Farm News

April Joy Farm: An Evolution

photo of farmer in her field

Lauren Ruhe, the first official April Joy Farm Apprentice.

The April Joy Farm Apprenticeship Program

April Joy Farm is officially the first Clark County farm approved by the Washington Department of Labor and Industries to train aspiring farmers. The goal of the April Joy Farmer Apprenticeship program is to develop successful, (and dare we say, joyful?) organic farmers for our community. Brad and I are deeply interested in supporting a new generation of land and food stewards by sharing our knowledge, networks and the passion we have for our profession. Our apprenticeship is a part-time, 18 month position that will provide a diversified learning experience through a broad exposure to many aspects of farm management. We are determined to help develop new agrarians who will be leaders and whose farms will serve as working, healthy models that connect land stewardship, ethical food production and the enrichment of community. Our Department of L&I Certificate authorizes us to host up to three interns per season. Budding farmers are welcome to contact April for more information or an apprenticeship application.

Meanwhile, we are especially pleased to introduce our first April Joy Farm Apprentice! Clark County native Lauren Ruhe has been gardening since she was a little kid. She writes, “I spent most of my childhood playing outside, as well as watching and helping my mother in her garden.” As an adult, Lauren is even more passionate about growing food. She is interested in pursuing farming as a career so she may contribute to the health and well being of both humans and our natural environment. “I am eager to take the next steps towards learning the skills necessary to have a successful farm, and I would love to take part in educating and providing organic produce for our community by establishing and maintaining my own organic farm.” Brad and I are beyond excited to welcome Lauren to the farm. We look forward teaching and growing—together.


Washington Soil Health Commission Grant

soil health committee logoApril Joy Farm and The Clark Conservation District have been awarded a three year grant from the Washington State Soil Health Committee to study soil health at our farm. This unique and collaborative effort will include renowned Washington State University soil scientist Dr. Lynne Carpenter-Boggs and the thirty-five students in her Organic Soil Management class. Together, we will work to understand how diversified farmers can both protect and improve soil health while reducing costly, unsustainable and potentially contaminated off-farm inputs. This fall, Dr. Carpenter-Boggs’s class will utilize real-life data from April Joy Farm to learn about the chemical, biological and physical characteristics of soil health. Then the students will be asked to provide nutrient management recommendations for three critical areas: cover crops, crop rotations and organic materials (compost, manure, and crop residues). The soil health baseline and recommendations will be compiled into an April Joy Farm Soil Health Roadmap. The farmers will have the opportunity to learn alongside the students, and thus develop their own ability to understand and document soil health changes over time.

In addition, by leveraging the work of a past WSU/AJF partnership, WSU will utilize their Organic Farming Footprints (OFoot) model to provide AJF an updated Carbon Footprint analysis. (AJF was one of five focus farms WSU researchers used to develop their model.) This is fantastic because it means we will be able to quantify the projected carbon emissions of each potential soil health management recommendation and thereby more strategically improve our land while reducing our farm’s overall carbon footprint.

In the subsequent years of the grant cycle, The Natural Resources Conservation Service, (NRCS) and Oregon Tilth will work with AJF, WSU, and the Clark Conservation District to develop a Soil Health Toolkit. The Toolkit will include a case study of our findings as well as practical recommendations for diversified organic farmers eager to better understand and improve the health of their working soils. This Toolkit will be utilized in conjunction with the USDA Nutrient Management Plan for Organic Systems, Western Implementation Guide. Across the state, we plan to share our findings and assist other farmers in the development of their own Soil Health Roadmaps.

We wish to extend a big thank you to CSA member and Clark Conservation District Manager Denise Smee for making this grant possible.

The funding from this grant will allow Brad and I the incredible opportunity to establish baseline soil health measurements, learn how to improve our management practices, “close the loop” by reducing off farm inputs, and help other diversified farmers who are eager to do the same. We can’t wait to set up our Farm Soil Lab and go back to school!


Salmon Safe Certification

“Salmon-Safe works with farmers to encourage the adoption of ecologically sustainable agricultural practices that protect water quality and wildlife habitat in West Coast salmon watersheds.

The Salmon-Safe farm certification program is focused on management practices in six primary areas: riparian area management, water use management, erosion and sediment control, integrated pest management and water quality protection, animal management, and biodiversity conservation. Our standards were developed over a two-year period with biologists, agronomists, and farmers, and have been tested in the field since the late 1990s at more than 700 farms in Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho, and British Columbia across a variety of crops.” ~Salmon Safe Certification

Thanks also to the Clark Conservation District, April Joy Farm is the first Salmon Safe Certified Farm in Clark County. Salmon are a keystone species of our region. By implementing sound management practices that improve habitat and water quality for salmon, we in essence are improving the quality of life and viability of thousands of other Pacific Northwest species.

As part of a Clark Conservation District grant, we will be installing a four bay ASP (aerated static pile) composting facility to more efficiently process our organic materials (manure, crop residues, produce scraps). The new composting facility will have a carefully designed water management plan that will sustainably manage all runoff thereby protecting the water quality of our creek and drainage swales that flow off the farm and into Whipple Creek. The composting facility will be an excellent addition to our farm, in more ways than one. We are looking forward to churning out batch after batch of rich, organic compost!

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Wild Birds on Organic Farms

Western bluebird with cricket. (Photo by flickr user Kevin Cole. https://www.flickr.com/photos/kevcole/2435128647)

Researchers from Washington State University will be out to April Joy Farm next week to inventory bird species and talk with us about brassica pest management.  We are looking forward to this partnership and learning more about our farm!

 

Do Wild Birds help Organic Farms?

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2015 CSA Week 25

garlic growing in leaves

CSA Week #25 Saturday November 21st

The last pickup day of the CSA Season

Dear CSA Family,

One more wonderful year has settled down around us thick with memories. We experienced the excitement of new crops, enjoyed old favorites, reveled in a great tomato season, and ate our fill of spicy peppers and knock-your-socks-off table grapes. When I pull up our records to review the multi-page listing of every pound of this and that which came to fruition in our fields, it amazes me that each single carrot, salad mix leaf, baby potato, and basil leaf passed through our hands. Little by little, or heavy by heavy, our tally grew and grew. I think to myself: how did we do all that?

Wednesday found Brad and I once again out in the fields. I was inching along a row, pulling all sizes of deep red Shiraz beets with muddy hands. Brad was a few beds west of me, steadily cutting rotund celery root heads from their woven, soil encrusted, tentacle-like roots. The sun was warming our hands and backs, which is not something we take for granted during November harvests. It was a beautiful weather day, except for one little ‘Charlie Brown cloud.’ (You know the type. Where he dishearteningly cries, “Good grief!”) About every other root Brad excavated had hollow, discolored hearts. Roots and tubers that undergo heat stress commonly “blow up” in this fashion, developing normal exterior structure but with large internal air pockets. Discouragingly, he shows me what he is finding as he tossed each unsalvageable root back onto the soil. He harvests half a row and has not yet filled one crate.

Anytime we lose a crop, it hurts. We are ever vigilant with our transplanted crops, as they are tender from the beginning. Celery root is no exception. Seeds are absolutely tiny, about the size of a speck of finely ground pepper and as a member of the carrot family, one of the slowest developing annual crops we grow. In March we seeded this variety named Diamant. It took until mid-June for the seedlings to grow 6 inches tall at which time we carefully transplanted each one. Then we weeded, we watered, we waited. We weeded again, and watered again and waited again. This cycle continues for about 115 days. After transplant, it takes celery root nearly four more months to reach harvestable size.

It’s one thing to lose a radish crop. (Direct seed into our rich garden soil and 30 days later, red roots are ready to eat.) By contrast, crops like carrots, onions, and celery root are a patient farmer’s game. It takes a lot of labor and careful management of conditions, and even then, sometimes it feels all for naught.

It’s hard enough when we lose a crop, but depressingly, we can’t even just walk away from this loss because we have to harvest every root just to find the good ones. And, until the day of harvest, there is no way we could have known (no visual cues) that indicate the roots were not healthy. What an insult to injury. ‘Good grief’ is right! Brad finally laments to me, “I’m only able to save about every other one and I can’t be certain what I am saving is really healthy on the inside.” I hear the roots falling back into the dense, wet soil, and I can’t decide which is a more dejected sound: each culled root hitting the ground or Brad’s accompanying sad sigh.

Now usually, Brad is the one giving me the cheer up hugs. So maybe it was that hopeful sun on my back, or rich dreams of an up and coming Thanksgiving nap. Probably it was the hard earned perspective of nearly a decade of farming life. Whatever the providence, I said the first thing that came to mind.

“That’s okay,” I told him, “This must be Mother Nature’s way of telling us it’s time for us to be done.”

“Yes,” he said, with a little laugh, his mood brightening. “She’s right!”

We wish you and yours a happy, healthy winter season filled with abundance and gratitude, filled with time for work, and time for rest.

Your Thankful Farmers,

April & Brad

“One kind word can warm three winter months.”
~Japanese Proverb

P.S. Already a new season is in the works! The photo above captures our 2016 garlic crop peeking out. Farm endings and beginnings are sure woven tightly.

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2015 CSA Week 24

piglets grazing

Farm Tour Conversations, Part II

Dear CSA Family,

The second conversation that always occurs on our farm tours is one that nobody, (not even this farmer), could have guessed. By this point, we’ve showed our guests the seeding houses, the solar arrays, and the vineyard. We’ve made our way eastward through the heart of the vegetable fields. Now we’re standing at the hog fence looking over a group of sociable pigs, all of whom are turning on the charm. Our young pigs are regular hams; they will do a lot of running, playing, wrestling and ear flopping if they think there’s an apple or a big leafy green snack in it for them.

Raising animals for meat is not something I take lightly.

Because of my strong beliefs about livestock animal welfare, I am eager to instill in others a respect and an appreciation for these intelligent, phenomenal creatures. Subsequently I tend to get serious when the tour group reaches the pigs. I used to have a really heartfelt little speech I’d launch into. But every time, it literally flopped. Why? I’d basically get out-pigged. I could talk about the colonization of Mars or the mating habits of skunks. I could yodel or do cartwheels and no one would even bother to glance my way. It is worthless to wax philosophically about our commitment to soil health or dazzle the crowd with fascinating facts about heritage swine breeds. Inevitably, without fail, the pigs are in charge of this conversation. These porcine tour guides, in grunts and with bright eyes, in how they relish a good juicy melon or show off their custom-made wallows, with curious warm snouts or double curled tails, teach our visitors everything they need to know about the kind of life a pig deserves. Every time, they hog (tongue) tie the Farmer! I have no choice but to clam up, take a deep breath and rest my arms over the fence rail.

I simply witness this special spectacle of humans meeting pigs, some for the first time in their lives. This conversation is actually many conversations, and what I think are the best kinds of conversations: those that lead to wonderful, powerful questions that shift our beliefs. Now I consider myself a decent tour guide, but our pigs get the job done in a way I never could. This is my absolute favorite part of the tour.

After folks have finished their inevitable walking-heads-down-social-media-pig-picture-posting phase, we’re usually cresting a little knoll by the elderly Concord grape vines. To the northeast is a scrubby looking low swale, and further north still, partially hidden by a forested canyon, is our 6-acre hayfield. Nearly four winters ago in our low swale, Brad and I planted about 600 native shrubs and trees. The plants were all very small and if it were not for the blue protective tubes around each sapling, you’d have to look hard to see anything had changed. Honestly, the low swale still looked empty. There was no instant hedgerow, no brilliant showy display of fall colors, no immediate habitat or shelter for wild animals and pollinators. Certainly there was no quick food source for songbirds. But if you knew what to look for, you’d find a surprising amount of diversity: Oregon White Oak and Ninebark. Red Osier Dogwood and Willow. Snowberry and Crabapple. Douglas Spirea and Elderberry. Oceanspray and Twinberry.

Even now, the young saplings are still getting established, so up top, they aren’t a dense thicket or strikingly colored stand of shrubbery. But over four years, there is noticeable growth. The trees are taller than I am, and the shrubs are bushing out, after surviving the deer that rub their antlers against bark branches. The summer leaves get denser every year. I envision that underneath the sod the plants’ roots are spreading thick and wide and deep. This root system and its symbiotic relationship with the soil and water table is already functioning. Miraculously, runoff laced with contaminants our neighbors spray and apply to their lawns is filtered and cleansed simply by passing through our land. Over time, our restoration efforts will pay off further. But it will take time.

_DLR9828

This is the nature of plants, to first establish a good anchor, root and feeding system below ground, to make unseen connections within their community so as to support the development of strong top growth. (Just like upstanding community based businesses!) I try to explain all this to our tour group. I emphasize that it takes healthy, balanced land, not a monoculture, to grow great food. Our canyon and our low swale are just as critical to limiting the pest and disease pressure in our food crops as is the health of the soil the vegetables are grown in. Usually, our tour group isn’t much impressed. There’s not a lot of flashy action occurring here. However, most folks take notice when I mention that these uncultivated areas are critical reasons why we consistently produce 21 tons of food annually by planting less than 1 acre in vegetables.

Then, I point to our treeless 6-acre hayfield. I think it is something about the openness, or maybe the uniform appearance of that field, which triggers a certain kind of question from my audience. Folks liven up. All of sudden the group is transported to the future. Energetically, someone will say, “So are you going to expand out into the front field? You could double your production!” or “It’s nice you have so much acreage. You can keep getting bigger!” It’s symbolic that this inquiry happens when we’re standing with our backs to this year’s vegetable fields, our faces scanning the open land of a potential future.

This is when I stop dead in my tracks. I want every person to clearly hear my answer. I can’t ever get quite as much respect as the pigs do, but I give it my best shot. Here is how the conversation winds around us:

“What would be our motivation to plant more acreage?”
“Well, to grow more, and thus sell more.”
“What would be the point of that?”
“Well, to make more money!”
“What would be the point of that?”
“To have a better life!”

Hmmm. If I have been a skilled and careful farmer/tour guide, if I have gently explained the way so many of our practices sift and stir together complementarily, if my energy has properly radiated the joy and intention-filled, purposeful way of farm life, all I have to say is, “What makes for a better life?”

***

On our farm, I start each winter imagining what I would most like the next year to be like. Of course I think nuts and bolts about money, but never to the exclusion of my daily happiness. I think about stability. I think about physical health. I think about learning and growth. I think about fun.

My goal each year is to grow more deeply into who I am meant to become. This means healthier, more resilient, and more generous. I use the resources at hand, money included, to this end. But I never focus on how much money I could earn.

I ask instead, what is quality of life I seek? Subsequently, what is the minimum amount of money I need earn this year in order for me to have the necessary components of my version of a good life? I am not particularly obsessed with earning one cent more, because in doing so, I must trade too much of my freedom to play, to create, to care for my community, to be with my family and my farm. I am simply not willing to give up my most precious resource: time.

The business definition of “success” is an easy trap to fall into.

You grow one crop and it pays, so next year you want to grow more of the same crop, so it will pay more. What you did last year worked, so why not just do more of it this year? But a living, breathing farm is not a factory floor. I am not the same person I was last year, so why would I want to grow, raise, sell, or do exactly the same things in exactly the same way, just more of ‘em?

Finally, I tell the farm guests: we are making a beautiful living harvesting crops on 1 acre. Our livestock need the hay from our front field for winter forage. The blue heron and the hawks need that acreage as hunting ground just as the field mice and rabbits need land for their burrows. The farmers need the hay field to maintain healthy habitat for any number of beneficial species that will keep vegetable pests in check. In essence, our 6 acre field is already IN production, as is our low swale. Besides, I say, there is so much we have yet to learn to improve the care of soil we are currently cultivating.

Visitors never quite know how to respond to my enthusiastically contrarian beliefs. Fortunately, the farm provides enough to notice and enjoy so our short walk back to their cars is graciously silent. Now we’ve made a tight little circle around the farm. When we reach the place we started, it always feels like I’ve returned, but this time to a new beginning.

***

The past few years, our tours have brought a variety of community members face to face with one version of a working farm. My quiet hope is that some part of the story of this farm has resonated with each visitor. Maybe it happened through awareness regarding the language we choose to keep. Maybe it is through thoughtful consideration of the welfare of our livestock animals. Maybe the yearning for an intentional life has been sparked. I cannot know how any of these farm conversations will carry forward. But I do know how right it is to sing the praises of this land and life I so deeply cherish.

Your Farmer,
April

Today you are YOU, that is truer than true.
There is no one alive who is Youer than You.
-Dr. Seuss

 

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2015 CSA Week 23

Farm Tour Conversations

Hello CSA Family,

Legislators, chefs, local food advocates, conservationists, alternative energy sponsors, graduate students and even stumping politicians: the past two years, Brad and I have hosted an unusually diverse number of tour groups at the farm.

Interestingly, no matter what the focus of the tour, every time folks assemble out here at the farm, three conversations inevitably occur. It’s laughable, how this trifecta ‘cooks like a recipe.’ Each distinct conversation is rooted firmly in a specific location along the tour route. If I were one of our little farm goldfinches, I’d grab myself a sunflower seed snack, fly along overhead, and at three key points, I’d chirp to myself, ”Wait for it…”

A word we’ve banned from the farm.

As the group gathers near our seeding house and introductions are made, Brad and I are peppered with side questions. Full of enthusiasm and curiosity about our farm and lifestyle, we answer inquiries about the scope and scale of our operation. We are asked: how many acres? and do we have employees? and what do we grow? and where do we sell it?

Then it happens. A well-intentioned soul subjects us to a sentence that always starts with: “You should ________________.” Wherever your imagination can roam, fill in the blank. Don’t think your suggestion too wild, because let me assure you, we’ve heard all sorts of crazy schemes like: add a truffle orchard, sell quail eggs, start a restaurant, even raise buffalo (!!).

I know the speaker’s intent is never malicious. On a day I’ve had a nap, I entertain these suggestions with detached amusement. But if I’ve already put in a full day’s work before lunch, by the time this question rolls around, I cringe. Sarcasm roars inside. What exactly is it about my countenance that says, “Yes, she definitely needs more irons in the fire!”?

The word “should” is insidiously common in our collective vocabulary. Most places people use the s word and don’t think twice about its implications. But at the farm, we consider it worse than most swear words.

Why does a “You should…” strike such a chord with me?

As a fledgling farmer, who had to build her infrastructure and systems from scratch, (no multi-generational farm legacy here), my first few years were fraught with so many plants and animals and projects crying out for attention. No matter where I looked, nearly every day of the year I felt overwhelmingly the inadequacy of my efforts. Like Sisyphus, I’d make a dent in one overgrown patch, only to find three more beds succumbing to weeds. My Dad and I would spend a summer building one section of fence knowing three more sections really needed done. There were barns to clean out, irrigation systems to design and install, green house benches to weld up and animals to keep comfortable with only makeshift houses and not enough hay. It took tremendous effort to stay afloat my first five years. After those years of really pushing hard on so many fronts, I came to recognize a lingering irritability about my countenance. Sure I had moments of true delight, but it felt as if underneath, lurking heavily on my shoulders, there was a mess of grumpy I couldn’t shake.

After every season, in the cold, dense light of November, I held an executive board meeting with all the big mucky-mucks of the farm. This included Gus and Tesla (the dogs), Mabel (the cat), and myself, all situated around a nice hot fireplace. (The fire is critical, because there’s something very powerful that happens when you stare into a fire.) It was in that fifth winter, mired in spreadsheets and an estimated expense budget that I broke up with the word “should.”

The purpose of my meeting was to contemplate what my efforts over the past year had reaped, and then decide on a high level what I wanted to figuratively ‘sow’ in the coming season. I remember as I recounted the successes and failures of that season, I was making a list of “things to never do again” and a list of what wasn’t working. They were really long lists. Every single thing started with “I should…” I noticed that when I found myself saying I should, what I really was saying was, “I feel bad/guilty because I am not doing X, Y, Z. Which absolutely implied I wasn’t working hard enough or I didn’t care enough. Yeah right! I may not be the most exceptionally talented farmer in the world, but if there are two things I know of myself, it’s that I work really hard and I care deeply.

Tesla started snoring, and Mabel yawned. Gus was lying upside down with his back legs stretched way out, warming his belly by the fire. I wasn’t getting a lot of input from this brain trust. Frankly, it was shaping up to be the most depressing executive meeting in my whole farming career. Then I heard a voice say, “Quit beating yourself up.”

Quit beating yourself up. Grasping this conceptually was one thing, but actually changing my patterns of behavior was quite another.

I had to catch myself and rethink what I really meant instead of falling back into a game of blame and guilt. Anytime we tell others they “should” do something, the implication is that what they are doing right now, (and by extrapolation who they are right now) is not enough. Now that’s an idea that needs thrown in the compost pile. Right now! Bury it deep! It is so much better to be honest about what we mean, to be forthright with others as kindly as we can, than hide behind a hurtful should.

The banishment of the phrase I should was an absolute game-changer for me. I really believe it is a big reason why I am still in love with farming. Ironic but true: it wasn’t the weather or markets or work that most needed fixing. I didn’t walk out the kitchen door and arrive at a miraculously completed farmstead.

It wasn’t the work that changed, it was my relationship to the work, to the challenges and the ‘incompleteness of farming’ that changed.

You know what I say now? The farm is a work in progress AND I wouldn’t want it any other way. I realized that if everything was all done and the kinks were all worked out, then what’s the point? This big shift set me on the path to a life as a contented and stable farmer.

Let’s get back to these innocent tour guests. It’s very easy to armchair farm. You just put seeds in the ground and then come back and harvest stuff, right? During our farm tours, I lightheartedly respond to our mis-guided brainstormers, “Well yes, we COULD build a nursery for black fly larvae, but we’d have to give up selling vegetables so we would have appropriate time to devote to those little hatchlings.” Then I point blank tell them carelessly flinging the word should around is a major farm infraction. Such recklessness will quickly earn you a pitchfork and a pig stall to muck out.

Then I am just as quick to reinforce that it’s not the ideas themselves I bristle at. Quite the opposite. Individuals with no pre-disposed notions about our farm can come up with some wonderfully creative, fresh-eyed notions.

I encourage brainstorming. I encourage the catching of mild cases of farming fever. Blessed with a beautiful location and bountiful resources, who can’t fall under the spell of possibility? With an open, rested mind, there is nothing more fun than taking a Sunday stroll through a farmer’s lane of dreams. This is a place where every corner and nook, every square inch of land, has been protected in its wildness or tended, loved, and put to good use growing or raising something exquisite. Farms like ours are excellent nurseries for big dreams.

Just remember, when you come up the farm lane, it’s pretty important to leave the word “should” in your car. We love to brainstorm, and we certainly don’t mind coulds, but shoulds are just a little too pushy, a little to know-it-all. It’s best not to spook the farmers from the get-go, because even though we don’t bite, we aren’t the friendliest critters once we’ve been “should-ed.”

Any visitor I’ve had this conversation with leaves our farm with a newfound respect for language. Ha. They thought this tour-thing was just going to be all about vegetables!

Next week, we will head out through the fields and I’ll fill you in on two more conversations as consistent to our tours as chickens outside their fence.

Until then, see if you can’t gift yourself the kindness of a should-free life. Whenever that pesky word crops up, ask yourself what’s really underneath the phrasing and remind yourself: everything in its own time, a time for everything. It’s all about crystal clear priorities. Just like your Mother told you, compliments go a lot further than criticism, especially with oneself.

Your Farmer,
April


corn

Cascade Ruby Gold Corn

Beautiful Cornmeal

Inspired by Dan Barber’s book The Third Plate, this year your farmers grew an open pollinated, certified organic Willamette Valley bred flint corn. Flint corn is used to make cornmeal and corn flour. Making your own cornmeal isn’t difficult, you can simply twist the kernels off the cob and pulse them in a small food processor until they are coarse or fine enough to your liking. Alternatively, we’ll be happy to grind your corn for you. At CSA pickup this week, we’ll have on display a corn sheller and a corn grinder. Corn, like wheat, is a grain. Once the kernels are cracked, the cornmeal starts to lose flavor and nutrients. So the tastiest and most nutritious dishes come from freshly ground corn. If you have some store bought cornmeal at home, we encourage you to cook it up side by side with this freshly ground corn. Make a simple polenta or cornbread with a friend and dig in! We would love to know what you think. It is best to store your cornmeal in the fridge if you don’t plan to eat it right away.

A person who really wants something will find a way.
A person who doesn’t will find an excuse. ~Unknown

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2015 CSA Week 22

Chicken with chicks

Farm Inspiration – Part II

Dear CSA Family,

Community-centered farms like ours are inherently, joyfully and fascinatingly complex. Such farms are never the same, they grow and change and fall back on themselves and grow again.

Just like humans.

Whatever place I find myself in, whatever quandary of modern life has befallen me, given patience, given open heartedness, time at the farm is a good prescription. Farm life mends and heals by helping sift through thick layers of debris to distill uncomplicated truths. Mother Nature doesn’t mince words or hide behind a big ego. Free of charge, out here in the fields are illustrations of patience, frugality, beauty, fragility… just tell me what you are looking for and I will show you how to look. Filling the farm skies, trickling down in the creek bed, and hidden among the tall stands of fir trees are role models aplenty.

Thus, working farms are loved by their farmers not singly because they feed humans. Such farmers, for hundreds of years, have witnessed the extraordinary work ethic of bees, cringed at the despair of a doe missing her dead fawn, encouraged the healthy interdependence of soil microorganisms, and understood precisely the curt words of a sow with her piglets. Those of us tending land have honored grief as we buried our favorite animals beneath the grandest tree at the farm. We have knelt down on tired knees in acceptance to frost or winds or pests we could not stop. We have felt intensely the unbreakable loyalty of donkeys to their kin. If you can sit with nature on her own terms, what you will discover is extraordinary.

***

Swallows are aptly named because they spend their days in joyous darting, swooping flight patterns. For hours at a time, with mouths open ear to ear, they fly while collecting insects inside their cheeks until they have enough to swallow into a meal. They expend tremendous amounts of energy to overcome the drag of flight with an open mouth. But every day, they start again, in their socially gregarious way, playing tag and chase in the air. Every day, one, by one by one, each swallow gathers upwards of 850 mosquitos, all while dancing cheerfully in the sky.

In the late afternoon, our pigs take long naps, then the dusk comes and they bark, chase, loop, run, and wrestle. The swallows overhead play tag and by some coincidence, the pigs join in and play tag too. For a brief time each evening, light hearted mischievousness and delight are mirrored in sky and soil. There seems to be no over thinking anything: if I want to revel in a simple kind of joy, this is place and time to find it.

***

Weed seeds sprout, grow, seemingly like magic, with little water, no fertility, and in the driest, hottest parts of our year. Absolute determination spreads their leaves and pushes their tips forward, toward the hot, brilliant sun that bakes the soil dry. I realize my fields need the power and energy of the weeds to cycle nutrients and protect fragile topsoil. I realize how awful it would be find my fields without weeds. If even the weeds have given up, what would remain?

***

A violent windstorm drops sunflowers to the ground, leaving roots half exposed at the peak of flowering. The sunflowers don’t die, but reorient themselves to their unexpected relocation. These hardy plants find the sun and shift their blooms, more profusely than ever, on half the root system they grew up on. Honeybees coat the flower tops, hungry and focused. Resilience feeds our friends in ways we cannot imagine.

***

Hens, with a special kind of determination, sit 21 days on little nests to hatch eggs, in heat or chilly weather. Minimally, they stretch their legs, eat and drink. In their countenance, I can uncover no frustration, no anxiety, and no impatience. When chicks hatch, pride clearly shines in all their maternal, ruffled up feathers. An authoritarian peace resonates in their clucks and coos and their strut. The hens saunter outside and watch their chicks explore to the edge of just-born curiosity. I think of my mother, her absolute refusal to endorse any sort of self-limiting attitude or behavior. I watch a hen, her body settles down and without words, the chicks come home. We can be whomever it is we long to become.

***

Our hands plant seeds that weigh less than a sixteenth of an ounce and our hands, phenomenally, carry out of the field 30-pound winter squash. Nature feeds us; the humility of interdependence is revealed.

***

Farms like ours are celebrants of miracles everyone takes for granted. These so-called ‘ordinary’ miracles are actually the only reason any of us have food day, after day, after day. A relationship with a farm deepens our capacity to understand hard and good things; a rightful appreciation develops for what Mother Nature does on our behalf so we may eat.

Yes, the farm fills dinner plates, and then fills us with inspiration on navigating life as a human. No matter where you are, there is something to be discovered or uncovered. There is some way you can relate to foggy skies or the tender, profuse pigweed or the softness of a rabbit’s fur. Some place on a diversified farm, you will come face to face with your story, you will laugh or be amazed or wonder why. Some place on a patch of ground that is loved, your curiosity will lead you to better questions. A truth will reveal itself. That shiny apple will reflect an insight. You might arrive angry or sad or confused. You might come worried or heartsick or failing. A farm does not care, and thus you receive an invitation to step outside your song, to step finally, outside yourself. Here, in the deep violet blossom of an eggplant, or the sweet tang of a gluttonous wall of dead-ripe cherry tomatoes, in the evocative music of the Swainson’s Thrush, or the ring of your axe splitting firewood, you accept the invitation. You rest for a time in this precious, uncluttered space. What does not matter falls away.

Arrive with a humble, open mind; you will never leave a farm hungry.

Your Farmer,
April


Bon Appetite Test Kitchen’s Squash Recipes

Winter Luxury Pumpkin

Winter Luxury Pumpkin

I found this resource for “How to Use all that Pumpkin, Butternut and Delicata Squash” included some very creative and simple recipes like puréed squash dips.

The writer gushes: “Puréed squash mixed with tahini, lemon, and a little maple syrup? Out of this world.”

 

 


Canadian farmer and author Brenda Schoepp writes, “My grandfather used to say that once in your life you need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman, and a preacher, but every day, three times a day, you need a Farmer.”

Farmer April knows: Every day, three times a day, you need healthy farmland.

 

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2015 CSA Week 21

Pigs, Mom and babies

CSA Week #21 Saturday, Oct. 24th

Dear CSA Family,

Some people collect stamps, others coins. You know what I like to collect? Inspiration. I love reading about, hearing of and witnessing astonishing examples of purpose, determination, courage, or even just a simple, fierce kind of happiness. My little upstairs nook as well as the area around the farm desk include bins and boxes of photos, quotes, hand scribbled “tall tales,” newspaper articles, drawings, and technical manuals. I even have some funny sayings. I once heard my Grandpa exclaim after one of his farm implement restoration projects was completed, “Now she runs like a pickle-shooter!” Examples of inspiration from any number of places fuel imaginative farming solutions, generate creative strategies for sustaining good health and keep my spirits rejuvenated no matter the tiresome days or achy muscles.

Recently, several of you asked, “How did you learn to farm?” One way I am still teaching myself to farm is through my inspiration collection. I thoroughly enjoy figuring out how to extrapolate uplifting methods and ideas so I might weave another layer of resilience and beauty into April Joy Farm. An inspiration collection is vital in my quest to create a life of which I alone am uniquely capable. So, like any good collector, I allow myself to be drawn, again and again, toward whatever seems fascinating, or heartening or just downright genuine. Our winter days at the farm are specially designed to revitalize and freshen up the inspiration bank. Even when I travel, I am on the look out for how I might find stirring commonalities between whatever presents itself and my life ‘back at the farm’.

There is no one way to gather inspiration. Sometimes inspiration comes as quickly as a baby chickadees’ first breath. Other times inspiration must percolate, culminate, graduate over a long time before it can make sense to me. No worry. All that matters is that something engages my heart or my mind and I don’t push it aside. I just respect the connection. It might be several years before I understand how a former experience is truly applicable.

Of course, one primary source of inspiration which can’t be stored at the farmhouse are the tightly woven friendships of the April Joy Farm community. The families and friends, colleagues and members who swirl around this piece of farmland in times of sun and times of rain, represent a phenomenal reservoir of inspiration. Two such folks are Henning and his wife Elizabeth, who have nurtured their farm S&S Homestead on Lopez Island for the last forty-five years. What moves me about Henning and Elizabeth’s story is the thoughtfulness and unwavering conviction with which they have approached their life. What follows is a section of an online article written about their efforts:

“Henning Sehmsdorf and Elizabeth Simpson produce everything they need—including electricity—to sustain their 50-acre farm and the community that depends on it. In 1970, Sehmsdorf purchased the first 10 acres of his farmland on Lopez Island and created a fifty-year plan for a bio-dynamic and sustainable farm. The vision is to produce all food, feed, seeds, animal replacements, timber/lumber, water and energy necessary to sustain the farm and the people who live there. In late 2011, the final piece of the farm plan was implemented: self-sustaining energy.”

“Debt has no place in the farm plan,” says Sehmsdorf, which is why it took them nearly 42 years to realize the energy piece of the plan… Sehmsdorf has calculated a complete return on investment over ten years, which is much shorter than most systems because of the lack of debt service.

“The annual financial return is about 9.5%,” reports Sehmsdorf, “better than the stock market or any other investment today. But,” he continues, “when you consider only the financial benefits, you are missing the point.”

When asked what small scale renewable power means to the islands, to the world, Sehmsdorf responds, “Sine qua non. Without which nothing.” He pointed out the C02 sequestration readings on each of his three inverters. By this measurement, the S&S system has sequestered more than 25 metric tons of carbon to date.”*

What inspires me most about Henning and Elizabeth’s story is their approach. Do you know anyone, anywhere who has deeply considered, actually written down his or her personal fifty-year goals? Who has doggedly pursued a life in line with his or her highest beliefs regardless of fad or fashion and not to the exclusion of financial remuneration? “Sine qua non. Without which nothing.” How might our communities be absolutely transformed if we all were so mindful of our impact on ourselves, on our land, and on our neighbors over the span of half a century?

Next week, I’ll write more about the inspiration I find right here at the farm. Meanwhile, could you collect a few tidbits of inspiration from your own life? By all means, they don’t have to be stories. Sometimes even a drawing, a photo, or a piece of music will be enough to make your heart rise. Like the October leaves, falling around us, surely there is something you’ll come across in day-to-day life that rouses awake a sleepy, curious idea. When it happens, don’t try to diagnose it or spend energy wondering why! Just revel in that quiet steadiness of delight. Just be awake to the gift and have the pluck to honor it.

This week, my Uncle Jack brought me this wonderful photo of the sow and her litter which he raised as a boy in Illinois. I love everything about this picture, especially the shoat (the term for a young pig), staring at the camera from behind Mother’s legs, while a sibling stands with a foot right in the feed trough. It’s a classic snapshot of life with pigs; the whole scene just plain makes me grin.

Once you happen upon your inspiring piece for the week, don’t tuck it away. Share it! Your smiles might be what inspire another’s day and maybe they’ll share their own cheer with another… and so we begin to sew a thread of positivity. Like a skein of geese, we speak with the independence of our own wings, but we remain invisibly connected by the effort of our flight. Stitch by stitch, wild with our felicity, we will quilt the skies in praise of all things spirited.

Your Farmer,
April

*Source – Orcas Power & Light Co-Op


Rainbow Carrots

Carrot Osso Buco

“In Richard Blais’s playful vegan take on osso buco (braised veal shanks), he braises very large pieces of carrots in red wine and mushroom broth until tender. Ground dried porcini mushrooms give the dish rich, meaty flavor. Serve with celery root puree or polenta.” Click here for the recipe.
 
 


Inspiration exists, but it must find you working.
~Pablo Picasso


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2015 CSA Week 20

Cat in the Kale

Hurdles & Puppies

Every farming year presents different hurdles: crop losses, pest troubles, plant diseases, erratic weather patterns. Sometimes the hurdles are serious and funny. This year even our insatiably curious adolescent chickens are testing us. Despite our best efforts, they continue to escape the chicken yard and explore the farm at large. This is a serious problem when they start eating our transplants. But we laugh every time we find them “roosting” for afternoon naps, a mere one foot off the ground, inside our huge, old rhododendrons.

Farm life hurdles never seem to come just one at a time. We might as well be sharing our house with a litter of puppies. You can’t just focus exclusively on one, or things will get out of control. So we do our best to give proper attention to all the wiggly situations. The whole process makes for an active, meaningful, and sometimes exasperating life. When a workable solution seems impossible, (like with the chickens), I have no recourse but to question what it is exactly I’m trying to accomplish. That million dollar question, “what exactly am I trying to do?” leads straight into an examination of assumptions. As you can imagine, that’s when things get interesting!

All the constant needs of a farm require us farmers to be ambitious learners and continuous adapters. Hurdles, assumptions, and ambition: the whole system is fodder for a rich experiential, (and often experimental) life. Just like sharing your house with that new litter of puppies, you can’t be entwined in farming without at multiple points: bursting with pride, falling down, being bewildered, wildly howling, needing comfort, and laughing with delight.

It’s one thing to invite a litter of puppies into your life for a year. But farming is more equivalent to caring for a multitude of litters at time. Tons of new cute faces! Adorable spots! Pendulous lanky ears! Mischievousness galore! Each year, every year, we sign up to jump a slew of unknown hurdles. In the thick of it all, we have no choice but to re-examine our purpose, to be challenged, engaged, to uncover erroneous assumptions. The whole of it can be absolutely exhausting, funny, revelatory, fascinating and occasionally overwhelming.

Direct, simple, and frugal solutions to our situations can be elusive. Unlike raising puppies, there are no concise and practical off the shelf manuals for farming at our scale, in our climate, with our soil, crops, markets and goals. We’re constantly piecing together ideas, knitting up solutions, investigating possible changes that might help keep all those “puppies” healthy and happy and out of trouble. When I stop and truly think about how many uncertainties, how many unknowns we’ve successfully hurdled, I am surprised. Then I remember we’re not in it alone. I remember how much Brad and I depend on the farm itself to inspire, comfort and mentor us. I remember why and how it is we keep smiling, keep growing, keep showing up, every day.

Here’s the thing about life at a farm.

The answers I seek to all these wild challenges, the strength, inspiration and encouragement I need to keep going, the counsel and courage to buoy my spirits are nestled right down along the same farm rows as the challenges themselves. No matter the situation I am in, walking out the door and into the tapestry of the farm provides what I need to skillfully navigate the situation at hand. I can be severely frustrated by a roadblock, celebrating a change of great magnitude, exhausted from a taxing project, or mourning an unexpected loss. I can be steadying myself for a new challenge, or contemplating how to juggle too many priorities. I can be upset at a flock of unruly chickens or slowly, painfully uncovering false assumptions, and guess what? A pack of gold finches will squeak good-morning right over my head, swirl around me on the way to the sunflowers. The most exquisitely colored carrot will appear from the soil. I’ll be surprised at the densest concentration of earthworms I’ve ever seen. I’ll hear a faint thrumming and follow the song to a volunteer patch of mustard flowers where thousands of honeybees are foraging, as industriously as they can, the food they need for winter.

I leave behind even my walking stick. My knife is in my pocket, but that I have forgot. I bring no car, no cell phone, no computer, no camera, no CD player, no fax, no TV, not even a book. I go into the woods. I sit on a log provided at no cost. It is the earth I’ve come to, the earth itself, sadly abused by the stupidity only humans are capable of but, as ever, itself. Free. A bargain! Get it while it lasts.  ~Wendell Berry

It is of no surprise that I come to thin a bed of beets and find the most tangled weeds I’m pulling are in my brain. By the time I get to the end of the row, just the right insight might have surfaced. Or I’ve started to feel a little more settled, comforted, inspired, or maybe just calmed.

Especially when I am disheartened, my head bowed over a simple field task proves to be revelatory, cathartic, thoughtful. My hands are occupied, put to good use, and my mind is sensitively engaged and generously disengaged all at once. I can work through, think through, be through with whatever I have come up against in my life. Like a great reservoir of hope, the farm is a source of knowledge and inspiration that surround my troubles. I need only give myself to a small project in her midst and with patience, change happens.

Slow, softly, methodically, plant by plant, row by row, season by season, I am uncovering layers of irrelevance and triteness in my thinking. My cloudy sense of self is being filtered through stronger and stronger sunlight. In Mother Nature’s fields, there is no disapproval. There is no reason to act, no reason to pretend, no reason to be anything other that just as we are. Just as I am.

This gift of farm life cannot be overstated. Intermingled, tangled within all the challenges, the hurdles, those blasted assumptions, just like that sweet pack of puppies, the farm makes no judgments. It cares not for the holes in my wool sweater. It notices not the tangles in my hair nor the jingle of a pretty necklace. The farm is accepting of who we are, where we are, and how we are. Like a good friend who listens more than talks, the support one can find among a passel of tomato plants or down a long stretch of garlic bulb planting, 6 inches by 6 inches, by 6 inches, is unexpected, is significant, is the fundamental basis for a healthy spirit. The farm makes no judgments, so slowly, I realize the futility in holding so tightly to my own critical superficiality.

Out here at the farm, we jump hurdles often. Some challenges, like the weather and chickens are visible to all. But there are many difficult hurdles we tackle without anyone in sight, over time, with much effort. Again and again, it is because of the beauty and brilliance of the farm that I have the courage to examine my assumptions, to face audacious trials, to keep experimenting. In the creative process of problem solving at the farm, there is no table of judgment, thus no anxiety of self. I can start from exactly where I am, just as I am. Again and again, no matter what farming asks of me, this foundation of acceptance opens the big barn door of wholehearted solutions.

The next time you’re mired in a hurdle of your own, don’t sit in your version of a stuffy, florescent lit, highfalutin’ high rise corporate board room. Pick up that wriggly wiggly puppy and go outside. Find a place to sit or walk or work where Mother Nature hasn’t been over-run. Give yourself to the simplicity of a minute task and maybe, just maybe that unruly ball of tender mischievousness will lay right down for a peaceful little nap.

Your Farmer,
April


Borage

More about Borage

You might notice on your drive into the farm we’ve mowed a few fallow sections of the vegetable field, but left irregular patches of plants here and there. Those patches Brad so carefully left contain concentrations of a very beneficial herb named borage. Sometimes called Star Flower or Bee Bread, the flowers of borage are edible, tasting pleasantly of cucumbers. Pollinators rely on the borage flowers, which have a long blooming season, as a food source. This hardy annual reseeds itself, and its leaves contain high concentrations of calcium and potassium. Farming lore instructs one to plant borage near your tomatoes. It is believed that the calcium and potassium in decaying borage leaves lessens the chances of tomato blossom end rot.


P.S. Apparently, we humans aren’t the only ones who spend time pondering out in the fields. Kitten the cat was lost in her thoughts when I snapped this week’s photo. Maybe she’s keeping a close eye out for all those puppies!

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2015 CSA Week 19

sunflower closeup

CSA Week #19 Saturday, October 10th

Dear CSA Family,

What wondrous changes fall brings to a farm. Hundreds upon hundreds of geese greet us overhead each morning while on our chore rounds. Their numerous wingtips span the breadth of the sky. When I soften my gaze, the thick bodies connect fluidly, seem to be of their own language, cursive-dots spelling messages across the half-lit morning. “Welcome to Ridgefield,” I call to them, hoping they know I am pulling for their safe passage.

Unobtrusively, like crisp maple leaves, one by one, each day is peaceably giving way to the next, floating down past us to create a changed landscape. Throughout the course of our days now, we experience fleeting moments of change and simple acts of farm life that will shepherd us into the waning daylight.

As the last tomatoes crack and rot earthward, we find in amongst them a baby tomato seedlings, volunteering themselves up into this world, undaunted by the quiescent days to come, just growing their hearts out skyward.

After a summer of bare shoulders, Rosie, our old sow, has grown a coarse winter coat of hair. As I run my hands over her neck, feeling that soft spot right behind her ears, I’m surprised to see burnt amber and black patches across her back. After donning rusty red coloring for 7 years, she’s apparently decided to change styles with her new fall ‘apparel'.

Twice now, Brad has witnesses a red-tailed hawk catch and carry off a starling in mid-air!

Once now, I’ve stood, vegetable in hand and let my mind follow the mutual backscratching by the donkeys. When one starts muzzling the back of the other, instinctively the second reciprocates. Then when satisfaction arises, they both stop. I cannot make out any verbal “thank yous,” but politely, they stand close, shoulders touching for a moment longer.

At night as I close up the coop and listen to chickens murmur bedtime stories. When I am done, I stay outside two breaths longer. The damp chill of the darkening skies sails across my cheeks with a sudden intensity that speaks no longer of summer.

So far, this fall 'shoulder' season at April Joy Farm has been transitorily smooth and subdued. The big changes this time of year are proving to be stealthy, not grandiose. As between sets on a play, we’re moving, one by one, all the stage props off from the first performance. Mother Nature is setting up for the next show. Sometime soon, we expect, the scene changes will happen behind a curtain of frost.

Yes, all sorts of simple, surprising changes drape us now. But because of the subtlety of it all, it's easy to just feel one day is a near repeat of the next. We "fall" into our fall routines and this repetitiveness can bring a complacency that dulls us. So we are extra mindful now, to listen, see, feel and hear the diminutive, unique moments of each day.

Inthe very middle of daily minutia, I revel in the praying mantis cocoons fixed so deftly on plant stems and greenhouse benches. I duck near a doorway to avoid damaging the multi-varigated belly of a mama spider working, working, working to capture supper and find energy to hatch her young. Out with the pigs, I hear the reedy rattle of 12 sandhill cranes, and look up just as their sharp V passes, crisply headed eastbound. Unexpectedly, as if choreographed, a flock of red-winged blackbirds in their own westbound V, flying much lower, intersect the cranes' trajectory to create a cross-hatched tapestry of flight. The whole show was set to the music of strong feathered wings drumming up the wind.

Fall does include a few dramatic shifts, but now, it is the smallest changes I engage all my senses to notice. Most times, these experiences hold no more width than the breadth of our hands. It is not in the monotony of responsibilities and commitments, but these small personable moments, frugal, elementary vignettes, that remind me of the richness of my life.

Morning after early, early morning, I’ve woken to hear the resolute call of a great-horned owl. Like the steady beat of a drum, this flute-sounding soloist is steadfast in timing, cadence and presence. Then, one morning, Brad hears two owls calling back and forth, one with a slightly higher pitch. I listen too, with all my senses. Their billowy notes hold in my ears long after the sound evaporates, knitting a contemplative shawl for my awakening.

For all the difficult, intensive labors we undertake this time of year, for all the tasks needing done once or over and over again, for all the animals under our care, for all the ways in which we are spread thin, it is good for me to remember none of it will be enjoyable, meaningful with out the itty-bitty, special, unique moments that flavor our days. Without these littlest of pauses, these smallest of details, the big picture is lost. If I spend my timing wishing for all the stage sets to be rearranged for that next show, I’ll look up and find in the slog to "get it all done," I will have missed the show, the meaning of the show. All the actors will have gone home.

And maybe this is the message of October. Amongst the long to-do lists and big projects, I need not yearn for dramatic changes to break some sort of monotony. This undoing of my thinking teaches me that satisfaction is abundant in the way we navigate the nuances of our days. Conscious of it our not, we choose to rush, we choose to dull our senses. Equally true, we can decide to walk one half step slower, we can decide to fill our lungs with warm fall air, take one breath at a time, notice how a loved one's skin feels against our cheek mid-hug. We can linger one moment longer, we can taste, sip by sip, the complex flavors of a warm soup. We can be, at our kitchen tables, with whatever distractions befall us, and still remainattentive in sight and sound and touch to what this moment, which will never come again, has to offer.

At quiet time, nearly 2 year old niece Mae was cavorting, banging on the walls, wildly celebrating something in her room. On the other side of the door Grandma Sandi debated if entering the bedroom would be the right thing to do. Finally she did, and found Mae exuberant and clearly involved in some big, raucous, imaginary playing. Grandma Sandi said, “Mae, it is time to take a nap now, before quiet time is over.” Mae, in her crib, looked up at her Grandma and said matter of factly, “No problem!” Then she laid right down and fell soundly asleep.

Could you find one tiny, eccentric moment in each day and share it, revel in it, appreciate it? Somehow, someway, choose to celebrate it? These special pieces of our days are rich and strongly flavored. Consider the tiny, funny, striking, interesting moments to be your favorite herbs, meant to season every meal. Just a little sprinkling goes a long way. Imaginary, creative, fantastic, wild, and sometimes even mundane parts of our schedules may arise fresh and comforting with this new perspective. But we must first choose with intention to harvest the ripeness, to purposefully spice our lives, to engage and connect with what surrounds us, even and amidst our steady, necessary, structured routines.

So close your eyes, or listen with a new attentiveness, admire a rose (blooming in October!), or feel the true texture of some important fabric in your life.In this way, we collectively stave off mundaneness, we collectively say to the repetitive nature of schedules, "No problem!"

Your Farmer,
April

P.S. If your pantry seems bare of 'herbs and spices,' don't worry. We have special moments aplenty out here at the farm and we're always glad to share. For starters, we'll show you all the magnificent black oil sunflower heads in our drying shed (captured in this week's photo). Strikingly pretty in person and delicious too!
 


“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in our hearts.”
~Winnie the Pooh


 
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2015 CSA Week 18

Cabbage close up leaf

CSA Week #18  Saturday, October 3rd

Hello CSA Family,
As we turn the corner into October, the chillier nights seem to beckon us toward warmer, comfort food liked good old baked potatoes and wilted collard greens.  We hope you are enjoying the first offerings of fall produce in your kitchen too.  Carrots, beets, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and celeriac are growing strong and could make for a delicious October!

Out here at the farm we are still making the daily rounds to harvest and tend crops and critters, but with a slightly slower step.  Just slightly. We don't get to 'ease' into fall, but still, it's always a nice feeling to be holding the weight of a winter squash in my hands, heavy with the memories of a splendid summer.  

There's still much to attend to while the sun is shining.  Alas, I'll have to take up pen and paper next week.   I guess this break from my musings is your seventh inning stretch.

Your Farmer, 
April


Acorn and Pippin Squash

Acorn and Pippin Squash

How to Cook Winter Squash…

without losing a finger trying to cut it open.

Here is your once-a-year April Joy Farm reminder to BE SAFE when opening your winter squash with knives.  

Heat oven to 350F.  Place whole squash in a casserole dish and cook the squash until a knife easily pierces the skin and the flesh is very soft.  Remove squash from the oven and allow to cool.  Cut squash in half and scoop the seeds out.  You can then scoop the flesh away from the skin or  cube the squash with skin in tact, depending on the recipe.

If a recipe calls for cutting the squash raw, put it in the oven per the directions above, but just until the skin is easily cut (par-bake it).  No matter how you decide to cut your winter squash, please be good to your hands.


What we share
is who we are.


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