Monday, June 28, 2010

Week Four

Veggies in your bag this week:

-Basil and Parsley
-Swiss Chard/Collards
-Snow Peas/Snap Peas (eat pod and all with both of these).
-Green Onions/Pearl Onions
-Garlic Scapes (the long curly cue—chop and add to a stir-fry for a mild garlic flavor).

First off: Reminders

*** Please return your delivery bags to your drop site each week. I have gotten very few back and am nearly out. Thank you!

*** Next week, the Monday delivery will be on Tuesday to accommodate those who have Monday vacations. So pick-up Tuesday July 6th, same time and place of course.

*** My mother, Lucy, will be running the ship next week. If you have a question/problem, contact her at 715-265-4134 or the Piney Hill email:

The weeks are flying by here at the farm and summer has set in. Potato bugs have arrived and weeds continue to grow, but we continue to feel optimistic about the crops (no shortage of rain!). We have been spared the damaging weather that many have suffered in Minnesota, and I am reminded how tenuous our feeling of control really is. In fact, we were discussing at dinner the other night that as Americans we often think we are in control or want to be in control, more so than in other cultures. We do not like it when things just “happen” to us. Farming makes this realization even more clear. We want so badly to control everything that is happening in the field, but in the end, all it takes is a hail storm or a flood to show us that our control is all an illusion. But enough of my ramblings, we are in control of it all for now, I’m sure!

Snap peas arrived in a flurry this week and I eat and pick and eat and pick.
Here is a link to some sugar snap pea recipes posted on a Spring Hill Community Farm’s website (a CSA near us).

And another link to using collards and greens from their site:

There is an entire recipe index there that may be useful to you.

Enjoy the holiday weekend.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Week Three

Veggies in your bag this week:

-Napa Cabbage (Monday only, Thursday will possibly get broccoli or some other delightful thing:)
-Lacinato Kale
-Endive/Frisee’ (these two names are used interchangeably…they are also very similar to Escarole and probably any recipe for Escarole would work with this green too).
-Snow Peas
-Green Onions
-Garlic Scapes (the long curly cue—chop and add to a stir-fry for a mild garlic flavor).

Our two-week onslaught of rain was capped off Tuesday evening with 1¾ inches in less than an hour. Needless to say the already saturated ground couldn’t absorb all that water fast enough and some rivers of mud began moving through the vegetables, mainly noted in the lettuce. So if you find some muddy lettuce, that’s why.

It is interesting to look back at what was happening on the farm a year ago. In my week three newsletter, I noted the explosion of potato beetles, weeding til dusk on the solstice and picking so much broccoli we didn’t know what to do with it all. Well, each year is different. This year we can still count on both hands how many potato beetles we’ve picked off (amazing really—must be due to moving fields) and less weeding (I can actually see all of our crops this year and I am not planning to abandon anything because it’s too weedy).

Our bees swarmed for real this year, taking the queen with them, leaving half the population behind to rear a new queen. As I contemplated the disloyalty of the bees to me, I tried to stay positive. There is much to be learned from the life of bees: if it’s too crowded, move on to new places; if you lose your leader, rear a new one; store all that you can for winter—it’s guaranteed to be long and cold; honey is the nectar of life.

Two-Way Street Beets from the MACSAC cookbook

A member pointed this recipe out to me last year. I finally had the chance to make it and finally fell in love with beets (even farmers don’t like all the vegetables).

1 bunch of small-medium beets
juice of 1 orange
1 tablespoon butter
1 tsp peanut oil
1 tsp dark sesame oil
1 tsp hot chili oil
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce

Cut beets off stems. Gently scrub beets. Wash the greens. Cut stems into 3-inch pieces and coarsely chop the greens; set aside stems and greens in separate piles. Steam beets until tender, 20-30 minutes. Cool briefly, slip off skins, and cut into wedges. Toss with orange juice, butter, and pepper to taste; cover and keep warm. Meanwhile, heat heavy skillet over medium flame. Add oils. Add stems; sauté 2-3 minutes. Add greens; cook, tossing often, until limp. Toss in soy sauce and pepper to taste. Arrange beets over greens on platter.

Week Two

Veggies in your bag this week:

-Napa Cabbage
-Swiss Chard/Kale/Collards in a bunch
-Salad Turnips (yummy eaten raw, but cooked is okay too).
-Green Onions
-Garlic Scapes (the long curly cue—chop and add to a stir-fry for a mild garlic flavor).

I feel quite certain we have had more straight days of straight rain recently than we have had in the last three years. Usually the end of my long days weeding, planting or harvesting are punctuated by an hour futzing around with the irrigation system to get the plants a nice drink of water. Not so right now. We have resigned ourselves to weeding in the rain, dragging our mud-laden feet around the field. If it’s not one thing it’s another, and on one hand I am very thankful to not spend time irrigating, but on the other, our slug problem has gotten out of control. They fall out of the heads of lettuce by the hundreds (no joke). Once the sun comes out again, plants are going to explode with growth.

Most crops seem to be doing well. The exceptions have been due to problems of seeds not sprouting. Our second planting of carrots failed completely (I’m not sure why) so there will be a gap between carrot harvests. Peas and cucumbers will soon be on the menu. Tomatoes are taking off like crazy in the hoophouse. Broccoli and cabbage are on their way.

If you haven’t yet, you can fan Piney Hill Farm on Facebook. I can’t promise
we will update very often (my facebook usage drops dramatically in the summer), but you never know what the farm might post.

A recipe for this week:

Asian Fusion Slaw (from the Featherstone Farm Cookbook)

½ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
¼ cup rice vinegar
1 ½ tablespoons fresh ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce

6 cups shredded napa cabbage, thinly sliced
2 bell peppers sliced into sticks
1 bunch green onions, finely chopped
1 cup chopped salted peanuts
1 cup minced cilantro

1. Mix the dressing in a small bowl.
2. In a big bowl, toss together the cabbages, peppers, and onions. Pour the dressing over the cabbage and toss. Salt to taste.
3. Add the peanuts and cilantro right before serving

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

2010 Week One

Nothing like the first delivery to send the farmer into a panic. CSA style marketing requires attention to detail and so I sort through the details making sure my numbers are right and syrup shares are in order. Everything is out of rhythm. Yet I am excited to get the deliveries underway. The next few weeks on the farm will be busy and somewhat frantic as there are still plants to put in the ground, weeds to stay on top of, and then harvesting and delivering to go along with all that.
Now our third season of operating the CSA, we find ourselves becoming more efficient and some of our hard labor from the first few years paying off. Farming is still hard, but maybe it will be just a little bit easier this year than the last. We can always hope…and as far as I can tell, there is a lot of hope and faith that go into farming.

I can’t remember if I said it in the member handbook or not, but it’s a good idea to wash your produce, even if it looks clean. We try very hard to wash everything and maintain a clean harvest area, but washing it yourself before eating is the only way to be sure it’s really clean. Occasionally you will probably find a slug or other bug in your lettuce or delivery bag. As a CSA we do what we can to make the produce look good and treat it right so it stores well. But if you compare how our produce looks to what you see in a co-op, you might think your carrots have more dirt or your Swiss chard leaves have a few more holes. I appreciate the CSA market style because we are able to use more produce…whereas only the most perfect produce can be sold at a co-op. They also put considerable time in at the co-op cleaning produce before putting it on the shelf and anything imperfect doesn’t sell.
We had wonderful helpers at our member work day a week ago—planting and weeding galore. The highlight for all was the homemade maple ice cream that one of our members brought for the potluck. We also had some great help from Josh and Becky and their sons harvesting for the first delivery. They did a great job on slug patrol.

The vegetable cast list for this week:

-Swiss Chard (white and colored stems)
-Frisee (bright green leaves with serrated edges)

I highly recommend having a really good cookbook for vegetables. Of course you can probably find good recipes on the internet, but I still like paging through the cookbook. Two that I have and use often are:
Asparagus to Zucchini from the MACSAC (Madison Area CSA Coalition) organization.

Farmer John’s Cookbook: the real dirt on vegetables.

A new addition to your bag this year is the frisee’ otherwise known as endive. It is a slightly bitter green that can be used in salads, but might be better off cooked. Here is a recipe we tried last night to great success:

Steamed Frisee with Pine Nuts and Raisins (from Farmer John’s cookbook).

3 tablespoons raisins
1 pound frisee (I think you could add swiss chard to this as well if you’d like).
¼ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons pine nuts
salt and pepper

1. Put the raisins in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside to plump, then drain.
2. Steam the frisee in a steamer basket until wilted, 2-4 minutes.
3. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and pine nuts and cook, stirring constantly until the pine nuts start to brown.
4. Give the greens a few chops on the cutting board and add to the skillet. Stir until coated with oil, then remove from heat and stir in the raisins. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

About the radishes:
Whoa, they got kind of big! We started harvesting them early, but even so… The slugs had a chew on the radish tops. You can use radish tops in a stir-fry. Radishes themselves can be cooked too, which takes away the spicy edge. I also like them grated on my salad…not quite as intense as eating them whole, which I like to do if I am driving because it keeps me awake :)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Off to the organic conference!

This year I have been working part time for MOSES (Midwest Organic and Sustainability Education Service). MOSES organizes the largest organic farming conference in the US, and it takes place this weekend. From Tuesday through Saturday I will be among over 2,000 farmers interested in organic and sustainable agriculture. The outcome will surely be the inspiration to kick off the 2010 season, which in many ways begins next week, the first week of March as we plant onions, shallots and leeks in the greenhouse.

We still have a half dozen memberships available. Please inquire if you are interested.

Monday, January 11, 2010

2010 CSA

After the farmers took a brief vacation to Ecuador (where farming goes on year-round and we were able to help pull a few weeds to remind us of what it felt like), we are ready to begin signing up our members for this upcoming season. In truth, we've hardly taken a break this year as we are experimenting with growing in a winter greenhouse. Right now I can go out and harvest a fresh salad for my dinner--a treat to be sure. We've been selling our salad greens from the winter greenhouse locally and at a co-op in Eau Claire, WI.

Last year's farm members will have the first chance to sign up again until February 15th. After this time, we will take new members.

We look forward to our third season running the CSA. Our hope is that we now have the general infrastructure needed to run the operation with minimal new investments. Erin's parents will be on hand this summer to help, and we look forward to all the new season brings.