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 #18, Week of October 5, 2020

The News from Windflower Farm

This week’s share

  • Probably your last tomatoes 
  • Sweet peppers
  • Leeks
  • Potatoes (or beets)
  • Acorn squashes (or butternuts)
  • Parsley
  • Lettuce
  • Bok Choy
  • Kale
  • Possibly other salad greens

Your fruit share will be apples from Yonder Farm and cider from Borden Farm. Next week, you’ll get carrots, arugula, red onions and sweet potatoes, among other goodies. More potatoes to come.

What’s new on the farm?

Fall colors are at their peak now, a week ahead of normal, perhaps because of the unusual heat and drought of summer or those early frosts – who really knows? – and they are stunning. We are living for this briefest of moments in a picture postcard. We know that these red and orange leaves will blow away in the next big wind, and that we’ll be in a monochromatic landscape for the next seven months – seven months! – but it’s all pretty terrific for now.

Winter greens planting is underway this week. Tomatoes are being yanked out and tossed in the compost pile, and winter hardy greens are being planted one by one into freshly composted, newly tilled and highly fragrant earth, in straight, nearly perfect rows (Salvador and Candelaria lead such a fantastic team!). Soon, we’ll place hoops and floating row covers over the greens. And soon after that we’ll begin lowering the sides on the greenhouses to keep the greens warm enough so that they continue growing, but not so warm as to prevent them from becoming hardened enough to withstand the cold of winter. These greenhouses are unheated, and a tender plant won’t survive.  

Next week, we’ll begin planting next year’s garlic and covering next year’s strawberry plants to protect them against the extremes of winter. Squirrels are burying nuts and we, too, are making preparations for winter. 

Have a great week, Ted

Distribution #17, Week of September 28, 2020

The News from Windflower Farm

This week’s share

  • Assorted tomatoes
  • Winter squash
  • Eggplant
  • Shallots
  • Chiles
  • Cilantro
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Koji
  • Kale

This week’s fruit share will be Gala apples and Bosc pears from Yonder Farm

Next week, you’ll get butternut squash, sweet potatoes, garlic, sweet peppers, onions, a variety of greens and the last tomatoes of the season, and your fruit share will be more apples and a half gallon of the Borden’s cider.

What’s new on the farm?

It has been very dry throughout September, but it’s raining as I write this and, because we sowed several acres of cover crops this past week, we are pleased. Soon, winter rye, hairy vetch, oats and pea seedlings will emerge in fields that grew this year’s vegetables. The cover crops will protect the soil from erosion during the winter, and they will capture nitrogen and carbon, enhancing soil organic matter. The rain means that our fall greens and new strawberries will also have a little more of what they need. There are still five weeks to go in the CSA distribution season, and the greens need regular watering.

Next week, we will remove all of the tomato plants from our tunnels so that we can transplant winter greens into them. This is something that we’ve done for the past fifteen years or so. It’s always a little sad to see summer tomatoes disappear from the share, but the shorter and cooler days mean that tomato flavor has begun to deteriorate anyway. And October 10th is the last day to plant greens before we run the risk that they won’t have developed before the cold stops them altogether. And so, after a last harvest, we will yank the tomato vines out one by one, throwing them in a heap on the compost pile. Then we’ll add fresh compost to the beds, work them with our smallest tractor, a Kubota 3700, and plant the greens, four rows to a bed, nine inches apart. With any luck, they will be fully grown six weeks later.

Have a great week, Ted

Distribution #16, Week of September 21, 2020

The News from Windflower Farm

Happy fall from all of us at Windflower Farm, where one of our hottest and driest summers ever has given way to the cold temperatures of fall and warnings of early frost. By Thursday of last week, we had harvested all of our winter squashes. This week, you’ll get Delicatas. Acorns will be in your shares next, followed by butternuts. It’s become cold enough here to move back into the kitchen, and roasted squashes, squash soup and squash muffins are all on the menu. Yesterday, Nate made pumpkin muffins (with dried cranberries and chocolate chips) from a recipe he found at lovelylittlekitchen.com.

This week’s share

  • Assorted tomatoes
  • Colorful sweet peppers
  • Carrots
  • Dill
  • Delicata squash
  • Red and yellow onions
  • Greenleaf lettuce
  • Tatsoi
  • Swiss chard
  • German Red garlic        

Your fruit share will be a bagful of Pete’s Macintosh apples and Bartlett pears.

What’s new on the farm?

Killdeer have begun their flocking, and their numbers appear healthy to me. I like to think that they have found a safe haven here, but how can I know? I noticed them last week while working a field in preparation for cover cropping. Soon, they’ll head to Mexico, and they are looking to bulk up for the flight. The disc brings soil dwelling insects and worms to the surface and the flock swarms down to scoop them up. In the spring of the year, Killdeer would dread the coming of the tractor. They make nests on the ground after we’ve plowed but generally before we’ve planted. Because of their broken wing ploy, we can usually find and flag their nests so that we can avoid them as we pull the transplanter across the field. For a few days, their hatchlings are little flightless puffballs and a year or two back Jan could not resist the temptation to catch one in her hands (she is similarly hands on with snakes and baby rabbits). She may have frightened the little thing for a moment, but it was soon off doing what its siblings were doing, eating seeds or bugs. And now I imagine it as part of this flock making plans for Mexico.     

A week ago, the trees in our hedgerows were deep green. Today reds and oranges are peeking through, and in a week or two they’ll be in full color. We expect our first frost tonight. And so, a little too soon, summer is over. The Hudson River, which lies five miles west of here, at the end of our road, sits at an elevation of about 90’. Our farm lies some 800’ above the river, and that is what gives us some protection against the first frosts, which tend to snake along valley floors. I visited a friend whose farm is a mile east and perhaps 100 or 150’ above the level of the river. He told me that his first frost occurred two days ago and it caught him by surprise, spoiling a large portion of his winter squash crop. We had a little more time to prepare. Nate and I spent half a day on Wednesday dropping sandbags in all of the places where we intended to put row covers, and then a full day on Thursday rolling out covers, spreading them over the top of the cold sensitive crops and then repositioning the sandbags along their edges. The farm team helped with the last pieces – draping covers over the peppers and eggplants that now stand up to my shoulders. Had we not taken these steps, we’d be hard pressed to fill our truck during the final weeks of the season. Often, if our crops survive the first frosts, they will continue to grow for another three or four weeks, or as long as the Indian Summer lasts. In the meantime, it’s time to sharpen your skis!

Have a great week, Ted

Distribution #15, Week of September 14, 2020

The News from Windflower Farm

Every other week, I throw eight five-gallon diesel cans in the back of my pickup truck and head into town for a refill. By my back-of-the-envelope calculation, this translates into less than half a gallon per share per year, which has not changed much over the years. Our bigger use of fuel has to do with trucking from the farm to sites in the city, and that has likewise remained steady at about four gallons per share per year. As I drove to the filling station today, I thought about this week’s tasks. We will try to finish strawberry planting and continue seeding greens for the winter as we have been doing for the past couple of weeks. The greenhouse is full again with benches of spinach, Swiss chard, kale and other very cold hardy greens. It takes about an hour each day to do the watering. We’ll plant them out in our unheated greenhouses in early October, hoop and cover them with row covers and irrigate them twice a week. They’ll be ready for the first winter share delivery on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. More information about the winter share will be coming soon.  

This week’s share

  • Assorted tomatoes
  • Colorful sweet peppers
  • Assorted potatoes
  • Rosemary
  • German White garlic
  • Yellow or green beans
  • Dill
  • Squashes or cucumbers
  • A mix of red lettuces
  • Spinach
  • Kale

Delicata squashes will be in some shares this week, and in every share next week. Eat right away – they do not keep very well. Simply wash, cut in half lengthwise, and bake face down for 45 minutes at 375 or until fork soft. Add a little butter and a pinch of salt or cinnamon. The skin is edible. Your fruit share will be Pete’s last peaches on Tuesday and his last plums on Thursday.

What’s new on the farm?

Two crops were particularly hard for us this year: carrots and potatoes. Hot and dry weather was the chief culprit in both cases, but several growers have pointed to the poor quality of seeds as another possible cause in the case of carrots. You’ll get the first of our potatoes this week. We’ll send our own carrots for a second time next week, and again the following week, and then we’ll be out until our late fall harvest (which was timed for winter shares).

We have purchased crops from neighboring farmers in the past. We set aside some money for the purpose. We don’t have success with every crop we grow, and we don’t want you to have a bad CSA experience. If our radicchio or celeriac or kohlrabi don’t work out, we are not going to go to the market looking to replace them, but if an important staple like carrots or onions or potatoes failed, we would go searching to fill the gap. We have only done this a few times in all of our years as CSA farmers, and we limit our purchases to local growers.

I’ve been trying to buy organic carrots with which to fill out your fall shares, but it turns out that we were not alone in having had challenges. And the local crop is lean. My friend Brian, who farms with his wife Justine, believes they will have some carrots for us, and Jody and Carrie, sisters who farm in Columbia County, expect to also have some. They are excellent farmers and farm on good soils, making them good candidates, with some prior planning, to help with the carrots in our 2021 shares, too. I’ll keep you apprised as to the source of carrots (and any other non-Windflower crops) as they show up in your shares.      

Have a great week, Ted