Distribution #10 – Week of August 9, 2021

The News from Windflower Farm

Hello from Windflower Farm where the weather has been beautiful all week!       

What’s in your share?

  • Sweet corn (just a little)
  • Sweet peppers
  • Fennel
  • Tomatoes
  • Collards
  • Yellow onions
  • Dinosaur kale
  • Squashes or cukes or cabbage

Sweet corn, collards and sweet peppers are this week’s new crops. Collards, with their ribs shaved thin and steamed for a few minutes, or long enough to make them soft and pliable, make excellent low calorie wraps for just about anything. Next week, you’ll get more corn (I hope!) and peppers and the first of our garlic and red cabbage. Your fruit will likely be Yonder Farm’s peaches.

What’s new on the farm?

Organic sweet corn is not especially common in the markets largely because it’s a challenge to grow. Birds, insects, weeds, drought, demanding nutrient requirements – these all play a role. With the early crop, my greatest concern had been European corn borers. And with the later crop, I had been most concerned about corn earworms and fall armyworms. These are all caterpillars, and in corn country they are present in large numbers. But I am now most concerned about the little bandit faced mob that has swarmed our corn. Raccoons are not interested in any of the other vegetables we grow, but we are learning that they love sweet corn. They destroyed half of our first planting this week, and I’m now looking for ways to prevent them from doing the same to our second planting. Nearly the entire farm perimeter is fenced, doing absolutely nothing to prevent them from coming and going at will. They are excellent climbers. An electrified interior fence is an option, as is trapping and removal. In the meantime, we are short of corn. Small quantities of corn can still be useful in the kitchen. Victoria tells me that she’ll carve kernels off the cob directly over the top of a garden salad. We’ll do the same over tacos or bowls of beans and rice. Enjoy this corn starter, this small down payment, and know we’ll (try very hard to) have more corn in the future.

Have a great week, Ted      

Distribution #9 – Week of August 2, 2021

The News from Windflower Farm

Hello from Windflower Farm. We had 2 1/2 inches of rain last week, but at least it wasn’t the 5 inches that have fallen in neighboring counties. The weatherman reports that July was the third wettest on record. After two rain-free days, waves of light rainfall came this afternoon and it is now coming down hard.       

What’s in your share?

  • Lettuce
  • Fennel
  • Tomatoes
  • Cabbage
  • Scallions
  • Kale
  • Squash or cukes

Fennel is this week’s new crop. It is perhaps best known as one of the ingredients in a roasted root medley. What can you do with it now? It’s an excellent addition to any summer salad used raw and sliced thin. At https://www.acouplecooks.com/fennel-recipes/ you’ll find ten fennel recipes, including a fennel orange salad. Our tomatoes are coming along well, in spite of the rain, and we expect to continue to send them in bags of mixed kinds and sizes for as long as they produce. Our corn will be ready next week, as will our peppers. And Martin, at Markristo Farm, tells me his organically grown yellow and green beans are also starting and that we should see them very soon.

Your fruit share will consist of our blueberries (probably on Tuesday) or Pete’s peaches (likely on Thursday). We are sending peaches to Central Brooklyn CSA this week. Like strawberries and raspberries, blueberries have to be harvested fully ripe: They won’t ripen after picking. With strawberries, it’s easy: we wait to pick until they are completely red. With most blueberries, they not only have to be fully blue, they have to be nearly black. We find them to be a challenge to harvest because the little bit of purple that indicates they are not yet ripe is very hard to see. With many varieties, a few tart berries are inevitable. In the weeks ahead, you can expect more stone fruit from Pete and melons from our farm and local farmer John Hand.

What’s new on the farm?

I spent a few hours this morning on my cultivating tractor trying to eliminate the weeds that are in our newest beds of greens and root crops. Weeds represent a substantial challenge for those of us who farm organically. It appears that there is no weather in which they don’t thrive. During last year’s dry season, they were formidable. They excel at colonizing newly disturbed environments like a freshly tilled garden and can do so with very little water. This year, because of the rain, they are also fierce, in part because it is often too wet to get into fields with my tractors to slow them down, and even then it seems that all we do is replant them.

Weeds are worth getting to know in the same way getting to know any adversary is worthwhile. Galinsoga, pigweed, purslane, lambsquarters, shepherd’s purse, ragweed, quack grass, crabgrass, field bindweed, Pennsylvania smartweed and chickweed represent our biggest foes. All but two are annuals. and only one is a winter annual, which means that most germinate and grow along with our vegetables, where they rob them of nutrients, water and sunlight. And they complete their life cycles in a fraction of the time our vegetables do, producing great numbers of seeds that produce next year’s competitors.

My cultivating tractor did a good job. On its belly, where I can see, it’s outfitted with a gang of German-made discs on parallelograms that are intended to eliminate weeds between rows. And on its rear it has locally made finger weeders designed to take care of the weeds within the row. After just a couple of hours the battery charge on the tractor was depleted (it’s a plug-in electric tractor). To enable me to continue on, my son Nate outfitted the tractor with a small Honda generator, turning the tractor into a hybrid. Now I can cultivate all day!

Have a good week, Ted

Distribution #8 – Week of July 26, 2021

The News from Windflower Farm

Hello from a very wet Windflower Farm! Rain and mud and more rain: a test of one’s foul weather gear and tolerance for wet socks and mosquitos. Jan, Nate and I stopped in at the farmers’ market today, where the consensus among farmers was that a wet year is preferable to a dry one, even if it means more foliar diseases and weedier fields. Not a one enjoys dragging irrigation pipe around the fields. I’m with them so far, especially because our soils are well drained, but I’m worried by the prospect of more rainfall. We are not vendors at farmers’ markets – all of our produce goes to the CSA – but we do like to visit for mushrooms, maple syrup, tree fruit and sundry other items and to exchange gossip with our fellow farmers. And on this occasion, we had the additional treat of hearing a musical performance by a young man who works here and his trio. (He also produces organic grains on his family’s farm. More on that in a future newsletter.)

What’s in your share?

  • Butterhead lettuce 
  • Green leaf lettuce
  • Lacinato kale
  • Tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Squashes OR cucumbers
  • Beets
  • Eggplant
  • Yellow onions

Eggplant is the new item in this week’s box. Quick ideas: You might bread and pan fry slices to go on pizza or, with bruschetta and a dollop of ricotta, on toast. If you are feeling especially bold, you might try ratatouille. Fennel will come next week. The wet weather has slowed development of our corn crop, but you can expect the bicolor variety ‘Vision’ two weeks from now. Our peppers and garlic should also start at about that time.

A couple of notes on our tomatoes: Roads in and out of NYC are very poor, which is especially hard on ripe tomatoes. Some bruising is inevitable. Our goal is to send mostly fully ripe fruits, but we’ll also mix in tomatoes that are not quite ripe so that you won’t have to consume them all immediately. Your tomatoes will finish ripening on your kitchen counter.

Your fruit shares will be Yonder Farm’s peaches. The rain has made harvesting and the prediction of what’s available difficult. Pete tells me not to expect his stone fruit to arrive fully ripe. If he put fully ripe apricots or peaches on our truck, they’d be ruined in transit. Like tomatoes, they’ll ripen by sitting in a bowl on your counter.  

By the way, if you have a comment or complaint about the contents of a share, please feel free to share it with me. Your feedback helps us become better farmers, and welcome thoughtful, constructive criticism. We all want you to have a good CSA experience, so we really will pay close attention to what you have to say and the team and I will make improvements where we can.

I hope you have a great week, Ted   

Distribution #7 – Week of July 19, 2021

The News from Windflower Farm

Hello from Windflower Farm, where we have spent recent evenings binge watching Downton Abbey. My favorite lines so far have come from the dowager countess, Maggie Smith’s character: “’Weekend,’ what’s a weekend?” But another line also resonates: According to Daisy, the kitchen maid, “No farmer is his own boss. He takes his orders from the sun and the snow and the wind and the rain.”

What’s in your share?

  • White cipollini onions
  • Hakurei turnips
  • Fordhook Swiss chard
  • Squash or cukes
  • Tendersweet cabbage
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Genovese basil

Your fruit shares will be blueberries from us or Yonder Farm. 

What’s new on the farm?

A Great Blue Heron flies low overhead on its way from one pond in the neighborhood to another. I am returning from the back fields with an empty sprayer. Leaf hoppers and Colorado potato beetles have moved into our potatoes and will ruin the crop if given enough time. In a brief window between rains, I have sprayed a brew of beneficial fungi, root extracts and soaps to slow the progress of the little bugs. Beetle larvae are straightforward in their attack: they eat leaves, and in their many thousands can eventually defoliate a crop. A good rotation is usually adequate to prevent infestation, but not this year. Leafhoppers are a little more complicated: they pierce and suck, using their proboscis like a straw, slurping the potato sap. They exude a toxin in the course of their feeding, and it is the “hopper burn” it produces that is most damaging to the plant. At this point, a spray is the only thing between a poor crop and a good one. 

The materials I’ve chosen to protect our crops are supposed to have minimal impact on non pest insects, but it is not zero impact. Bird chatter and distant tractors are the only sounds I hear as I write this, but I know that throughout the Americas and Europe songbirds are disappearing at an alarming rate, as are the insect populations upon which they depend. The heron, especially – perhaps because of its great size or its graceful flight – reminds me of what might be lost in the wake of climate change and habitat destruction. These encounters with our wild neighbors help me to take seriously my stewardship of this small farm and improve my decision making regarding our farming practices.

Have a great week, Ted

Distribution #6 – Week of July 12, 2021

The News from Windflower Farm

Hello from a wet Windflower Farm!

What’s in your share?

  • Yellow bulb onions
  • Ruby Red Swiss chard
  • Squashes or broccoli or beets
  • Cukes
  • Our last garlic scapes
  • Kohlrabi (perhaps our last)
  • Red Romaine lettuce
  • Red Russian kale
  • Our first tomatoes (just a few)
  • Genovese basil

Your fruit shares will consist of fresh blueberries from Yonder Farm. I asked Pete to set aside cherries for us, but the rain might have split them and he may have to send blueberries instead. Our own blueberries will come along soon and Pete’s peaches and plums will follow in the next few weeks. Cabbages, beets and more tomatoes will be in next week’s vegetable shares along with the usual salad crops.     

What’s new on the farm?

We have yet to put our rain gear away. Another 1¼” fell last week, it’s raining now, 2” are expected overnight and the forecast calls for a rainy week. Wet stretches are not uncommon in summer but organic vegetable farmers fear them because of the diseases they bring. We have effective tools against insect pests, and better and better equipment to deal with weeds, but we are poorly equipped when it comes to diseases. When downy mildew strikes cucumbers or basil, when powdery mildew infects zucchini, or when late blight attacks tomatoes, we are essentially helpless. Sprays only briefly postpone the inevitable. Our techniques are almost exclusively preventative: we select disease-resistant varieties when available, we plant in a way that encourages good air flow, we grow especially sensitive crops in greenhouses, and, as a last resort, we spray a material like copper or sulfur – both of which are approved for organic production. And when it appears that there is nothing else to do, we harvest early. Last weekend, weeks ahead of normal, we began harvesting garlic and onions. So far, so good. I’d like to tuck the whole farm indoors until all this blows over.

Have a great week, Ted

This just in!

The fruit share will be Yonder Farm peaches instead of blueberries tomorrow. Most likely, we’ll send our own organic blueberries next week. Let’s hope the birds stay away from them!
We hope you enjoy your shares this week!