CSA News from Windflower Farm – Delivery #21

CSA News from Windflower Farm

Delivery #21, Week of October 22nd, 2018

Cold weather is expected this week, along with sunshine. Fall colors are fading, and final harvests are underway.

This week’s share. Sweet potatoes, ginger, spinach, butternut squash, escarole (or kale), Koji (a dark green choy), fennel (bulbs and fronds), yellow onions, the last of our sweet peppers. Next week’s share is the very last of the season and will include a variety of greens and root crops.

What’s new at the farm? Today, Jan, Nate and I are washing and sorting ginger for this week’s delivery and planting elderberries. The Medina clan is harvesting the last four caterpillar tunnels of sweet peppers and the last four beds of sweet potatoes. Collectively, we are wearing every manner of outdoor clothing, none of which is likely to be seen on this year’s fashion runways. Martin is wearing a matching tan Carhartt jacket and balaclava, with green rain pants and duck taped black rubber boots. Daniel, whose appearance is the most sophisticated among us, has on a set of bright orange Healy Hanson fishermen’s bibs over a black Hefty trash bag. He might have just come off an Alaskan trawler. I’m wearing EMS’s flannel lined dungarees, in blue, and a black Prava jacket I found at the second hand shop in town, neither of which, it turns out, is any good in the wet.

Nate and Jan have been testing their new foul weather gear, most of which includes polypropylene and gore-tex and various shells, in part to keep them comfortable today, but also because we are heading off on a hiking trip the day after we make our last delivery, and they would like to know how well the stuff works. Our vacationing happens in the off season. Last year, we went to Acadia in coastal Maine in December and had the hiking trials to ourselves. This year, it will be Sierras and southern Utah in November. When we return, it will be just in time to prepare the first of your winter shares, and we’ll know exactly what to wear. This year’s surprise find is waterproof socks by Seal Skin (not real seal skins, of course).

Our winter share sign-up is underway! Help keep the Windflower Farm team off the streets of Valley Falls – please sign up today for our winter share. The link is here: https://windflowerfarm.wufoo.com/forms/m1xr27rk05nzoa8/

The winter share consists of four monthly deliveries that will include approximately 2 lb. of organically grown greens (including spinach, kales, Swiss chard and other greens) and 8-10 lb. of storage vegetables (including carrots, red and yellow onions, winter squash, a variety of potatoes, beets, leeks, sweet potatoes, popcorn, black beans and more), along with 4-6 lb. of fruits, and either apple cider or homemade jam or local honey – all packed to fit in a returnable box. This year, some of the storage vegetables (including carrots and butternut squashes) will come from neighboring organic farms, but almost everything else will come from Windflower Farm.

What’s new? Less plastic packaging! There are too many plastic bags in the world and we fully intend to reduce the number we use in packaging your vegetables. We’ll pack loose where we can, and use paper bags where we need packaging. Our GOAL will be to use zero plastic bags, but, because we are not yet sure that we can, we’ll promise this: to use no more than one plastic bag per month. And we have found a reusable, recyclable, tape-free box to help reduce waste.

An optional EGG share from neighbors raising free-range hens is also available in the winter, as is a MAPLE share. Our four deliveries are timed to coincide with the deliveries made to your CSA pickup site by Lewis-Waite Farm (of CSA Extras) for one-stop shopping.

Delivery dates: November 17th, December 15th, January 12th and February 9th. Follow this link for pricing and site specific details: https://windflowerfarm.wufoo.com/forms/m1xr27rk05nzoa8/

I hope you’ll join us.

Have a great week, Ted

CBCSA 2nd Annual Harvest Picnic

Join us for a fall picnic with your fellow CSA members!

Please bring a dish or beverage to share and let us know what you plan on bringing on this form. Family, friends and dogs welcome!

When: Sunday, October 14th, 2018, 3 to 6 PM
Where: Brower Park (Meet at the SE corner, near the intersection of Park Place and Kingston Ave)

CSA News from Windflower Farm – Week #19

CSA News from Windflower Farm

Delivery #19, Week of October 8th, 2018

This week’s share. Swiss chard, arugula, lettuce, Sweet potatoes, onions, acorn squashes (or pie pumpkins), sweet peppers, potatoes, herbs (sage or parsley), and perhaps some eggplants or chiles or broccoli. Your fruit will be Empire apples and Bosc pears. Next week, you’ll get carrots, leeks, sweet potatoes, fennel, onions, squashes, peppers, potatoes, garlic, lettuce, escarole, Winterbor kale and herbs.

What’s new on the farm? The Kubota is running again, but the repair did not set any new speed records. In addition to the bearing problem I wrote about last week, three small welds had broken, which took Nate some time to repair. His work reminds me that it is terrific having a kid who can weld.

A new Windflower Farm planting record was achieved, however. On Friday, we managed to plant five small tomato greenhouses (the kinds we call “caterpillars”) to winter greens – Swiss chard, spinach, Koji and kales. For some perspective, that’s the equivalent of a four-row bed the length of five football fields. We still have four more caterpillars to plant, along with three large greenhouses, and we hope to have them all planted by this time next week.

On a related note, winter share signups will be available soon. We hope you’ll join us for the four deliveries of our winter season.

I’m mapping the 2019 location of crops on the farm. Next year, these caterpillar greenhouses will be rotated out of tomatoes and into flowers or peppers or herbs to break up pest cycles. Crop rotation is the most important tool we have for dealing with pests without pesticides. Inside our deer fence, an area of about eighty acres – we use a five-year rotation. This year’s severe drought brought about a change in our thinking. Now, all of the greens and the smaller root crops (carrots, radishes and beets) will be put in our front field, the one we call Maryjane, because our good overhead irrigation system can take care of them there. Corn, beans, squashes, cucumbers, peppers and sweet potatoes, all grown with mulch and drip irrigation, will be located in the large field that is served by our biggest pond. And the potatoes, cabbages and onions – vegetables that deer don’t regard as food – will be planted in a rotation of their own in the ten acres remaining outside the deer fence.

I spent the first half of today working in a lovely mist, plowing under old weeds and crop residues in preparation for the very last of this year’s outdoor plantings. The large sugar maples in the hedges are golden, and the climbing woodbine is a deep red. The peak of colors is perhaps a week away. Because of recent rains, the ground has finally become soft, and deep plowing has once again become possible. I was working in the back field near the new pond, which was in potatoes this year, and will be the location of next year’s winter squashes. Squashes are generally happy to follow potatoes in a crop rotation, following the old time admonition: ‘fruits to follow roots’. Or is that ‘roots to follow fruits’? It likely doesn’t matter because these two crops don’t share pests, and following one with the other is going to interrupt the pest cycles of both, or so I hope.

Have a great week, Ted

CSA News from Windflower Farm – Week 18

CSA News from Windflower Farm

Delivery #18, Week of October 1st, 2018

This week’s share. Sweet potatoes, leeks, acorn squashes, tomatoes (perhaps our last), sweet peppers, chiles, garlic, eggplant, lettuce, your choice of arugula or a salad mix and kale or Swiss chard. Your fruit will be Gala apples. Next week, you’ll get more sweet potatoes (so, eat these up!), plus onions, peppers, and assorted greens.

For newcomers to sweet potatoes, try this simple approach: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Wash the sweet potatoes because their skins are edible and nutritious, poke the roots with a fork in a couple of places, place them on a baking dish to catch their drippings, and bake for about an hour, or until they are oozing with caramelized juices. They should be fork soft when ready.

News from Windflower Farm. After this week, there will be just four more CSA deliveries. But don’t despair – winter shares will be available soon! The winter share is comprised of four monthly deliveries (from November through February) of fresh greens and stored root vegetables from Windflower Farm, fruit (apples and pears) from Borden Farm, a sweet treat of some kind (honey, cider, jam, etc.) each month from a local producer and optional eggs and maple products from the Davis family. Stay tuned!

Nearly every year, for as long as we’ve owned our Kubota L3130, I’ve had to replace the bearings on the front end of the tractor. Sometimes the left, sometimes the right. I guess the original engineering was a little off. When the bearings fail, the wheel wobbles, the gears grind audibly, the four wheel drive knuckle drips gear oil, and, if left unattended, the wheel eventually falls off. This unfolds over the course of a few days or, at most, a couple of weeks. I try to deal with the problem sometime between the grinding stage and the wheel falling off. They always have the parts in stock down at the dealership because they know I’ll be coming. As you can imagine, given that we’ve owned the tractor for nearly 15 years, I’ve become relatively proficient at the job. In the early years, it would take about half a day. More recently, it has taken closer to two hours. Martin told me yesterday that the front end has been grinding again, and he has positioned a bucket underneath the knuckle to catch the oil. While he is slightly amused by the whole thing, my only reaction is surprise at how late it has come this year. The week ahead will be a rainy one, so I’ll tackle the project then. I’ll report back if I’ve achieved a new personal record.

Also this week, in addition to ongoing harvests, the farm team will finish clearing the tomatoes out of the eight or nine small greenhouses that we’ll plant to winter greens. Soon afterward, we’ll add compost, chisel plow and till in preparation for planting. Next week we’ll plant the Swiss chard, spinach, Koji, red choy, arugula and various kales for the winter share.

Have a great week, Ted

CSA News from Windflower Farm – Week 17

CSA News from Windflower Farm

Delivery #17, Week of September 24th, 2018

This week’s share. Lettuce, radicchio, Dinosaur kale, cilantro, chiles, tomatoes, sweet peppers, leeks, delicata squash, beans, potatoes and carrots. Your sweet potatoes need another week in our greenhouse to sweeten – you’ll see them beginning next week. Nearly 100% of the vegetables in your shares are from our farm, and all are organic, but this week’s carrots are not ours. Our carrot crop was a failure. These carrots are from Brian and Justine Denison’s farm, and are certified organic.

Pete tells me his apples have been slow to develop color, which I gather is the final step in their development prior to harvest. I will not know for another day what Pete will have for your fruit share, but it will likely be something from his late plum crop.

Summer vegetables have begun to disappear with the arrival of fall. You’ll be getting the last of our beans this week or next. You’ve likely already had the last of our summer squashes and cucumbers and corn. Tomatoes are slowing down, and they’ll soon be removed to make greenhouse space for the greens that will fill out winter shares. But there are good things to come. The final six shares of this season will be comprised of sweet potatoes and potatoes, red and yellow onions and leeks, carrots and beets, winter squashes and various greens, including radicchio, endive, lettuce, arugula, kales, chard, koji and a mustard mix. You’ll also get more garlic and some fennel and celeriac.

We are beginning to prepare for cold weather here. We’ll be able to put up wood for the spring heating season, but we are too late for our winter supply. So, we’ve called Bob Bassett, the man who occasionally provides us with wood for the stoves that heat our workshop and cabin. Bob loaded four full cords onto his trailer by himself today and brought them over. He would have come earlier in the week, he said, but he had a fifty acre field of corn that he wanted to chop before the rain came. It’s a big project for anyone, but Bob is just shy of 80. He wears mutton chops and has bright blue eyes. He is someone Robert Frost or Leo Tolstoy might conjure. He’s one of those country gentlemen that I can’t help but admire. He is as happy at his work and in his place in the world as anyone I’ve met. It’s the simple things, he says. He tells me he has a wife who loves him, a nice little workshop off the barn and a view of the Helderbergs and the Berkshires from the high field where he splits his wood. The four cords are now stacked and covered, and it feels good to know we are a little more prepared for the coming cold.

Have a great week, Ted

CSA News from Windflower Farm – Week 16

CSA News from Windflower Farm

Delivery #16, Week of September 17th, 2018

This week’s share. You’ll get arugula, Winterbor kale, mustard mix, and sweet potato leaves. Your share will also include radishes, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, potatoes and delicata squash. Next week, you’ll get carrots, more delicata squashes, leeks and a variety of greens, among other vegetables. This week’s fruit will be Zest Star apples. Next week it might be plums.

The delicata squash in your share is unlikely to last, so eat it up! Delicata is my favorite squash. I simply cut them lengthwise, clean out their seed cavity, place them cut side down on a moistened cookie sheet or pie dish to catch the juices, and bake at 350 to 375 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes, until fork soft. Their skins are edible. My mom would serve winter squashes with butter and maple sugar, but I don’t usually use anything. Delicatas can also be cut into smaller chunks and roasted alone or among a medley of vegetables.

We began our sweet potato harvest last week, and several large totes are now curing in the greenhouse. We’ll post images of the harvest on our Instagram page in the next week or so. They taste best after having been cured in a warm, moist environment for eight or ten days. We used the tractor to place the heavy totes near the greenhouse heater, then flooded the floor to achieve 99-100% humidity, and cranked up the heat to achieve a temperature of 80 degrees. During this brief period of time, the starch in the tubers will be transformed into sugar, making them ready to eat. We’ll send some sweet potatoes next week. In the meantime, we are sending bunched sweet potato leaves. They are a mild, slightly bitter green that can be used as a substitute for kale or Swiss chard in any dish.

Have a great week, Ted

CSA News from Windflower Farm – Week 15

CSA News from Windflower Farm

Delivery #15, Week of September 10th, 2018

This week’s share. Arugula, spinach, Swiss chard (hurray, we are into greens again!), sweet corn, garlic, potatoes, scallions, radishes, tomatoes and peppers. Your fruit share will consist of Pete’s peaches and our baby watermelons. Next week, you’ll get the first of our leeks and delicata squashes. You’ll also get some combination of kale, arugula, lettuce and a mustard mix. Next week’s fruit is likely to be apples. Pears and cider will be coming soon.

Notes from the farm. Last week, we harvested most of our pie pumpkins and acorn, delicata and butternut squashes, and they are now curing in our largest greenhouse. The curing environment will help harden their skins and provide time and warmth for the conversion of their starches into sugars. We harvested the squashes into 20-bushel totes that we lined with hardware cloth to keep any creatures out. They’ll be in shares soon. This week, we have been planting the strawberries that we’ll harvest next June. These are large projects, and I’ll be glad to have them behind us.

We’ve also been irrigating again. In fact, we await a good rain before we can undertake the next field project – fall onion and garlic planting. At this point, the ground is too hard to sink my plow into. We are in another stretch of dry weather, and when our soil becomes dry, it becomes concrete-hard. We are nearly a month away from garlic planting, and almost two from onion planting, so there is no reason to be worried, but I’d like to get started. Two big wet-weather systems appear to be headed our way this week and we are hoping for rain from one of them.

I made good on a promise to take our farm crew sailing on Saturday. It was clear, cold and windy, and the seven of us, well bundled and packed tight in my little boat, really enjoyed ourselves, with Bonnie, Julia and me each taking turns at the helm.

While we await better field conditions, we will be starting on the construction of a shed roof on our equipment barn. It’s a simple project – we’ll set five posts on the footings we poured last summer, install the carrying beams and cross braces, then set the rafters against the existing barn, add purlins and, finally, install the steel roofing. The two guys who will do the work – TB and my son, Nate – think it will take them three or four weeks. It will be great to have all of our equipment under cover before the snow flies.

Have a great week, Ted