Distribution #21, Week of October 26, 2020

The News from Windflower Farm

Hello from Windflower Farm (where winter CSA shares are still available!) 

This week’s share

  • Savoy cabbage
  • Swiss chard
  • Kale
  • Garlic 
  • Ginger
  • “Rainbow’ carrots 
  • Red potatoes
  • Leeks
  • Butternut squash 

Next week’s share will include shallots, red cabbage and more sweet potatoes along with more of the usual suspects.

If you are an odd week CSA member, this week’s share is your last of the season. On behalf of everyone here at Windflower Farm, many thanks for being with us. We hope you have enjoyed your share of our farm’s 2020 harvest. It is because you decided to be with us that we were able to pursue the work that we love for another year. If you haven’t had enough of our produce, and want to help keep my staff and me from running wild on the back roads of Washington County, consider joining us for our four month, four delivery winter share. It will begin on the Saturday before Thanksgiving Day and run through early February and include hardy greens from our unheated greenhouses, a wide variety of our stored root vegetables, apples and pears from neighboring farms and something sweet (cider or jam or honey) with each delivery. For more winter share information, please click here: https://windflowerfarm.wufoo.com/forms/m1xr27rk05nzoa8/

What’s new on the farm?

Jan, Nate and I have just come in from washing carrots and ginger and it got me thinking about soups. The cookbook, Soup’s On, has one of our favorite recipes featuring these two crops: Coconut Carrot Soup with Ginger and Dill. The only thing better than reaching a beautiful mountain lookout on an October hike is digging into your daypack and finding a thermos full of hot carrot ginger soup with which to admire the view. Nate will post the recipe on our Instagram page.

Many of the ingredients of a potato leek soup can be found in the week’s share, too. Our favorite comes from Moosewood, where carrots are also an important part. This week’s variety of carrot is called ‘Rainbow’ and they are from the last bed on our farm. Then there is butternut squash, which makes one of the very best “feel good’ soups I know. With a pot of soup on the stove, no winter day is too cold, no sky too bleak.

Jan is now napping, Nate is again baking pumpkin muffins for the farm crew – a triple batch for a cold day! – and the Medinas are wrapping up the harvest of some leeks and cabbages. The local staff are off today. They’ll be here tomorrow morning to offload whatever returnables are on the truck, wash tubs and the greens that will be in shares this week, and then fill bags, the heavy vegetables in one, and the light and leafy vegetables in another. 

Our season began in March, which feels like a very long time ago. We welcome the change in seasons and what that portends for those of us whose lives move closely with them. Our last CSA harvest will take place on Wednesday of next week, and although the to-do list is still long, we see an end to the work, or at least a change in the nature of the work. In the next ten days, we’ll plant the final three acres of rye cover crops, transplant the last 20,000 or so of our fall onion sets, cover our strawberries, garlic, onions and winter greens, and tuck away our pumps, unneeded row covers, sand bags and irrigation lines. We expect a low of 17 degrees by week’s end. 

The Medinas will head off to Mexico next Saturday and what appears to be a calendar full of fiestas in celebration of weddings, births and faith. I don’t think they care one way or another about the election here. They expect corruption and division in politics, having had little experience of anything else. Family and community are at the center of their lives. After work today, young Martin came to ask if we would employ his spouse next year. They are hoping to work on a house of their own before starting a family. I told him it was something we would try to make work. 

I believe our election matters. I bet you do, too. I can’t believe that nearly half of us don’t vote. Please tell everyone you know to get out to the polls next week!

Take care, Ted

Distribution #20, Week of October 19, 2020

The News from Windflower Farm

Hello from Windflower Farm (where winter CSA shares are now available!) 

This week’s share

  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Bok Choy or kale
  • ‘Covington’ sweet potatoes
  • Red and yellow onions
  • ‘Rainbow’ carrots
  • Cilantro
  • Chiles (small, HOT, not sweet!)
  • Potatoes
  • Eggplants (or sweet peppers)
  • Ginger

Your fruit share will be a mix of early ‘Fuji’ and ‘Empire’ apples from Yonder Farm. The ‘Fujis’ are the lighter colored apples.

Please use care in handling the chiles in your share, particularly around children – they can be painfully hot. The small, blocky orange-yellow ones are habaneros and are very hot. They will be the last of the season. You might find a way to combine these with the cilantro in your share.

Some shares will contain eggplants, others will have sweet peppers. This week’s eggplants, also the last of the season, may not be the prettiest, and I’m sorry about that, but I hope you’ll still enjoy these last flavors of summer. Try to ignore the spots – a good deal of the waste in our food system can be attributed to shopping too much with our eyes. Breaded and fried, they make great additions to any pizza, especially with dollops of Ricotta and pesto. They are also an excellent addition to any vegetable lasagna.   

You’ll be getting some of Nate’s ginger this week, and very likely again next week (the pieces won’t be large). He ordinarily gets his planting stock from a guy called “Biker Dude” in Hawaii, but he had a crop failure last winter and referred Nate to a Peruvian supplier. Have fun with it. One of my favorite ways to enjoy this tropical crop is in the form of a gingersnap cookie. 

Winter share news

To learn more about our winter share, please click here: https://windflowerfarm.wufoo.com/forms/m1xr27rk05nzoa8/

What’s new on the farm?

I took a road trip on a rainy Friday last week to a farm in northern vermont. Earlier in the year, I mentioned that I might more frequently include the produce of other organic farms in your summer shares beginning next year. (The idea, by the way, received overwhelming support.) Among the best candidates for that are beans and carrots. Beans because a friend and experienced organic farmer – Martin Stosiek – has a bean harvester. Carrots because we do not have a soil suitable for growing carrots, at least not on a commercial scale. Ours is too stoney to grow straight carrots or to cultivate a carrot crop using tractor mounted tools. 

My trip north took me to Jericho Settlers Farm, just east of Burlington, VT, near Mount Mansfield’s backside. The farm sits on 90 acres of Winooski River bottom soils, level, stone-free and well suited to the production of carrots, parsnips and beets. The winter share’s carrots will come from them this year. My hope is to barter onions, which grow better here, for their carrots.  

There is a third crop I’ll mention – potatoes. We have never had to buy potatoes before, and I don’t intend to include them among the crops we’ll source in the future, but I have just purchased some to help finish out this year and to have them for the winter share. Our own potatoes were planted in a back field that our irrigation system could not reach and yields were miserable. Sometimes things don’t work out. The potatoes I have purchased came from Williams Farm and are certified organic. You’ll get more next week.

Have a great week, Ted

Distribution #19, Week of October 12, 2020

The News from Windflower Farm

This week’s share

  • ‘Covington’ sweet potatoes
  • Red and yellow onions
  • ‘Romance’ carrots
  • ‘Bouquet’ dill
  • Sweet peppers, mostly ‘Carmen’ 
  • Butterhead lettuce
  • ‘Kalebration’ mixed kale
  • Arugula
  • ‘Fordhook’ Swiss chard

Your fruit share will be ‘Fortune’ apples (‘Empire’ crossed with ‘Northern Spy’) and ‘Bosc’ pears from Yonder Farm.

I’m imagining tacos de camotes – thickly sliced slabs (or cubes) of roasted sweet potatoes, black beans, avocados, and onions placed in a hard corn taco, with my favorite Mexican sauce drizzled over everything and topped with fresh greens. You’ll find a dozen recipes online. 

What’s new on the farm?

Sweet potatoes are not difficult to prepare. Roast at 400 degrees in a pan with parchment paper until they begin to ooze their caramelized sugars and take on a bronzing around the edges, then serve. If cured properly, they won’t need anything. (Jan, who looks for any excuse to pull out the maple syrup, will tell you that a spoonful never hurts.) For fans of butternut squash soup, sweet potato soup is an excellent alternative. For the more adventurous, sweet potato lasagna is out of this world. 

This week’s batch of sweet potatoes is the first to come out of our makeshift curing room. When harvested, sweet potatoes are all starch. But a week to ten days at 80 degrees turns those starches to sugar. It’s not unlike what a week in the Carribean might do for any of us after a long winter. Connor, who is new on the farm this year, came to us after his Peace Corps work in Ghana was interrupted by the pandemic. His aunt MaryJane owns some of the land that we use to grow your crops. He tells me that the weather in Ghana permits in-ground curing of the roots. In our case, we cordon off a corner of a greenhouse with a heater, turn the temperature up, flood the floor so as to achieve a humidity of nearly 100%, and wait for ten days. That’s usually all there is to it. You can ensure that curing is complete by letting them sit on your counter for another week.   

Our sweet potatoes started their lives in North Carolina. Farmers there plant full size sweet potatoes in the field in early spring and then harvest “slips” – the little sprouts that emerge from the roots – and either plant them or sell them to other farmers for planting. My friend Tim, who grew 24 acres this year, drives his box truck all the way to North Carolina every spring to get the best slips, and he brings ours, too. His farm is called Laughing Child Farm, named for his four happy daughters, and on it he produces nothing but sweet potatoes. I admire the simplicity of his business, but I don’t envy it. Nate and I washed and sorted 80 bushels of sweet potatoes today (the yield from three 375’ beds), which I think will be enough for this week’s CSA deliveries, and I would have been done in by the tedium if it wasn’t for the excellent Sunday lineup on our public radio station (Le Show, Splendid Table, Afropop Worldwide and Freakonomics Radio). I prefer the challenge of the wide variety of crops we grow for the CSA.

Winter share information and a signup form should be available next week.  

Have a great week, Ted

Distribution 13, September 1 and 3, 2020

The News from Windflower Farm

Hello from Windflower Farm, where the weather has turned pleasantly cool and wet.  

What’s in your share?

  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Onions
  • Beans
  • Dill
  • and something from our mystery tote

Your fruit share will include our watermelons or Pete’s peaches. Rosemary and potatoes will be coming next week, if our harvesting machinery works properly, along with edamame, cilantro and chiles.   

What’s new on the farm?

On Saturday, a tornado passed just a few miles south of here, leaving downed trees and power lines, and dropping over 3 inches of rain across the area. I believe one person was hurt and some roofs were damaged. A photo taken in nearby Schaghticoke, with a friend’s house in the foreground and the funnel cloud behind it, reminds me of my childhood, when we would watch tornados from my grandmother’s front porch in Illinois. It took a path nearly identical to the one it took 23 years ago, following first the Mohawk River Valley and then jumping the Hudson to the Hoosic River, giving some credence to the curious notion that storms follow water. Several of us were texting back and forth, aware that our greenhouses can become giant spinnakers if the storm gets hold of them. In an ordinary year, this would have been an open house weekend at the farm. We might all have been huddled in our cellar, tents blowing in the wind.

This time of year, we do most of our planting and weeding on Thursdays and Fridays. The remainder of the week is spent harvesting and packing. We had an all day rain here on Thursday and, although there was much to do in the field, we retreated to the indoors for seeding, garlic trimming and machinery repair. The Medina family, clustered together in our new barn, spent much of the day listening to Mariachi music, the accordion and brass instruments blazing in their upbeat way, even when the lyrics are often sad. They also played recordings of several Mexican comedians, whose Spanish was way too fast for me to understand, but who had them in stitches. Their laughter and their apparent enjoyment of one another is a joy to watch. Before the need to take precautions against the pandemic, we all ate together in a big kitchen in the barn, where Wednesdays were potluck. So far this summer, we have not shared a single meal, and I think we all feel diminished for it. Food transcends language and brings us together, and I think we all miss that part of our working lives here. I imagine that you miss that in your lives, too. I find it good to keep in mind that it will not always be this way. 

Have a great week, Ted

Distribution #12, Week of August 24, 2020

The News from Windflower Farm

Greetings from Windflower Farm. This week’s CSA distribution marks the first of the second half of the season. What’s to come? You’ll receive another six or seven weeks of summer vegetables – tomatoes, corn, squashes, beans – and then, with the change in weather, you’ll get several weeks of fall vegetables, including winter squashes, leeks, carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes. Keep in mind that the season is 22 weeks long. This year, it will come to an end during election week. Your fruit shares will include the peaches, plums and melons of summer for some time to come, then, when summer is over and the growing season winds down, we’ll wrap up the fruit share with pears, apples and cider. The fruit share lasts 20 weeks.     

This week’s share

  • Tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Sweet corn
  • Peppers
  • Eggplant on Tuesday, onions on Thursday
  • Squashes or cucumbers
  • Green beans
  • Lettuce – Romaine on Tuesday, Redleaf on Thursday
  • Cabbage

Your fruit share will be either our watermelons or Pete’s plums. Carrots will be coming very soon, I promise, as will potatoes and Rosemary and the return of salad greens. 

The changes that we’ve made in our packing shed in response to Covid-19 have caused us to make some errors. All of this packing is new for us. I am sorry if you’ve missed out on some items. We’ll do our best to make them up to you. And we are working hard to get our systems up to speed so as to avoid shortages in the future.

What’s new at Windflower Farm?

In the past, onion topping had consumed much of our time this time of year. But this year, things will be different, at least that’s the hope. Farmers, forever attracted to machinery that reduces physical labor, long ago developed cutting tables that removed onion tops and roots from bulbs, but we have never owned one. Imagine a pair of 48 inch rolling pins working side by side and turning in opposite directions. Now imagine that each of them is made of heavy steel and has a cutting blade spiraling along its length. The roller pairs are set on the table so that their front or top ends are higher than their bottom ends, causing a bulb to move along the length of the rollers. As it travels, the bulb remains on top of the rollers but its roots and leaves occasionally get pulled down between them and are cut off by the spiraling blades. As you can imagine, it is a machine that requires safety guards. 

An onion topper came up for sale on my local farmer list-serve. It was sold within nine minutes. A Vermont farmer offered to put one in a container he was having brought in from the Netherlands, but I declined. In the Northeast, with the rare exception of small farms like ours, onions are produced on muck soils, and those are found in just a few pockets in New York, Ontario and Quebec, which is where I concentrated my search for a topper of our own. On Thursday of last week, I travelled to onion country in Quebec to pick up an onion topper I found through an equipment dealership. The border crossing was not exactly smooth. There was a committee of three looking me over closely. “Were you not aware that the border has been closed for weeks?” “Why didn’t you buy one in the states?” “What does it do?” “Why didn’t you have it shipped?” And so on. To which I responded: “Yes, but agriculture is an exempt industry, they are unavailable in the states, they remove onion leaves, and shipping would have cost a fortune.” They must have concluded that it was an unlikely pretext for doing anything nefarious because they let me across.

My topper was at Fermes Farnham, a huge onion and carrot operation in the small village of Sainte-Sabine. If you are a fan of Louise Penny novels, you’ll be familiar with the landscape I passed through. French speaking, largely Catholic, agricultural, flat as a pancake with the exception of little lakes and hummocks here and there. Four men who claimed to speak no english at all, which may have been true, helped me load the topper onto my truck. We were all concerned when it appeared my tires might all blow out from the weight of the thing, but eventually decided it would be fine. Before I left, they allowed me to climb around on their new harvester – bright red and a story and a half tall – so that I could see how a topper is set up to work. I crossed back into the states at Rouses Point, where the border agent quizzed me about growing his favorite vegetables – Brussels sprouts and parsnips – which we don’t grow. I was unsure if I would be let back in. Back home, I’ve begun to assemble the parts that should enable me to get the onion topper up and running in the next couple of weeks. I’ll be curious to know if you can see the difference – I know we will.

Have a great week, Ted