- 1 Bag Spinach
- 1 Bag Salad Mix
- 1 bunch Chives
- 1 bunch Mizuna
- 1 bag Chippolini Onions
- 1 bunch Easter Egg Radish
- 1 bunch Dill
- 1 bunch Watercress
When I was a novice gardener I figured the growing season began and ended with our average frost dates. After my first year of actually growing I came to realize frost doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the garden. I was even more surprised to learn that in fact cold weather sometimes has the affect of improving the flavor profile of some crops. Spinach is a classic example, on a cold morning with a heavy frost or even a freeze you will find this plant frozen solid. Now return to that same plant a couple hours later when the day has warmed and you will find a vigorous healthy, green plant ready for eating. Amazing as spinach is with regards to how it can survive cold weather the more amazing part is the flavor. Crisp, sweet, crunchy and full of flavor. Compare your winter spinach with the same crop coming out of California and you will begin to discover the true benefits of eating local.
Now that I’m not exactly a novice gardener I have come to realize our growing season is so much longer then we think. I have learned to combine the right crops with the right environmental modifying techniques to begin to think about our local vegetable season as a year round endeavor. This year with the help of several unheated greenhouses I was able to start planting in the ground around mid February. Since this is my first time trying this I had a few nerve wracking nights as temperatures outside dipped into the single digits, but in the morning after the sun had returned the plants looked beautiful.
I hope you enjoy this spring share as much as I have been enjoying growing the greens. This late winter/early spring has been a constant reminder of why I love gardening. There is always something to learn, new techniques, experiments waiting to be tried. This work is a lifetime of discovery, of wonder, and delight. At the end of the day what I delight in most is all this hard work and discover leads to one thing. A belly full of the most scrumptious food a guy could imagine!
In mid-December, as we reach the darkest point of the year, a subtle change ripples through the fabric of time. I stroll leisurely to the mail box, open its door, and find within a bulging stack of seed catalogs. They are full color, glossy, descriptive beauties listing hundreds of vegetables, culinary herbs, flowers, perennial fruits, and trees. With this one arrival, the mind of a Midwestern vegetable farmer is transported into the next growing season. It is our reminder of the not too distant future, seed trays full of delicate new plants, the smells of spring earth, rain, the beginning of another gardening season. I like to take a favorite catalog or two out of the stack and sit with a cup of coffee, sippin and flippin. This is my dream-time walk-through, not serious planning yet, just entertainment. I slowly scroll through page after page, reacquainting myself with old standby crops and exploring the descriptions of the new varieties. I gaze intently at the pictures, dreaming about that first ripe tomato or crisp salad, and the return of the warm sunny days of summer. Once the dream run is finished, it is time to get down to business. Now the more arduous task begins of seed order assembly. This task includes comparing field logs with greenhouse records, past seed orders and the future season’s planting plan. I’m part guided by emotion and art, and part by the farm bank account; it’s a balance. Flipping between several of the most reputable catalogs helps me to discover the correct variety of plant for the correct growing application at the best possible price. With variety selected, I begin building my current year seed list. This list will include how many seeds I need to order and from whom, as well as the variety name, price, and planting date.
At this point, I have become warmly familiar with my favorite catalogs, like an old friend with whom I have a familiar ease. I will return to these publications again and again throughout the growing season as nature ebbs and flows, for even the best laid plans are always subject to the mischief of Mother Nature. If there is one lesson farming teaches you, well, it’s that we control very little of this life. And at the same time, we really can control so much! The very act of planting a seed changes the world. I have always believed in the abundance of life, which is what perhaps brought me back to the farm. This is why the seed catalog is such a powerful piece of literature. I am forever amazed at the life that springs from seeds that arrived in the mail. Each one of those little plants will first be nourished by me, then go on to nourish those who choose to eat it. The seeds I choose and the plants we grow end up shaping the very farm around us. We build structures, lay out fields, plant windbreaks, build soil, all for the care of those plants that came from seeds that came from generation upon generation of our ancestors’ care. These seeds are our collective human mind, what we are capable of, and I can feel this history as I play my little part.
Someday I dream of saving my own seed, learning what it takes to develop seeds specific to this farm, this location. Learning the beauty of evolution, the seeds we receive are coded with a specific genetic identity, infused with information from a location, changed ever so very slightly from the year before. If, in the future, I become expert enough to feel confident in saving my own seed, then those little packets of genetic code will take on changes based on this micro climate. Microscopic bits of knowledge gained from the surrounding environment of this time and place, but for now I will content myself with the expert work which went into the seeds that arrive in my mail box. More than likely I will always rely on the experts for most of my seed needs. If I embark on the seed saving road, I revel in the thought of becoming a small player in our collective seed history for as long as those seed lines survive. Until then, I will grab another cup of coffee, return to my catalogs, and indulge the seeds of a dreamer as I await the coming spring.
Looking for our 2016 Sign-up form? Well here it is! Welcome to a new year of delicious health food.
August is the month for this Wisconsin vegetable farmer when sleep becomes the most elusive. Our growing season begins in early February with the firing up of our greenhouses and planting of all those vegetables, herbs, and flowers we hope to nurture to maturity. Our start is gentle, one planted miracle at a time, and then it builds momentum through the spring, later adding field work into the schedule. Then greenhouse, field work, weeding and finally greenhouse, field, weeding, harvest, delivery. This schedule persist through late spring and summer. By harvest moon our lives are a blur of activity with day and night stretching into one. The harvest month, the phase when all of our time, love and tenderness come to fruition, and so we run, figuratively and literally from one task to the next, always pushing for this is make or break time, these are the moments that allow us to survive the other end of the season, the hibernation.
We are not on this journey through the season alone though, our farm, this land with its plants, animals and the very soil we tread also follow a similar path. The awakening begins with those first warm end of February days, when the sun has returned to strength and begins to warm the surface of the earth. Signs show up everywhere, in a blade of grass peeking through the brown, the running of the maple sap, that smell we all crave so desperately of fresh earth, of rain. Then with explosions of emerald green, and those warm summer days that last forever. Or not, eventually, in such subtle ways, fall begins to creep in, usually sometime in August with a night or two cooler than a person expects. So begins our farms transition back to those months of rest and then deep hibernation.
Sleep, that most precious of commodities, its roll in a healthy life is paramount. We sleep to rebuild our bodies and to clear our minds so that we are ready to receive all that is new the next day. Our farm, our earth works in the same way though with a different definition of time. For our farm a year is a day spring is morning, summer mid-morning, fall midafternoon and winter as night. As fall approaches we begin to prep our farm for the slumber to come, we till under our crops as they begin to die, we add cover crop seed, plant our garlic, dig our tubers, mulch. Field by field and row by row we add minerals and compost to feed all the life teaming in a spoonful of dirt. Finally the heavy frosts and short sunlight hours cool the earth and life begins to move very slowly and finally for those brief few months it sleeps.
This is where we find ourselves now, though this year has certainly been different from others we still find ourselves at the edge of fall. In a week and certainly not more than two our field work will be complete and our farm will enter sleep mode. So will this farmer, I will retreat to the house, return to the kitchen, continue my studies on how to make this a better farm. I will analyze the past year, prepare a new plan, ogle the new seed catalogs as they fill my mail box and of course find time for some glorious nights of sleep.
I open the door leading from porch to the outside and am immediately blasted by an air so cold it takes your breath away. During the overnight hours the snow has become crisp and squeaky/crunchy under my tread as I walk towards the feed room. It’s as cold now as it has been at any time this winter and yet the sun is shining and there is but a whisper of breeze. In all my bundles, a stomach warm with coffee I begin my daily ritual of feeding and watering hungry animals. It isn’t long before the work warms me under my many layers and the mind acclimates to the outside. Although the cold clings to everything, reminding us we aren’t out of the woods yet I can feel the strength of the sun re-turning, I find a sheltered spot on the south side of our barn and bath in the warm rays. What a lovely blue sky, lite winter blue, crisp, clear, white on the horizon, then baby blue, then almost navy at zenith.
This is the time of year Pagans would celebrate Imbolc, the first stirrings of spring and indeed if you look close enough you will see. Buds on trees have an ever so very slight bulge, our cardinal friends are singing a song that seems to ring with the harmonics of spring. In a day or two I will visit my maple patch and begin un-packing the supplies, and of course work has begun in the greenhouse. Work be-gins with a good spring cleaning, yesterday I cleared off old plant debris, then set about marking out my beds to start our first in ground plantings, carrots, radish, salad mix. Today I tackle organizing of the seed trays. We use our trays to start transplants like tomatoes, eggplant, head lettuce, pars-ley, chard, kale that will end up in our fields around the beginning of May.
With the feeding chores complete I refill my coffee mug and amble over to the greenhouse, time to get to work. I open the door and walk into the future. The temperature outside is just above 0 degrees but inside this little sanctuary it’s already 50 and climbing fast. If the sun keeps shining we will reach 70 or 80 soon enough. Time to layer down and join the early Spring, man I love this work!
It is January, the depth of winter. Our days our cold and gray, often punctuated with a dusting of snow. This is the month for dreaming, for reading , for catching up on sleep. It is also the month for planning. I pine away my days huddled in my cozy little office with a view of the outside world going over seed catalogs, filing 2014 papers, organizing and catching up on all the things we skip over when the season is in full swing. This year I have spent more time honing the art of meal prep. It has taken me years of bumbling around in the kitchen, full of raw energy and desire but not much else. This year has been different. I am beginning to feel a comfort that has been lacking. A familiarity with ingredient and technique. Like gardening I have a lifetime of learning ahead of me and yet I have had those moments when I’ve put together a meal that is both appealing to the eye and to the mouth.
This art of cookery brings me back to gardening and gardening back to kitchen. While preparing meals I dream of these ingredients collected at peak ripeness, of walking the garden picking items that soon will join our feast. The real trick is finding the time to both grow and eat these culinary delights. It is my hope I will find this possible with the addition of online casino our hoop houses that I continue to work on when weather allows.
This January I finally took a winter vacation. It had always been my goal or plan to hit the open road in January to places unknown but like the kitchen I always seemed to find other things that kept me away. Not this year, for two weeks this month I escaped to beautiful Montana, joining my good friend from the Colorado days for a wonderful time skiing and soaking in hot springs. I took my daughters with me the first week and was able to share with them my love of skiing and the mountains. What a strange feeling to be both excited that your child is learning and seeming to enjoy something that has played such a big part of my life (skiing) and down right fearful they are going to run directly into a tree and get hurt. Emotions moves from weeee to wooo and back again with surprising speed.
Sometime over the last year I have taken up the hobby of birding. It seems like a coming of age pastime. At some point in all of our lives we begin to take interest in these winged creatures that fill our day with song and color. My sister began a few years before me, when visiting her and her husband we would sit at their little breakfast table and watch the birds gathering, jostling around the feeder positioned under the closest pine tree. I was always amazed, perhaps even a little jealous how knowledgeable she is about her birds. Then several years back while visiting an Amish farmer I work with I was entertained as I sipped coffee at their kitchen table by the frequent winged visitors at a feeder they had constructed so that it sat right at the window. This was the inspiration I needed to come up with a similar feeder that now graces my kitchen window. What joy to sit eating breakfast joined by Juncos, Chickadees, Cardinals, nuthatch, Sparrows and other more rare winter visitors. So far my favorite bird sighting though has to be the Ruby Crowned Kinglet. I’m not sure why this little fellow holds place as my favorite, the way it flitters about, its tiny stature, cute little ruby crown visible only while in flight or its here and gone nature but it tops my birding list. What about You?
Good afternoon my friends. It has been an unusually warm and rather wet last couple of days. As of an hour ago the dense fog that has surrounded us has lifted and I see there is still a world beyond our boarders.
Well its December and its time for me to start thinking about the coming season. Honestly I haven’t stopped thinking about it but its time to share my thoughts. First I would like to thank all who responded to our end of the year survey, this year we received 40 responses, up from 24 the year before. What fun it was to read what you all had to say. I would like to share with you the results.
Overall 60% of you rated our CSA program as excellent, 35% where satisfied and 5% said we need to make improvements. This results echoes what I heard all season long from those of you that communicated with me. At the end of our 2013 season about 17% of the folks response that we need to make improvements. I feel one of the biggest improvements we made was this newsletter, communication goes a long ways, so again thanks for the reminder.
Recipes, newsletters, eggs and fruit are the things most folks really liked. Less cabbage, less exotic potatoes and overripe smushed tomatoes where definitely an issue this year. Greens, fruit of all kinds, carrots, fingerling potatoes, culinary herbs and summer squash came up time and time again as people favorite foods.
Doing a survey at the end of the season has been so helpful for me. Not to mention any feedback we get during the season. CSA’s are a challenge to run and are a commitment on your end. One of the biggest challenges I see for our CSA is in pleasing everyone, the fact is we just can’t do it. One person says we send to many greens, another can’t get enough. Someone hates beets (my father) another person want them every week. These are the main challenges we all face when choose to eat locally. How blessed are we! I accept your challenge and in the article below I will show you how we are stepping up our game. Now let me put a challenge out to you. I challenge you to continue to change the way you think about food. Think about how lucky you are to live in this time of plenty. Find ways to celebrate what is in season. Commit to your farm and push us to improve. Together we will redefine what it means to eat locally.
What happens when you put together winter down time with farmer and rented bulldozer? Well you get some major earth moving projects, that’s what! Construction has finally begun on 4 30’x60’ hoop houses that will be ready for production in late winter early spring of 2015. For those of you that sign up for our 2015 season I guarantee you will see the results. I won’t go into detail regarding what might be in these new house but you can be rest assured you will see in increased diversity in the type of product that will show up during the start of our season. Items you many not normally see until later in the season. Stay tuned!