Distribution #12 – Week of August 23, 2021

The News from Windflower Farm

Hello from Windflower Farm!  Good news: Henri brought us very little rain or wind.       

What’s in your share?

  • Lettuce
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet peppers
  • Assorted tomatoes
  • Mizuna
  • Bok choy
  • Yellow and red onions
  • German White garlic
  • Eggplant or squash
  • Sweet corn

Your fruit share will be peaches from Yonder Farm.

We harvested red potatoes last week, and we’ll send them as part of next week’s share.

What’s new on the farm?

It is Monday afternoon and I have just snuck away from the assembly line. The pandemic has added this element to our packing operation. Many of you will remember that we used to send our vegetables in bulk, using recyclable plastic totes. But we decided last spring that pre-packed boxes are a requirement until the pandemic is over.

My job had been to put tomatoes in your box, but I’ve abandoned my station in order to get a quick newsletter off to you. The assembly line is a simple one, and I don’t think I’ll be missed. Abe sets a pre-folded box on the roller, places a cabbage in a corner and shoves it along to Kristoffer, who places an eggplant or two and two peppers in another corner of the box and pushes it down the line. Jan is next, and she puts red and yellow onions in the box. Her work requires a little sorting and represents the slowest stretch on the line, giving the rest of us occasional breaks and chances to chat. Nate is next in line and he puts garlic and bagged green beans in the box and pushes it along to Andrea, who puts lettuce and kale in a corner and then pushes the box up to me. Because four of us had spent the morning sorting and bagging your tomatoes, my job was nothing more than setting a bagful of tomatoes in the remaining corner of the box. Victoria takes the box from me, closes it and sends it up to Daren at the end of the line. With me gone, she also deals with the tomatoes. Daren arranges the boxes on pallets and rolls them into the cooler where they will remain until loading early tomorrow.

It has become routine now, this business of assembling boxes full of vegetables. Seven people harvest your shares over the course of two to four days a week, depending on where we are in the season. That work is rain or shine. The box making, produce washing, bean and tomato bagging and final filling of the boxes takes seven people a full day twice a week. It’s not bad work, and the packing shed is a comfortable place to be, especially when it’s raining or extremely hot.

Have a great week, Ted               

Distribution #11 – Week of August 16, 2021

The News from Windflower Farm

Hello from Windflower Farm!      

What’s in your share?

  • Red Romaine lettuce
  • Bunched mizuna greens
  • Sweet corn
  • Sweet peppers
  • Assorted tomatoes
  • Genovese basil
  • Red Russian kale
  • Yellow onions
  • German White garlic
  • Eggplant 

Fruit share members will get one quart of peaches from Yonder Farm

What’s new on the farm?

Although I wouldn’t be so bold as to say we’ve outsmarted our resident raccoon family, we have learned a simple trick this week: don’t be in a hurry to mow down the old corn crop. Our first generation of corn was planted near the back fence line, next to a woodlot and pond – prime raccoon habitat. Viewed now, it was obviously a poor choice of locations. The second generation of corn, the product of which is in your shares today, is growing in the next field, but two city blocks and a hedgerow away from the first generation. And, happily, it has been free of raccoons. Because they still have plenty of corn to eat in the first planting they have had no reason to send out an exploratory team. Perhaps by the time they have eaten all there is and have had to move on to planting #2, we will have moved on to the western part of the farm, two fields and two hedgerows away, where planting #3 is located. The corn variety you’ll be getting is called ‘American Dream’ and it’s one of the few really good organically grown sweet corn varieties on the market. Visitors this weekend grilled some for us, but I continue to think the best way to eat sweet corn is raw, freshly husked, with the fragrance of leaves and silk in the air and kernels still on the cob.

Have a great week, Ted 

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 #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