Distribution #9 – Week of August 3, 2020

The News from Windflower Farm

August greetings from all of us at Windflower Farm.

What’s in your share?

  • Lettuce
  • Koji on Tuesday, cabbage on Thursday
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet corn
  • Green beans
  • Onions or scallions
  • Summer squashes or zucchinis
  • Sweet peppers

The share list that I provide at the top of each newsletter is not to be taken verbatim. It’s my educated guess about what should be ready in adequate supply and of a quality that is good enough to send to you that week. But I’m generally making this guess a couple of days ahead of the actual harvest, and it’s harder than you might think to get this right. Heat can cause bolting in virtually all of the greens, and insects can render them inedible overnight. And getting precise counts of eggplants or peppers or cucumbers is just not practical. And so, if we run out of the eggplants we promised, we might substitute peppers or cucumbers or cabbage. They say that a little mystery is good for a relationship.

What’s new on the farm?

A light rain is falling as I write this. The greens seeder is mounted on the John Deere and I’d like to sow a round of arugula, chard, kale and cilantro into beds I prepared yesterday. Our greens production has suffered lately, and I’m hoping to get it back on track. It has been so dry that a little rain won’t be a problem for the seeder. In fact, it has been so hot and dry that It’s been difficult to get some of our crops established. Most vegetables seeds, and all of the seeds that produce greens, are small, and they generally can’t be seeded more than half an inch deep. And evaporative water loss from the top half inch of soil has been a big problem for us this year. A strategy that has proven successful in getting our carrots established (after two previous attempts) has now become common practice here. Immediately after seeding, we set up runs of micro-sprinklers, called Mini-Wobblers, along the entire length of the new planting and run them for an hour every other day until the crop comes up. The sprinklers come from a company that got its start in Florida, where they know how to deal with heat. According to the brochure, “they replicate a light summer rain shower and keep the seeds bathed in moisture throughout their germination and emergence.” So, once I manage to get these greens seeded, I’ll ask the guys to help me move the Mini-Wobblers into place, and I’ll leave them there until I see nice little rows of greens getting off to a good start.     

Have a great week, Ted   

Distribution #8 – Week of July 27, 2020

The News from Windflower Farm

Hello from a hot and humid Windflower Farm, where tomorrow’s heat index is supposed to be over 100 degrees Fahrenheit!

What’s in your share?

  • Lots of tomatoes
  • Zucchini or Zephyr squash
  • Sweet peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Kale on Tuesday, collards on Thursday
  • And more

Your fruit share will be Yonder Farm’s blueberries or peaches. Pete says it’s most likely to be blueberries.

This year’s flower share was just six weeks long. The shorter flower season was designed to give Jan a chance to undertake new projects this summer. The share wrapped up at some locations in week #6 and at most locations last week, which was week #7. It comes to an end for the last two sites this week. We’ll miss having all those lovely flowers everywhere – greenhouse, fields, packing shed.

What’s new at the farm?

It’s Sunday morning. Jan has just finished harvesting flowers – her last of the season – and is now cleaning up one of her flower fields. Nate is mowing. Heidi, a nurse and friend who stops over every now and again for “weeding therapy,” is in the carrots. And the Medina family, working as a group, as always, are harvesting tomatoes, peppers, cabbages and squash. It is the tail end of a hot July, the dog days here in the Hudson Valley, and the work starts early to avoid the heat. I’m on irrigation duty. The pepper and tomato tunnels in our front field ran from 6:00 to 8:30 am (Jan, an early bird, actually turned those on). I’ve got the carrots running now and I’ll let them run until just before the lunch hour, after which it’s on to the red and yellow onion block, followed by a block of eggplants, chiles and peppers. All of this water is coming from a well that is 470’ deep and delivers nearly 100 gallons per minute.

Nate is on irrigation duty tomorrow. He’ll use the back pond to irrigate the squashes, cucumbers and melons in the back fields, all of which are mulched and on drip irrigation. He’ll then irrigate the back tomato, ginger and pepper tunnels. He thinks that the pond will be empty when he’s done with this round of irrigating, leaving just enough for the snappers and frogs and water bugs to carry on their lives. We’ll need to tap into the newest well if we are to irrigate those fields again. He’ll run the drip system on the sweet potatoes in our big field, too, but using our bigger pond in this case, which seems to still have a fair amount of water. And if he has time, he’ll use a tractor-mounted tool he fabricated to lay out drip tape on a block of cabbages in the big field and then run them for a couple of hours. We like to keep Nate busy.

In a hot, dry season, few vegetables will give good results without irrigation, and even irrigation won’t help if it’s too hot. You’ll get our unirrigated corn soon and see what I mean. The flavor and texture will be good, but the “fill” will be poor. Broccoli and lettuce becomes bitter in the heat, and no amount of irrigation seems to remedy that. In the case of broccoli, the bitter compound is glucosinolate, and it can be leached out to some extent by boiling in salt water, the downside of which is that it probably also pulls nutrients out of the vegetable. We have planted more of both and hope they will be sweeter with the return of cooler weather.

We have quite a bit to do this week besides irrigating. Tomorrow, we’ll pick up some row covers and till under old crop and weed residues. It’s time to think about seeding down cover crops in fields we’ve finished using for the season. We’ll sow oats and peas if it’s early enough and a mix of rye and vetch a little later. We spread compost and some other soil amendments on a couple of fields last week and we’ll continue to transplant fall greens and more Cucurbits and to field-sow spinach and salad greens. We’ll try to find time to use the old G tractors to cultivate the radishes, arugula, turnips and lettuces. And we’ll go through the sweet potatoes and melons one more time before the vines run, taking out the weed escapes by hand. And we’ll make time for siestas, because these are the dog days, and it’s hot outside.

Have a great week, Ted

Distribution #7 – Week of July 20, 2020

The News from Windflower Farm

Hello from a hot Windflower Farm!

What’s in your share?

  • Fennel bulbs and fronds
  • Scallions
  • Eggplant
  • Zucchinis or summer squashes
  • Green Boston lettuce
  • Kale or collards
  • Onion bulbs
  • Broccoli, broccolini or beets

Your fruit share will be blueberries from Yonder Farm. Peaches, plums and apricots are coming soon.

Peppers have also been coming along quickly and may be a part of next week’s share. Beans are likely, too.

Our eggplant harvest came as a bit of a surprise for us this week – the hot weather and drip irrigation have helped to bring it along sooner than expected. If you are relatively new to eggplant, you might try it on your pizza: slice it, dip it in a light batter, and fry it on the stove top. Put the fried eggplant slices on top of your favorite pizza and add dollops of pesto and ricotta. Baba ganoush, ratatouille and Thai spicy eggplant with basil are other excellent options. 

Fennel bulbs and fronds are also in your shares. Curried roasted fennel, summer slaw and shaved fennel salad are great ways to enjoy this vegetable. 

All of these recipes and many more can be found at the Stanton Street CSA website (https://stantonstreetcsa.wordpress.com) under “Veggie tips & recipes.” We also like contentednesscooking.com for recipe ideas.

We experimented with packing everything into one bag at a few sites last week, and the results were not what we wanted. This week, your shares will come in three packages: two smaller plastic bags – one containing greens and the other the more durable vegetables – and a paper bag full of tomatoes. And they will be shipped to sites in separate totes. Remember, there will be no box (except locally and at the park site in Washington Hts.), so you’ll need something in which to carry these items home.

What’s new on the farm?

Our organic certification inspector is coming on Tuesday. Farm inspections are an annual event, but this is our first with this organization. We’ve been busy getting our paperwork in order, putting soil tests in a file, cleaning up our workshop, tidying up our barns and seed cupboard, tackling weed messes and generally trying to make ourselves appear respectable. 

The inspector, a woman from the western Catskills, will come with two activities in mind. In the “mass balance audit” she’ll take a look at all of our purchases (seeds, plastics, etc.), field applications (compost, lime), field plantings and harvest records and ask if this is enough to support our sales volume or what we have noted on our CSA distribution lists. In the “trace-back audit” she’ll select an item from the distribution record and follow it back through time from distribution to harvest and planting, looking at field maps, seeding records and the purchase of associated inputs. It could be a long day.

Wish us luck, and have a great week!

Cheers, Ted 

Distribution #6 – Week of July 13, 2020

The News from Windflower Farm

Hello from the Windflower Farm! Rain showers here this week have been light but very helpful. The massive storm that soaked New York City and the lower Hudson Valley did a clockwise run around the farm. This week, we’ll be harvesting garlic, planting fall broccoli and continuing the long process of getting ahead of the weeds.

What’s in your share?

  • Yellow ‘Forum’ onions
  • Leaf lettuce
  • Red bunched ‘Boro’ beets
  • Swiss chard
  • Mixed kales
  • Summer squashes/zucchinis
  • Slicing cucumbers
  • Tomatoes
  • Potted parsley or Thai basil

Your fruit share will be blueberries from Yonder Farm. Our own will be coming soon.

Tomatoes are just starting, but the crop looks good. Fennel will be coming next week, sweet peppers, corn and beans are around the corner – the vegetables of summer are nearly here.   

What’s new on the farm?

We will continue to prepackage your shares all season, and perhaps well into next year, depending on the availability of an effective vaccine. The safest distribution system continues to be the one that requires the fewest hands. But we’d like to get away from the boxes we’ve been using when and where we can. They are very expensive and produce quite a bit of waste. It might surprise those of you who are new to us, but, with the exception of a site that lacks storage facilities, we have not had to use boxes or bags ever before – instead we have used a returnable, washable tote.

We’ll begin to move away from boxes at some sites as early as this week (this will not apply to local shares or the park site in Washington Hts.). We’ll do it in a way that won’t require any more hands than in our first few weeks. We’ll pre-bag at the farm just as we have been doing, and instead of putting the bags in boxes for you to take home, we’ll put those bags into tubs – perhaps four per tub – that will be left at the site. This one simple change will reduce from the waste stream as many as a thousand boxes per week. When we bring the tubs back from the city to the farm, we will wash them under high pressure using a bleach solution, and then we’ll let them sit in clean storage for several days prior to reuse. Tomatoes and occasional other items will be packaged separately, much as is your fruit, so they are not damaged in transit. These will be handed out by a CSA volunteer – the only non-farm individual to handle your food package. Please tell me what you think. And thank you for bearing with us as we work through these logistics.    

Have a great week, Ted 

Distribution #5 – Week of July 6, 2020

The News from Windflower Farm

Hello from the Windflower Farm team! We hope you had an enjoyable Fourth of July weekend.

What’s in your share?

  • ‘Bianca’ (white Cipollini) onions
  • ‘Panisse’ (green oakleaf) lettuce
  • ‘Boro’ (red, bunched) beets
  • Swiss chard
  • Mixed kales (transitional and perhaps a little buggy)
  • Garlic scapes (truly the last)
  • Summer squashes or zucchinis or cucumbers (remember, “C” is for cucumber)
  • ‘Hakurei’ (sweet, white) turnips
  • Your fruit share will be sweet cherries from Yonder Farm.

Pan fried and caramelized Cipollini onions on a slice of toasted bread with garlic butter is a favorite here. They’ll also enhance any pizza. Beets that are boiled, skinned, chopped into chunks and let to get cold in the refrigerator is another treat, and excellent served alone or as part of a salad.   

What’s new on the farm?

The good news here is that the farm experienced a series of rain showers over the course of the last week, giving us 1.25” overall and a much needed break from irrigating. The back pond came up nearly four feet and the bigger pond in the ravine came up a foot or more, replenishing our stock of water. The storm that delivered the most rain came with powerful winds that took out power lines and knocked trees down throughout the region. A large black walnut, at least that’s what I think it is based on its leaves and dark brown heartwood, was blown down across the ends of four of our pepper tunnels in a back field. The damage to the structures was significant, but crop loss will be minimal. I’ll post an image to our Instagram page. The number of rain deities is dizzying, but I’ve prayed to all of them, and this much I believe, that the one that heeded our call has a slightly malicious sense of humor. After having had so little precipitation thus far in the season, I am grateful for what we got, even if Nate and I will have to spend an afternoon with chainsaws and a pipe bender.

Have a great week! Ted

Distribution #4 – Week of June 29, 2020

The News from Windflower Farm

Greetings from Windflower Farm where it continues to be hot and mostly dry. Too dry for crops, that is, but wet enough for weeds.

What’s in your share?

  • Oakleaf lettuce (lime green)
  • Radishes (red)
  • Arugula
  • Mixed kales
  • Garlic scapes
  • Green onions
  • Summer squashes or zucchinis or cucumbers
  • Kohlrabi (green)
  • Hakurei (sweet, white) turnips

“C” is for cucumber. Cucumbers and squashes are just getting started, and we don’t have quite enough of both for everyone. So we are asking you to choose one or the other. We’ll write the letter “C” on boxes containing cucumbers, and nothing on boxes containing summer squashes or zucchinis.   

You will be seeing the last of our garlic scapes this week. The scapes can be run through your food mill and added to butter or Earth Balance to make a flavorful, garlicy spread. Heat and drought stress have made our garlic crop mature a couple of weeks earlier than usual. It looks like it may be ready to harvest as early as next week. We’ll cure them in the barn for a few weeks prior to sending them to you.

I think that kohlrabi is best eaten raw, sliced thin as part of a salad, or sliced thick and dipped in hummus, pesto or your favorite vegetable dip. In this way, it can be an early season stand in for carrot sticks or celery.

Sweet, white Japanese turnips are my favorites among the many turnip options out there. They are not as strongly flavored as the Crimson Reds and Purple Tops you find in the fall or as imposing as rutabagas. Sliced and sautéed in olive oil and garlic, they make a surprisingly sweet and tender side dish. They can also be prepared raw, as you would radishes in a salad, and you’ll find them to be more mild.  

Your fruit share will be Yonder Farm’s sweet cherries.

Beets, cucumbers and Swiss chard should be coming next week. Tomatoes are sizing up and breaking yellow and will be in shares soon.

Have a great week, Ted

Distribution #3 – Week of June 22, 2020

The News from Windflower Farm

Hello from Windflower Farm. It’s been a very hot, dry week here. Irrigating, planting, weeding and more irrigating have been the theme. 

What’s in your share?

  • Garlic scapes
  • Scallions
  • Summer squashes
  • ‘Kalebration’, a mix of several kale types
  • Arugula
  • Mei Qing Choi
  • Romaine or red leaf lettuce
  • Butterhead lettuce
  • Kohlrabi

Your fruit will be the last of our organic strawberries. Flower shares will be delivered to all of our sites this week. Next week’s vegetable shares will include more salad crops, including sweet Japanese turnips, kohlrabi, green onions and salad greens, along with summer squashes.

What’s new at the farm?

Summer rainfall is hit or miss in the Hudson Valley, and so far, at least for us, it’s been nearly all miss. The ground where we have not irrigated is as dry as beach sand, and even the smallest vehicle sends out a plume of dust as it travels our farm roads. We are parched and desperate for rain. It’s a heart breaker when the next town over gets two inches of rain and you get nothing. We can be happy for our farming friends over the hill, but it still hurts. You cannot help but to think of the many hours and days that a single four hour rain can save. Our two vegetable fields are 12 and 24 acres in size, and, running two irrigation systems simultaneously, it takes about ten days to get them adequately watered – just in time to start the cycle all over again. It’s now been a few weeks of this, and our ponds are running quite low. Our wells are holding up but we are worried, and we are hoping for rain. In the meantime, we are switching over from sprinkler to drip irrigation everywhere we can. Beets, carrots, onions, potatoes, corn – all ordinarily sprinkler irrigated, now have drip lines on them. There is no cause for panic. I tell you all of this because, as members of our CSA, you are in this with us. You have done your part in that you have paid for a share and agreed to take on some of the risk, including the risk of drought-related loss. I want you to know that we are doing our very best every day to hold up our end of the bargain.

 Best wishes, Ted

Distribution #2 – Week of June 15, 2020

The News from Windflower Farm

Greetings from Windflower Farm. Although we had showers last week, we continue to irrigate. Rainfall totals in Albany are 3.5” below normal, and I think that we’ve been drier here. But dragging irrigating pipe around is not all we’ll do this week. We’ll wrap up winter squash transplanting, we’ll sow successions of corn, beans, cucumbers and greens, and we’ll weed onions, potatoes and cabbages.

What’s in your share?

This week, you’ll be getting more salad crops.

  • Magenta, a red leaf lettuce
  • Green Forest, a green Romaine lettuce
  • Ruby Red Swiss chard
  • Toscano (a.k.a. Dinosaur) kale
  • Garlic Scapes
  • Red radishes
  • Scallions
  • Potted purple, green or Thai basil

Your fruit share will be our own organically grown Chandler strawberries. When ours run their course, you’ll get strawberries from Pete at Yonder Farm, and then back to us for blueberries. Flower shares will be starting at many but not all sites this week. Egg shares from the Davis Family farmstead started last week. Next week’s vegetable shares will, as advertised, include more salad crops, including kohlrabi, a CSA favorite, or sweet, white Hakurei turnips. Squashes are getting close.

Keeping your share longer than just a day or two takes a few simple steps. First, remove your share from the bag it came in. Please try to reuse the bag if you can. It will make for a good trash bag liner if nothing else. Second, rinse everything, particularly the greens, in cold water. Third, spin or gently shake the greens to remove excess water. Finally, place the contents of your share in a perforated bag in the refrigerator. The crisper drawer is made for this, but the bottom shelf will do.  

What’s new on the farm?

I picked up Angelica, Elisa and Martin Medina at LaGuardia on Friday. For fifteen years or so, members of the extended Medina family have come from Laguna Prieta in Guanajuato, Mexico to help us out at the farm. The shutdown caused by the Coronavirus made them two months late in getting here, and I am very pleased that they have finally arrived. There is still a good deal to plant and the farm is getting weedy – we are all happy to have the reinforcements.

Angelica and Elisa are Martin’s aunties, and they will live with their sister Candelaria in Cambridge, who has been counting the days until their arrival. Today was their first day together on the farm, and they talked and laughed all day long as they weeded the shallots and red onions, catching one another up on what’s been going on in the lives of their families. Martin will be living with us in an apartment on the farm. Daniel, Candelaria’s 20 year-old son, has decided to live here with Martin. There are too many aunties, he says, for his small house. Salvador, Candelaria’s husband, jokes about moving here, too, but he won’t, because the three women he’ll share his home with this summer are fantastic cooks, and he knows that he’s in for one great traditional Mexican meal after another, fully aware of his good fortune. 

I hope you have a great week, Ted

Distribution #1 – Week of June 8, 2020

The News from Windflower Farm

Hello from Windflower Farm. I hope this note finds you healthy and safe. Thank you for joining us – I hope you enjoy your CSA experience! And many thanks to the volunteers in your community – the core group – who make the CSA happen. It was an especially challenging job this year because of the coronavirus, and I want them to know what champions they are to all of us at Windflower Farm. 

What’s in the share?

This week, and for the next several weeks, you’ll be getting salad crops. Our last snow was a scant four weeks ago, and it’s early days on the farm. Warm weather crops lag behind the arrival of warm weather. Shares are typically small during the first four weeks of the season, so please keep your expectations modest. They will fill out, first with turnips and kohlrabi, then with squashes and cucumbers, and then with a diverse array of summer vegetables, including corn, tomatoes and beans. 

This week’s lineup:

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Red Russian kale
  • Joi Choi
  • Red radishes
  • Green bunching onions

We will be pre-packaging shares after the harvest tomorrow. I don’t think the learning curve will be especially steep – we pre-package in the winter –  but we have not had to do it during the main season and we’re not sure how to budget our time. Nor do we know how to fit everything in the box. We’ve grown potted herbs intended for your first four deliveries (two basils, thyme and parsley), but they don’t fit in the box. Once we answer this question, they’ll be coming your way. 

The box and bag we are sending your share in is yours to keep. The absence of printing and wax make the box recyclable (and inexpensive). The bag is needed so that the box is not instantly ruined by the moisture from your greens. Please reuse where possible. At some point soon, we hope to send a more durable box that can be returned to the farm to be reused.  The chief reasons we are not currently taking boxes back is that we cannot be sure that the coronavirus will not be introduced into the truck contaminating the load and exposing our delivery team.

Egg shares start this week. Strawberries, the first items in fruit shares, will be coming along soon. Flowers will be starting at two locations on Thursday of this week. Please stay tuned.    

What’s happening on the farm?

I should be out cultivating the beets. I irrigated them yesterday, and I can see that the weeds will soon get ahead. But today’s priority is irrigation. Nate has been getting water to the strawberries in the front field, the tomatoes and peppers in the “caterpillar” tunnels, and now the squash and cucumbers in the middle field. These are all on drip irrigation and can be managed by starting small pumps here and there and switching valves. I’m working on the overhead sprinklers in the cabbage field. The first moisture any of these crops experienced was a three-inch snowfall about a month ago, a “sugar snow” so called because it melts so fast. Old timers would call it poor man’s fertilizer. The only other precipitation these crops have received was a half-inch rainfall two weeks ago, hence, the need to irrigate.  

I know that many of you are out protesting the injustices done to black people in America. We are thinking of you and stand with you. 

Be safe, and take care of each other, Ted and Jan