an important core of our meat supply for next year given that we won’t have any goat meat this fall. Pigs, like chickens, give us enormous pleasure to raise and we’re looking forward to having these two ladies around to turn lots of farm scraps into good food.

WHAT’S GOING RIGHT
Let’s see, we’re not losing sleep worrying about wildfire danger, we’re under budget on irrigation water, and the decision to start water-loving ostrich ferns this year seems to have been a good one. Really, though, some crops are looking good in spite of the brutally wet conditions. Cabbages & kohlrabi continue to grow nicely, the potato plants look great (for now), and the strawberries are starting to come on nicely…if they can just manage not to drown. We’ve really been enjoying the early strawberry harvests while just starting to preserve some for winter. Also, the lady bug population seems quite robust this spring; they deserve some credit for the pea shoots that have gone out in shares, as they have definitely been helping to keep the aphids in check. Even the number of different species of lady bugs seems greater than usual this year. It’s nice when predator-prey relations work in our favor.

WHAT’S NOT SO GREAT
Eric in particular has been partly out of commission much of the week, feeling really crappy with allergies possibly combined with a cold, leaving Joanna to work doubly hard trying to do both our jobs while not feeling great herself. Repeated rounds of heavy rain have caused all sorts of problems and damage here, in addition to delaying any further planting and transplanting of summer items that are still packing the greenhouse and really need to go out. We’re now well behind on this work, which will have long-term ramifications. Frosts had better come late this fall, because most of the long-maturing summer crops are getting off to a very late start.

Multiple current crop problems are also attributable to the weather, including the rapid bolting of baby greens and radishes, which took so long to get going in the slow cold spring that they’ve sent up flower stalks very quickly now that warm(er) conditions are here. Good news is that those saute mix flowers are edible & tasty. Bad news is that this has cost us weeks of harvestable crops. Even seemingly fail-proof crops like radishes occasionally fail, or at least fizzle; that’s why we maintain a lot of diversity, because with enough different crops, something is bound to do well.

We also had some hail damage on Monday, which was a rare day when we both went to do deliveries, so we’re not sure how big or how much hail we had. However, we do know what crops showed damage: young edamame plants, chard, and basil experienced some noticeable shredding. The wounds from hail damage can make plants more disease prone by providing an entry way for plant pathogens. Even without hail, the excessive wetness in general means that development of plant disease is a real concern.

Weeds will also become an increasingly difficult problem, as these conditions encourage their growth while inhibiting our ability to use proper pre-emptive methods to keep them in check. For example, weeds are far easier to control when you get to them early with light surface hoeing which is efficient and low-energy, but that can’t be done properly in soil this water-logged. By the time things dry out (if they do) we’ll be reduced to much more labor-intensive hand-weeding or chop-hoeing to keep things in check.

Pests haven’t been too bad yet, with the notable exception that cucumber beetles wasted no time in finding the young squash plants. At least squash bugs are being slower to the scene. The first planting of summer squash plants drew the unlucky card of being put in two of the wettest beds, so we’ll just have to wait and see how they do.

WEATHER NOTES
Have we mentioned yet that it is too wet? As of Friday mid-morning we’ve recorded 11.82″ of rain in May on the farm, 6.89″ of that within the last week (the monthly average is 4.98″) and it’s still coming down with more forecast next week. Much of the rain has arrived in heavy, damaging downpours that pummel plants, erode soil, flood compost areas (and our basement), and in all others ways are unwelcome and problematic. Plus, as mentioned above, there was some hail on Monday. Though you’d never know it by the amount we complained about drought last year, too much rain is definitely more difficult to contend with than too little; for more detail, refer to this old post on why too much precipitation is bad. And that post isn’t even fully comprehensive, as it doesn’t mention nutrient leaching. 

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