The next CSA distribution will be Monday July 15 and Thursday July 18. It’s been another dry, sunny week on the farm, which is fine in the short run but starting to become worrisome if it keeps up this way. We’re definitely deep in the transition between spring and summer crops, but seem to be in position to bridge this gap with little disruption to the diversity of the shares.
THIS WEEK’S PRODUCE
Tomatoes, peppers, and edamame are all getting close. The latter may be ready by next week; we switched these with green beans in our planting plan, so they will come first followed by beans in late summer/early fall. We’ll be harvesting the remainder of the beets & carrots this week, storing what we don’t distribute immediately for the following week. With the greens removed, the roots have a long shelf life in our walk-in cooler; this means we’ll be offering some beet greens as a stand-alone produce item this week as well.
Cucumbers Producing well right now, ask for extras if you want ’em. We’re finding that some cucumbers are already developing some bitterness, much to our dislike. Unfortunately this is something we cannot identify visually. If a cucumber is bitter, the bitterness tends to be concentrated at the stem end, so when we’re preparing to use a cuke, we taste that end first to assess the situation. Sometimes just chucking a bit from the stem end into the compost is enough to avoid bitter flavors, and sometimes peeling will help, though in extreme cases the flesh can be bitter, too. Somewhat bitter cucumbers are still good mixed with stronger flavors, such as in fresh pickles or dressed salads/slaws. Please let us know if your cukes are too strong for you.
Walla Walla sweet onions Looks like these did well enough to offer one more week.
Beets Smaller roots, as we start cleaning out the remainder of the beds. This is the last week that the green will still be attached, as we’ll be taking the tops off and putting roots into storage for future weeks. Thus, the opportunity for just the tops:
Beet greens Use just like any other cooking green; they turn everything red, though!
Scallions Will also make these available as bulk again.
Summer squash? The first planting is going downhill fast; not sure there will be enough. Blame the fact that the squash drew the losing card in terms of planting location under the weather conditions we’ve had (excessive wet followed by quite dry). The second planting just went in the ground, and should be producing in late summer.
Genovese basil Producing well right now, and currently harvesting from two plantings. We’re putting this on the standard produce list to provide the opportunity to request extras if desired.
Sometime this week, Joanna will be harvesting the 1,000th herb bundle of the year for CSA members. Genovese basil will be standard this week for all shares, so we’ll be going down to 3 other bundles per full share and 1 other bundle per single share from the following list.
Kentucky Colonel mint
Catnip Now flowering.
Papalo Cilantro-like flavor, a bit citrusy, but also developing some bitterness. Perhaps best cooked? Our first year to grow it. Limited quantity.
Green shiso An herb with a flavor that we think is somewhat reminiscent of cumin.
Anise hyssop (very limited): Can’t guarantee that we can fill all requests any given week, but we’ll try to make sure anyone who wants to try it gets a chance eventually.
This is much the same share as last week, so similar options apply. We made a really nice batch of borscht last week, using beets, turnips, carrots, homemade smoked pork broth, and homemade yogurt, which when chilled makes a fantastically refreshing summer soup. We find cucumber smoothies to be a refreshing way to use lots of cukes. Try pickling some beets, either canned or fresh; this works especially well with the smaller ones you’ll be getting for the next week or two.
We finally caught the rat snake in the chicken shed, a truly impressive beast that gave Eric a good battle before being subdued into a trash can and relocated well south of here. Hopefully the egg production will pick back up now, though midsummer heat often depresses laying as well. Eggs will be available for home/work and the Edgewood drop site.
RECENTLY ON THE FARM
We cashed in the extra work hours provided by last week’s WWOOF volunteer, and snuck away for a quick Ozark canoe trip, a much-needed break from the 7-long-days-week routine of midsummer farm management. Doing the Monday CSA deliveries first thing in the morning (having done all the prep work on Sunday), we were headed south by 1 p.m. and were on the upper Current River by 5:30 p.m. After heading downstream ~4.5 miles and camping overnight on a gravel bar, we paddled another ~22 miles the next day on a perfect hot summer day, refreshing ourselves with several dips in the cold spring-fed river and observing over 30 species of birds along with lots of other wildlife & lovely scenery. We were off the river by 3 p.m., back on the farm by 7 p.m., and got right back to work, tired but grateful for this rare break (our last real time off was an overnight to Kansas City in early May). We’re also extremely grateful to several of our workers for taking on extra shifts the rest of the week to help us get caught up again; stop working for even a short time and the task list explodes!
WHAT’S GOING RIGHT
Kinda like last week; most crops still look good and the weather, while hot, is well within seasonal norms and not at all like last summer’s blast furnace so far. We really enjoyed our short canoe trip even if it tired us out. We’re very happy with the diversity, quality. and quantity of the produce leaving the farm so far, and what’s coming up looks just as good.
We also feel gratified about our chosen methods of farming when we read articles such as this one about plant communications via fungal networks, indicating that symbiotic fungi play a role in plant defense systems by more-or-less helping plants signal one another regarding the need to repel pests & attract beneficial insects. Wow. There’s so much that no one yet understands about the ecological and biochemical processes taking place in our fields. However, our methods support the development of fungal networks through the use of no-till methods (that leave the soil structure undisturbed and allow fungi to persist & grow), mulches (that keep the soil moist and encourage biological activity in the soil), compost (that inoculates the soil with good microbes, including bacteria and fungi), and of course strict avoidance of synthetic pesticides (that would wreak havoc on the soil ecosystem). We suspect that these methods have something to do with why the crops are pretty happy now, and we look forward to learning more as the current proliferation of research into all things microbial continues.
WHAT’S NOT SO GREAT
The garlic harvest is complete now, and the outlook for garlic distributions this year is really bleak compared to the 2-heads-per-week per full share that we pulled off last year from harvest to the end of the season. As mentioned last week, the yield this year is low all around: in terms of weight, in terms of size, and in terms of head count. Many planted cloves simply didn’t produce a thing. A very high percentage of what we did harvest needs to be set aside to replant next year’s crop, always our first priority for the best heads. The good news is that we feel pretty good about the quality of the seed supply, and if it turns out that we set too much aside for seed, the remainder can still be sent out in shares in late October & November, after planting is done. We haven’t finished crunching the numbers, but it is clear that the garlic that does go out in shares will be sparse with respect to size & count.
It’s drier. Another hot week, another week of no meaningful rain. Many in Columbia probably noticed the storms that rolled through Wednesday morning; those popped up just beyond us in northern Boone County and rolled SE; we listened to the thunder while wishing they’d built just a mile or two further NW. Only 0.07″ here, and it’s definitely beginning to concern us with all of next week currently forecast as hot and dry, too. Irrigation is now a constant task, expense, and concern. But we’re grateful that we haven’t come even close to the 100ºF mark; last year by this time we’d already endured 11 straight days over 100, with highs topping out at 106.