Farm News

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
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2015 CSA Week 17

leafy greens

CSA Week #17 Saturday, September 26th

Dear CSA Family,

Sometimes the words flow right on out into the bucket of this newsletter. Sometimes the crickets chirp loudly and the washing machine hums and my mind thinks too hard, is too eager to trip over itself. It takes me awhile to un-clutter the meaning of the passage from one week to the next.

Such is this week. I think it’s because I am steeped now in the sort of fullness that is fantastic, thrilling, what-you’ve-waited-so-long-for. But this sort of fullness also comes with a heavy responsibility to pay attention, to keep singing gratitude, to keep getting back up after I stumble into trivial pettiness, which happens ashamedly more often now that I am soaking tiredly in great abundance.

Farm Fullness is of a type and cast that is difficult to describe. It’s not like city full –flashing noisy lights and thrumming beats of human voices, marketing melee and gregarious, repetitive manufactured sounds.

Farm full is light and pronounced and quiet, if not visually stunning. It’s more than your eyes can capture, seemingly more than your hands can gather, definitely more than you mentally can input. But that’s okay, I keep telling myself. Your heart knows what to do.

So I look out the kitchen window and see burnt orange maple leaves glowing against a pitch blue sky. Even the fullness of colors is peaking. Walking in the fields the flint corn stalks wave like tannish green flags, a border fence to shield the giant silvery blue green cauliflower “flowers” tucked up next door. Then come the kales marching eighteen inches at a time, frilled iridescent new-green and maroon veined forest green, leaves of every contortion, dancing maybe for the sake of the corn flags? I stop during morning harvest to register the colors and symmetry. It’s pretty, I think, it speaks to my sense of order, it is another form of fullness.

Farm fullness is the richest place I have ever found myself. Unknowingly, Kathleen Norris aptly describes the labors of winter, spring and summer at the farm that ripen into unequivocally surprising fall richness. In Dakota, she writes about the beautiful, barren places of the Dakotas, but her message resonates with farm life. “Like Jacob’s angel, the region requires that you wrestle with it before it bestows a blessing. This can mean driving through a snowstorm on icy roads, wondering whether you’ll have to pull over and spend the night in your car, only to emerge under tag ends of clouds into a clear sky blazing with stars. Suddenly you know what you are seeing: the earth has turned to face the center of the galaxy, and many more stars are visible than the ones we usually see on our wing of the spiral.”

I’ve been thinking about Farm Fullness for a few weeks now and it feels as if I’ve come to finally face the center of this galaxy. So far, I’ve found three spinning planets: Abundance, Emptiness and Grace.

Abundance: The fullness of a belly or a pantry, the fullness of a thought, the fullness of love.

Emptiness: The fullness of peace that comes with release, with letting go, with accepting. The kind of fullness so often disguised as emptiness or loss.

Grace: The fullness of the dirty laundry basket, the fullness of leftovers in the fridge, the fullness of the hands or hoofs or voices of those who depend on you moment after moment.

Abundance. The fullness of belly is what I first grasp as a farmer. Fall is traditionally the time farmers feel a great sense of abundance and prosperity. Spring and summer crops pass through our hands one week at a time. We harvest chard or salad mix, then we harvest it again. Until the winter records meet our eyes, we do not think of totals or tally or bulk quantities. But in fall, our measures are totally different. In the span of one week, we carefully carry out of the field the entire expression of one crop. Thousands of pounds of winter squash move from their spacious country acreage and take up residence ‘in town’ on shelves and tables in our cabin and packing shed. When squash after squash is tucked in close to another, what seems like a modest quantity in the field becomes quite striking all together. We see finally, after a year’s worth of work, the magnitude of our efforts. Things begin to feel a little more secure, a little more restful. Fullness gives way to contentedness, a little, just a little at a time. Because it is so incredibly gratifying, we go to great lengths to preserve such fullness that bursts forth in so many ways and places. Maybe it is the fullness of summer we are really storing in canning jars? No work seems more delicious than stacking firewood, stashing winter squash, selecting seeds to save for the coming year.

Emptiness. But farm fullness also comes from the release of what you cannot control. This second form of fullness I felt acute and achingly when I came to farming. I remember losing one of my first crops of basil to a flash early frost. My stomach still tenses at the hurt and angst from that cold day. I desperately mourned the loss of income, when I could have celebrated the fullness of the end. I could of said, “We had a good run.” Now, so many years later, I feel full when I say goodbye to the gift of fresh tomatoes, when my hands are no longer asked to brush prickly summer squash plants every day, when I collect few eggs and let the chickens have the apples not worth picking. I say thank you for the bounty, I say thank you for not letting it go on forever. This letting go is a sister to gathering, to storing. Through the letting go, through the saying thank you, through the necessary goodbye, we feel the fullness of completion. We acknowledge that without such endings, new beginnings cannot come. It is an emptiness that helps us more richly celebrate the holy fullness of another year.

Grace. Finally, what about the fullness of dirty laundry basket? Appreciating this form of fullness requires embracing with gusto the over-abundance, simply because when life is dead ripe, you don’t complain. You shut up and let the juice drip down your chin.

Years ago I had a conversation with my Mother about kitchen floors that to this day makes me pick myself back up out of my ditch of triviality when I think it is all too much. I asked her, “How did you ever do it? Five kids, dogs, cats, sometimes goats or even chickens or whatever else we brought into the house for years and years. How did you keep from resenting the hours of your life you had to get down on your hands and knees and mop that kitchen floor?” “Oh,” Mom said, “Why would anyone ever want clean kitchen floors? That would mean no one came to visit. When I was down on my knees cleaning the floors, I reminded myself how lucky I was to have such an incredible family and group of friends gracing my house. We just never have enough time together. Why would I waste it being angry?”

September farm life seems full in a way not possible to wholly surround. We wake now, hearing the first Sandhill cranes chattering their song across the pale white early light. We work now, with steadied, sure purpose, the tasks discreet but prolific. We reach now, to embrace like a sheath of wheat stalks, to hold like the last ripe tomato, to store like a deep purple jar of grape juice this year of farm life. We liberate now, our weariness, the emptiness of the potato field, the need to hold onto everything at once. Finally, we accept now, the messiness, the works in process, the vibrancy of so many muddy steps that remind us we are lucky. We are full. We are deep in the weft of a good life.

To the ‘exquisite paradox’ of fall,

Your Farmer, April


Sweet Frying Peppers

Sweet Frying Peppers

Preserving Doesn’t Get Any Easier Than This

Even if you don’t know how to can or put up storage crops for the winter, you can do this! Wash sweet peppers, cut out the core and seed ribs in the pepper cavity. Cut peppers in to wide long strips so they nest nicely together. Package as many as you can use at once in a quart or gallon ziplock freezer bag. Squeeze all the air out (give ’em a hug) and seal the bag. Label and put in your freezer.

Now, go to the grocery store and check out how much frozen organic sweet peppers cost. You’ll feel incredibly smug.

To use, remove from the freezer, chop or slice as needed for your recipe. Frozen peppers are best used in sauces, soups, casserole, eggs or dips.


“All through autumn we hear a double voice: one says everything is ripe; the other says everything is dying. The paradox is exquisite.”
-Gretel Ehrlich


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2015 CSA Week 16

Potatoes in the dirt

CSA Week #16 Saturday, September 19th

Hello CSA Family, Hello Fall!

In the heat of August, the summer crops start to look a little weathered. The hot days and sheer effort of exuberant growth, the race to reproduction, ages and tires the once verdant plants. But it is in the ‘heat’ of fall the fresh farmers start to run a little ragged.

It does not seem to matter how carefully we plan or how much we work ahead in the summer. When September rains are eminent there is always a big push to get just a few more rows weeded or irrigation lines pulled and stored. Always we need to get a few more bales of hay to the pigs, and most especially, urgently we need to get crate after crate after crate of perfectly ripe produce out of the fields before the season of deluges begins.

Last Saturday, after CSA pickup, we swept and organized and put the packing shed back in order. Then I finished clearing the biggest (machine-clogging-type) weeds from the potato beds while Brad put the digger on the tractor. He speedily dug all nine beds. Then we really began. The heart of the work involved picking up by hand and brushing the precious soil off each and every potato, more than one quarter of a mile worth of earth to touch before dark. We worked steadily, we were covering good ground, and by quarter to six we had only 2 beds left. That’s when abundance struck. I started up the German Butterball row gathering potatoes and gathering potatoes, which is the point, except I had moved mere inches. Yup. Our highest yielding two potato beds, and they had to be the last two beds of the day. We still had evening livestock chores to tend to, let alone our own supper. But how can you be upset at fantastically high crop yields?

On a dry day, every moment counts. Experience urgently reminds us that even if it takes another few long hours of overtime tonight, it need be done. For working tired in the dry weather is far better than digging potatoes in the dense, heavy, sticky mud rains will surely bring. This is true with so many farm operations: perfect soil conditions beget work that is pleasant, pleasurable, rewarding, and done with the least amount of effort. The same task, sometimes a mere 8 hours later can be absolute drudgery, and easily take quadruple the amount of time, with unnecessary damage done to the soil or the crop or the farmer in the process. Our backs were against the wall. We couldn’t leave the potatoes in the field, but daylight was only going to last so long. So I did what any shameless kid does. I called Mom for help.

After about 10 minutes of collecting potatoes, with all her classic high-spirited humor Mom wryly said, “I take this as a sign that I should make a big pot of potato soup.”

The whole experience brought home a truth about any big project one takes on. Projects are made up of many smaller tasks. Here’s the thing: be careful what you name your project, because that will likely be the task that takes the absolute least amount of time to complete. It doesn’t matter if it is painting the bedroom or digging potatoes. Painting is really about 90% moving furniture, masking off trim and cleaning rollers. Painting hardly factors into the equation. Likewise, “Digging potatoes” is really about pulling weeds, removing irrigation lines, and hauling heavy sacks from field to cart, cart to packing shed, packing shed to storage racks. The digging part took all of 20 minutes! It would be so much more accurate to call a project, “preparing to X,” or, “cleaning up after X.”

I think it was my Dad that told me, “You can’t push on a rope from both ends.” I know he told me, “There are only 24 hours in every day, then there are the nights.” Both are silly jokes in their redundant truth, but also fitting summations of farm life on overly full, sunny fall days.

However we name or frame long, hard work, the beautiful thing is this: Brad and I, we never grumble. We harvest and we harvest and we harvest. We sack potato after potato after potato. Then we stack sack after sack of potatoes, we hang onions down here, garlic over there. Then, as tired as we are, we still look achingly out to the field, anxious to get all the beautiful, vibrant winter squash in out of the coming weather. In all that time, we never get short tempered or angry or irritated at the ‘inconvenience’ of all-consuming September farm life. No matter how arduous the “preparing to…” is or tedious the “cleaning up after…” is, no matter how many ropes we have to push, we still, amazingly, retain our humor, our open hearts. We submit to the discomfort because we know the value. We recommit and we spend our reserves. We spend every last storehouse of energy we have because we know how big the dividend will be when it’s bucketing rain and the crops are safe and dry, the soil is un-compacted, and the fields are at rest. All of us biding time until a distant spring morning completes and begins another circle.

But this isn’t just a delayed gratification. Our approach to the work of the farm reminds me greatly of Annie Dillard’s philosophy on writing. “One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”

It comes in waves, this harvest season, where you learn a sense of abundance not to be found anywhere, least of all in piles of money in the biggest bank vault in the world. And farm abundance, that filling of hungry coffers looking for meaning is unlike any other experience I know of. Regardless of the ache and the tired bones, regardless of the stresses and the endless work, abundance of this sort begets a wholehearted sense of generosity. A thick, sweet generosity, the kind that seeps into each and every crease from the smile in your eyes to the cracks in your fingers.

The farm is culminating now, reaching toward the incredible. The waves are cresting. The tide is coming in. The crescendo is nearing. Abundance, fullness, these are very different sensations than completeness. A farm is never complete, our work should never be complete, but abundance, authentic abundance is what makes one want to dance and sing long after dark. Dance and sing thank you all the way up into the hills so our voices, our gratitude echo far across the fields.

There is incredible joy to be found in really, really hard work. In that fantastic sort of immense effort that mostly goes sight unseen except to ourselves. True abundance necessitates such hard work, the type of hard work that matters deeply, so much so that we would not want to live without it.

It is in fall that we are reminded: we only eat because of the graciousness of the land.

Your weary, “all filled up” Farmer,
April


bread and pastries

Fresh from Julie’s oven

bakerchic’s Bread

Breads

Sourdough – $4.00
Olive Bread – $4.50
Wild Rice – $4.50
Oat Bread – $4.50
Baguette – $2.00 (pre-order only)

Pastries – $1.50 ea or 4/$5.00

Cinnamon Rolls
Pistachio Swirls
Cranberry Orange Scones
Breakfast Biscuits

If you would like make sure you leave the farm with bread, click here to pre-order. This will be our last Saturday at the farm. If you would like to have the opportunity to continue enjoying our breads throughout the fall/winter, think about joining our Fall CSB. Click here for more information on the program. Signup forms will be available on Saturday or contact me for more information.

Thanks,
Julie Huffman
bakerchic’s
360.931.3421
bakerchics@nullgmail.com


“You know that the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest?”

“What is it, then?”

“The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.”

-David Whyte, Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity


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2015 CSA Week 15

Cat on Brad's shoulder

CSA Week #15 Saturday, September 12th

Dear CSA Family,

It’s funny to me that people think of farm chores as just that – a repetitive, boring, cycle of rote actions that one must do day-in, day-out no matter the weather, one’s mood, or other pressing work. Here’s the truth about ‘mundane’ farm life: around any turn, at any time, the unexpected is bound to appear.

Every morning and every evening Brad or I set about visiting our animals. We take turns, two days at a time. The chickens, donkeys, cats, dog, and pigs all need fed and watered. There is bedding to freshen up, eggs to collect, wallows to fill and manure to be scooped. In the evenings, it seems impolite not to linger a bit, to see how everyone is doing, to pay a few social calls.

Chores for us are kind of like a cross between running a 7 day a week mobile dining/housekeeping service and going to visit all our closest neighbors… who don’t happen to be humans. We bring apples and at the same time ask Rosie, “How’s that shoulder feeling today? Still sore?” We spread fresh wood shavings in the chicken boxes and at the same time encourage the proud clucks of the little Bantam hen who is showing us her tiny, still warm egg. We hay the donkeys and get the stare down from those big dark eyes which seem to say, “Just open that gate, will ya? We are ready to PLAY!”

Until Brad and I settled into our current chore routine, I had no idea the gift of ritual was waiting. More than once, thoughts of twice-a-day drudgery sat heavy on my shoulders. But now, the chore circuit is a blissfully quiet time for me; the animals don’t require me to use English. A back scratch or a belly rub can say just as much and the joy spreads both ways. When I’m really tired, or hot or just want to be DONE, chores are a lesson in patience, in non-rushing, in taking what comes, breath by breath.

There is a basic truth about chores Brad seems to understand in an effortless kind of way. After watching him with all the animals,I was finally able to work out the simple equation in my head. Youcan steel yourself, grit your teeth and rush through chores. That equates to a 40 minute sullen slog. Or, you can take it bit by bit, task by task, slow and steady, greeting the snout or the paw or the big long donkey ear, each one in turn. That usually equates to 50 minutes of calm kindness to yourself and the animals you are tending. Last I checked, 50 minutes of pleasant work beats 40 minutes of drudgery, even if it’s raining! Here’s the clincher- during chore time, if I can let those thoughts of how tired I am fly right on out of my head, something unexpected happens, and a lot of times it just makes my day.

They say you can tell a lot about a farmer by what their fields look like. I say you can tell a lot about a farmer by the prance of their pigs, i.e. by the general nature of the animals who live with the farmer.

A few nights ago, I was returning from pig chores. As I came past the field houses, I spotted Brad, half bent over, actively harvesting squash, but much slower than normal. The closer I came, the wider we both were grinning. There on Brad’s back was Elmer, the newest member of our cat squad, “helping” Brad. I went to the house for the camera, because, really, how can you accurately capture such a scene with words? If I’d rushed through my chores, disconnected and just going through the motions, I would have been 10 minutes earlier. I would have missed the whole show, missed a perfect chance to be with my husband, on a warm, quiet evening, enjoying this silly, slender moment in time.

You might think this kind of unexpected turn during chore time is a rare occurance. But I’ll tell you what, when you drop the same-old-just-please-get-this-over-with song and remember why you are doing what you are doing, funny, unusual, beautiful, awesome moments shyly reveal themselves. Allow yourself to go a little slower, re-commit to your important rituals instead of to the broken records playing that totally boring tune. You’ll resurface with a clarity about life, about gentleness, about not wasting one precious breath on negativity.

Here’s what Brad has also taught me. You don’t have to have farm chores to discover the unexpected. It may sound silly, but when’s the last time you brushed your teeth and instead of thinking about a million other things, you just brushed your teeth? You didn’t race thru it, or try and clean the sink or check your phone at the same time. You just thought about how nice it is to have teeth that work, that don’t hurt, that show off your big smile in a fantastic way? You took your time, you tickled the roof of your mouth, maybe even laughed a little, remembering when you were 10 and you forgot your toothbrush on that camping trip with your family. All of a sudden, unexpectedly, a fond memory brightens your day! It isn’t just about gratitude. Ritual is about meaning. Intention. Purpose. And if you can’t find the hidden gifts behind what you are doing over and over, if nothing unexpected ever pops up, then what is the point?

There is never enough time with the people, the places, the animals we hold dear. Do we even have enough time with ourselves? We can’t stop time, but we can find a reassuring truth in the repeated moments of our lives. I hope you discover a quiet ritual this week in something as mundane as brushing your teeth. May unexpected, delightful doors open where you least expect them.

Your Farmer,
April

P.S. Elmer showed up at our farm on his own this spring. Brad named him Elmer because he is so affectionate he sticks to people like Elmer’s glue.

P.P.S. Thanks Crystal. We know it was you who encouraged Elmer’s climbing snuggles.


bread and pastries

Fresh from Julie’s oven

bakerchic’s Bread

Breads

Sourdough – $4.00
Whole Wheat Levain – $4.00
Cheese Levain – $5.00
Barley Bread – $5.00
Honey Whole Wheat – $4.50
Baguette – $2.00 (Pre-order only)

Pastry Case – $1.50 ea or 4/$5.00

Cinnamon Rolls
Almond Rolls
Pumpkin Muffins
Cranberry Orange Scones
Pistachio Swirls
Breakfast Biscuits

Fall is just around the corner and we thought this would be a great time to bring out some of our fall favorites. Our Barley Bread is a nice hearty loaf that is sweetened with a little honey and gets its texture from a blend of oats, cracked barley, sunflower seeds, and flaxseeds. In the pastry case look for our pumpkin muffins and cranberry orange scones to pair nicely with a cup of coffee or tea on a cool Sept morning.

Special this week is $.50 off our Cheese Levain. If you would like to make sure you leave the farm with bread, click here to pre-order.


Ritual is to the internal sciences what experiment is to the external sciences.

– Timothy Leary


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2015 CSA Week 14

ladder in a fruit tree

CSA Week #14 Saturday, September 5th

Dear CSA Family,

Now begins the season of climbing ladders in earnest. First we look up through branches and leaves and tangle ourselves into the arms of the fruit trees. We’re picking deep purple Italian plums and soon the apples trees will be calling… maybe. We lost quite a few in the stormy winds of Saturday, so we’re uncertain how the race of rain versus ripening will end.

After the fruit is safe under shelter, stored in black crates, after this harvest comes fall chores, the high dance with leaves and gutters and roofs. Then there may be painting of weathered wood trim, storing boxes and equipment high up on shelves, retrieving canners and steamers and jars and cider equipment off the top of the 12 foot pallet rack. Finally, we’ll haul the ladders back to the fruit trees for winter pruning. We’ve a long climb ahead, but each step- up and down, up and down again, is a necessary journey when you’ve chosen the farm life.

When I was six, Harold and Mary Sutton lived in the tiny white house east of this farm. Harold was the first orchardist I knew. He was small, sinewy, slight but strong. Even his old-fashioned round glasses were wiry and little, lithe and tough. Harold was legendary for his pears, and no one else at the time even attempted growing peaches in rainy Clark County. But Harold had peach trees planted all along the east side of his lane, and he harvested crop after crop. He grew strawberries in his field south of our pig paddocks and tended apple and nut trees too. His round straw hat with dark thick ribbon band was always on his head. Even when we visited him in winter months, I remember that light straw hat ringing his face, punctuating his bright eyes and shy smile.

At a spry 85 years, it seemed he was climbing up and down his orchard ladder every time we visited. But no one climbs ladders at the old Sutton place any longer. After Harold died, no one thought his ancient fruit trees worthy of saving. A leaky diesel tank sits there now, and a grove of abused, knotted Doug Fir trees shelter all manner of berry crates, metal junk, plastic trash, and un-used planting containers. Part tractor equipment storage, part used car salvage yard, the ground flinched, then scarred over with neglect.

Nine years ago, in among the cobwebs and rusty metal bits a barn is known to harbor, I found Harold’s relic of an orchard ladder. Maybe it was on loan, or the previous owners of our farm “adopted it” after Harold was gone. The steps creak but remain secure, the metal brackets and braces are burnt brown/gray and cold to the touch. Harold’s wisdom still sits deep in the smooth grain of the wood his hands surely burnished soft after all his many years of orcharding. There is no better style of ladder for tucking oneself up and inside the fold of a fruit tree. Today, the diversity of ladder work requires us to have different, newer styles, but secretly, Harold’s ladder is my very favorite.

When I was in my twenties, I had ambitions as big as Gretel Ehrlich’s Wyoming skies. But now I am climbing toward a decade of farming. I have a sorrowful longing for the seemingly lost knowledge, buildings, tools- the lost hearts of farmers who had a love affair with their land and the food it could produce. Now,my ambitions are of the smallest kind: to tend, to care, to repair, to appreciate.

Today, a shy smile climbs across me at the thought of myself in a future August, a narrow-brimmed straw hat on, holding onto Harold’s ancient ladder, creaking up underneath the giving limbs of a peach tree. I don’t need thousands of pounds of peaches, just enough for lunch, and a pie, just enough to put salve on the wound of that past wrong where an orchardist gave his life to the land and then left us, thinking his legacy was as dead as his trees.

Two springs ago, the Red Haven, Frost, Peregrine and Indian Blood yearling peach trees arrived on the brown UPS truck. Brad and I planted the heirloom varieties up on the crest of the field northwest of the Piggery. When they grow grand enough, my fragile, daunted hope is that some young orchardist-to-be will see the rosy glow of peach skin all the way from the upstairs window of Harold and Mary’s little white farmhouse.

Step by step,

Your FarmerApril


Marechal Foch Grapes

Marechal Foch Grapes

Wine/Juice Grapes for Sale

Our Marechal Foch grapes are abundant this year and we’re looking for bulk buyers. Marechal Foch is a french wine grape, which I’ve been told is an excellent and forgiving variety for first time vintners. I wouldn’t know, because we never get further than drinking the fresh juice. There are multiple ways of making grape juice, from hot steaming to cold pressing to using an actual juicing machine. We drink our fill and can or freeze the rest for healthy, tasty juice all winter. You can too! $20.00 per 20 lb box. Cold pressing yields about 1 gallon of juice for 15 lbs of grapes. If you know someone interested in larger quantities (100lbs+) for making wine or vinegar, please email us right away! We have a short harvest window before rains ruin the crop.


bread and pastries

Fresh from Julie’s Oven

bakerchic’s Bread

Bread

Sourdough – $4.00
Whole Wheat Levain – $4.00
Olive Bread – $4.50
Oat Bread – $4.50
Baguette – $2.00 (pre-order only)
Focaccia – $3.50

Pastry Case – $1.50 ea or 4/$5.00

Cinnamon Rolls, Almond Rolls, Pistachio Swirls, Cranberry Orange Scones, Spiced Apple Scones, Breakfast Biscuits

If you would like to make sure you leave the farm with bread, click here to pre-order.


“I knew that I would never make a fortune in farming but I hoped that I could be rich in other ways, and maybe, just maybe, my work would create some other kind of wealth in the process.”

Epitaph for a Peach, and for the Sweetness of Summer by David Mas Masumoto


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2015 CSA Week 13

bolting letuce

CSA Week #13 Saturday, August 29th

Greetings Farm Family,

It is dry, dry, dry out here. So dry, that for the first year ever we are actually hauling hay down from the barn to keep the pigs out of the dust and to provide them with additional forage. The health of our livestock and the health of our soils is always at the top of my priority list. In wetter years, we rotate the pigs from spring to summer paddocks, then in the fall back to the spring grass which has re-bounded with rest and water, fueled by the fertility of pig manure. But our spring paddocks are still dry and delicate, so we’re doing the best we can with what we have. We could irrigate our fields, yes, but this seems mildly irresponsible and practically difficult due to the windy conditions that have erratically blanketed the farm for the last ten weeks. So how do you keep 21 pigs clean, healthy, safe, and provide social enrichment when the forage isn’t up to this farmer’s standards? There is no text book I can reference, no hotline phone number to call, no online help desk to query, no trust fund account to tap into. Asituation like this requires a person to dig in, to start with what resources are most available and creatively make up solutions on the fly. It’s a good thing on my short vacation I happened across Teresa Jordan’s book, Riding the White Horse Home. She writes about carrying hay and dry cake to their cattle in bad drought. Her stories of ranch life made me think: maybe cows and pigs aren’t so different after all. So along way from Wyoming rangeland, another farm solution was born, on the fly.

This is the heat of farming, it is one fast dance after another. We are used to the long sets, the intense drums and thrumming nature of music that just sweeps one up and away. We are use to enduring. But this season, this year of confusing, erratic weather has been a little too much like improvisational jazz. In late summer, when the hot days have worn down the spring in our step, I’d much prefer a slow country waltz, an even-tempo, a calm gliding rhythm to re-set my tired body for crisp September harvest mornings, for dusky nights of cleaning storage onions, haying donkeys, sweeping the packing shed floor. Calm evenings, sunny afternoons, nothing vagarious, nothing misleading, oh reliable, sweet Tennessee Waltz, please fill out my dance card!

But apparently Mother Nature has already booked her bands, and we’re of course, only along for the show. So we make up the steps as we move across the field and we keep smiling, shoulders up. Our swerving climate has caused many of the summertime staples to metaphorically stop and scratch their heads. Plants rely heavily on temperature changes to direct their growth and they prefer slow transitions. We’ve missed the heirloom tomatoes in our kitchen, as we’re sure you have in yours. Hopefully early September will usher in a new beat and the heirlooms will again ripen evenly, without sunburn, without cracking, en masse.

Until then, we’ll celebrate the return of the most complex-tasting table grapes around. We’ll sauté big pans of our sweet frying peppers, savoring this signature crop that usually doesn’t ripen until fall. You know what they say… I guess it’s time to make lemonade. Good thing I put on my dancing shoes.

Your Farmer,
April

bolting letuceP.S. I have been asked what “bolting” lettuce is. The picture is unfortunately right from our fields. When plants are under extreme stress – either from heat, lack of water, insect or disease pressure, they override the natural development cycle and devote all of their energy to producing seed to ensure their species survival. In the case of our lettuce, the 100 degree heat in July cause the plants to stop producing tender, leafy greens and instead send up a central stalk with seed head. The plant in essence “bolts” upward, racing to create viable seed before conditions worsened and kill the plant. Phenomenal and strangely beautiful, isn’t it?
 
 


“Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.”

Maya Angelou, Still I Rise


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2015 CSA Week 12

CSA Week #12 Saturday, August 22nd

Hi CSA Friends,

This week we are going to change up things and run our weekly pickup with no pre-orders.

The unsettled weather has made it difficult for us to predict on Monday the best vegetables to harvest on Friday. Like a good author, Mother Nature's drastic and erratic weather patterns have written intriguing vignettes all over our tomatoes, eggplant, beans, lettuces, squash, peppers and fruit trees. Once the 100 degrees fade away, it is easy to think it is over. But the story is just heating up; now we can read the plants. It's not until weeks later all the blooms on the eggplant have fallen off, or the heirloom tomatoes show their dull, sunburnt cheeks. One picking we'll harvest 31 pounds of romano beans, the next we'll have 4 lbs. Then in two days, 17 more pounds arrive.

To add complexity to this plot, your farmers are headed out for a short fishing trip this week. We greatly appreciate the chance to rest our weary summer bones and get recharged for a fantastic fall season.

We haven't reached the last chapter of this adventure/mystery farm novel, but instead of fretting and rolling the dice as in weeks past, we've decided to relax and take each page as it turns. It seems like the right decision to have an 'old fashioned' CSA pickup this week. Do any of you remember the first years of the April Joy Farm CSA? This will be like old times!

We will harvest a beautiful and abundant selection of our choicest produce when we're back at the farm on Friday.

On Saturday, come to the farm as regularly scheduled, peruse the offerings and pick your favorite six. And if the suspense is just killing you, (you have astrong preference for a certain set of vegetables or you really need a pre-boxed share for speedy pickup), please send me an email and we'll do the very best we can to help you out.

Your Farmers,
Brad and April

P.S. Spoiler Alert: We are hoping the first of the table grapes are sweet enough to harvest for this week's CSA pickup. Otherwise, maybe those rich juicy melons will hold out for one more week to fill up our grocery bags. Where are the CliffNotes for this farm story when you really need them?


“I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief… For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” –Wendell Berry


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2015 CSA Week 11

sun flower with bee

CSA Week #11 Saturday, August 15th

With August in full swing, we’re feeling a little like this honey bee – working hard to carry heavy loads of delicious food. In her case, can you see the bright yellow pollen coating her back legs? In our case, can you see the abundant vegetables filling our harvest crates, week after week?

We hope the great selection of summer produce makes supper time at your house as sweet as honey.

Your Farmers,
April & Brad


bread and pastries

Fresh from Julie’s Oven

bakerchic’s Bread

Sourdough – $4.00
Cheese Levain – $5.00
Baguette (Pre-order only) – $2.00
Cranberry Walnut – $5.00
Oat Bread – $4.50
Pita Bread (4-pack) – $3.50

Pastries – $1.50 ea or 4/$5.00

The Cranberry Walnut is adapted from our Whole Wheat Levain with the addition of dried cranberries and toasted walnuts. This loaf stands up well on it’s own, or toasted with a little cream cheese. YUM!! Click here to pre-order and guarantee you have bread to go with your veggies.

We will be out of town at a grain conference the following week, so no bread will be available on Sat. Aug 22nd. See you again on the 29th.


Here’s the latest Buzz from April Joy Farm:

“Why can’t they make perfume that smells like freshly harvested tomatoes?”


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2015 CSA Week 10

larkspur flower

CSA Week #10 Saturday, August 8th

Dear CSA Family,
One thing to love about farm life is the unexpected blooms. This year, there is a brilliant larkspur in full bloom in the high tunnel. Larkspur hasn’t been planted at the farm in at least four years, nor have we seen it growing wild here in all that time. Where did this gorgeous presence came from? It’s a mystery to us, so instead we’ll have to just marvel and appreciate the fact that this special flower seed found a home at April Joy Farm.

However lovely the larkspur is, she still can’t compare with our absolute favorite unexpected bloom: Brad’s niece Crystal! We had no idea two years ago when we asked if she would come and help us out, how incredibly lucky we’d be that she would ‘find a home’ at April Joy Farm.

Crystal is heading back to college shortly, and she’s such a delight that it is especially hard to say goodbye. It takes a special kind of person to adapt well to farm life and she couldn’t have fit in better. Over the last two summers, she’s shared with us her secret recipe for:

A Contented Farm Hand
2 parts unbelievably strong work ethic
2 parts incredibly positive attitude (no matter how sunburnt, tired, or long the rows loom out ahead)
2 parts adaptability (to whatever the donkeys or chickens or day may bring)
2 parts good judgement
1 part adventuresome spirit
1 part tenderness toward all creatures
1 part continuous (and fast) learner
1/8 part jokester

We’ll be missing her friendly, happy heart even more than we’ll be missing her extra helping hands, (which is to say, tremendously).

Your Farmers,
April & Brad


bread

Fresh from Julie’s Oven

bakerchic’s Bread

Sourdough – $4.00
Olive Bread – $4.50
Whole Wheat Levain* – $4.00
Baguette – $2.00 (Pre-order only)
Multi-Grain Whole Wheat* – $4.50
Spelt Levain* – $4.50

Special this week is $.50 off any whole grain loaf (noted with an * above). We freshly mill all the whole grains that we use in our breads and believe the flavor of the fresh grains is fabulous. You can always try before you buy; samples of all breads will be available on the bread table. If you would like to make sure you leave the farm with bread this week, click here to pre-order.


“It’s nice to have someone in your life who can make you smile even when they are not around.”

Thanks Crystal, for sharing your bright and special self with the April Joy Farm community!


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2015 CSA Week 9

tomatoes on a vine

CSA Week #9 Saturday, August 1st

Dear CSA Family,
The start of August is a busy time at the farm. We still have a handful of beds left to seed and transplant before winter, but any time the rains come, we face another flush of weeds, so we’re still hoeing away. Most noticeably, our time is pulled toward longer (and heavier) weekly harvests. Plus early August is the time of year we start bulk harvesting our storage crops. We’ve finished curing the garlic crop and are in the process of reorganizing the drying shed to make room to “bring the onions home.” Very soon, we will hand harvest all four beds and deliver them back to the same benches where these tiny onion seeds germinated six months ago.

One sure reward of my farming life is the opportunity to witness so many full circles. We seed the jet black onions in the gloomy dull days of early February. We tend and transplant, weed and water, scout and sample, then hand harvest and cure, then eat, then carry the scraps to the compost pile, then rest, then start again: each seed, each onion. And so it goes for peppers and chard, squash and salad mix, grapes and tomatoes, and with albeit different rhythms- chickens and donkeys and pigs. To be immersed in cycles I can only sometimes peripherally interject into is both fascinating and extremely challenging. It can be so easy to fall into the frustration ditch because it seems as though no matter how hard one works, nothing is ever d-o-n-e done. You weed, and then you weed again. You seed, and then you seed again. You feed, and then you feed again. You harvest, and harvest, and harvest again. Cycles are incredible, but cycles can leave one feeling like the inside of the washing machine on full spin.

Over the past many seasons, I have been asked how it is that I keep going. How do I get down on my hands and knees and face one more long row, when I’ve planted a thousand rows already? To a great many, farm work seems so tedious and boring, so mundane, so ‘something to rush through.’ I’ve heard farm work get categorized with dirty dishes, dirty laundry and dirty diapers- talk about round and round and round! I’m a firm believer that as long as you’ve soap and water, there’s joy to be found in all.

When any part of my work starts to feel repetitious, I ask why, and I try to tinker. I try not to resist the cycle; I just look for a simple adjustment, a fine tuning, a different angle that puts the work in a new light. I think of all the ways this 20th pound of salad mix is not like the first 19 lbs I’ve washed today. I pause momentarily for hot drink or to feel how soft a cinnamon tan donkey ear really is. I take a breath, I clean the rinsing sink, I run my hands under warm water.

I stop focusing on the end game, but I don’t focus on stopping the cycle. I go for gratitude and look the gift of abundance right in the eyes– how tough did those leafy greens have to be to make it through the last long heat wave and not turn bitter? I recognize that come the dark days of January, washing 25 lbs of crisp, healthy, lettuce for a truly grateful community would seem like a pretty good thing.

I consciously find and let go of what I don’t need to be holding. Setting down a heavy crate or releasing tension in my shoulders is one thing, saying goodbye to negative ideas or unhelpful methods is quite another. I keep at it.

I try to find the current of the slow river, I try to feel the fluidness of the change I’m surely floating in even though it feels like the monotony anchor has me sunk. I commit to the present moment. I acknowledge the desire to stop what I am doing, but I don’t dwell on it. I don’t tie myself to that one little stationary thought that crosses my mind… for really, how many thousand little thoughts cross our minds in just one hour?

I don’t give up. Instead, I seek kindness in the journey. I work to see just one leaf of lettuce like it’s the first I’ve ever seen. I look for the smallest piece of earth beneath me that I can love without effort. Then I can rise up and get my bearings. I can find my place on the map of the big full circles. Things can be put in perspective, yes? I let the change come.

Once I acknowledge that all I do, all I am, all I strive to be, is in all ways in progress, life gets better. The farm is in a perennial season of transition. So are we humans. There is a beautiful order to be found in the very natural state of change. When you can see this clearly, the rest comes easier.

To the great continuum,

Your Farmer April


bread

Fresh from Julie’s oven

bakerchic’s Bread

Here’s what will be available this week:

Sourdough – $4.00
Whole Wheat Levain – $4.00
Baguette – $2.00 (Pre-order only)
Cheese Levain – $5.00
Honey Whole Wheat – $4.50

Special this week is $.50 off a loaf of the Cheese Levain. This is a spinoff of our sourdough loaf with just the right amount of parmesan cheese folded in to give this loaf it’s great flavor. Pair this loaf with a nice salad, or top a slice with some fresh tomatoes and you’ll be smiling the rest of the day. We’ll have samples available on the bread table.

If you would like to make sure you leave the farm with bread this week, click here to pre-order.


“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” ― Anne Bradstreet


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