Last Chance to Plant Garlic

With all the weather we’ve had so far this fall we haven’t planted all the garlic yet.  So we plan to finish the project on Sunday, November 12th from 12:00 until 4:00 or done.  Please come out and lend a hand!  We could use all the help we can get before we run out of time.  It would be helpful to know if you will make it but feel free to come at the last minute!

Farmers Marketing

If you are interested in Winter/Spring FruitShare please let me know ASAP.  It starts Wednesday, November 15th.  We have drop sites in St. Paul near 94 and Dale St, St. Paul’s Monastery on Century Ave and here at the farm.  Payment plans are available.  The fruit is delicious and gives you a bit of sunshine with every bite!  What more could you ask for during a cold, snowy winter?  Order online or just email me and follow up with payment.

And while you are online ordering your winter FruitShare you might as well sign up for the 2018 season!  We’ve had a great response so far but of course would love to see the rest of you join as well.  A deposit of $100 secures your spot.

Farm News

First and most discouraging is the weather just is not cooperating for us to be able to plant the garlic.  Too cold.  Too wet.  And not enough sun.  The ground is saturated, which in a normal year would be a good thing.  Oh well, looks like we will have to try spring planted garlic and hope for the best.

Second, at this time of year I spend a considerable amount of time working on marketing and sales, whether it is web site maintenance, Facebook postings, online videos or other means of selling the product without paying a company that has plenty of money and doesn’t need any of mine.  One idea I want to work on this winter is customer testimonials.  These could be just short one to two lines saying something positive about us or your experience, to a more involved multi-paragraph piece discussing why you joined, what benefits you received, what other places you’ve used in the past (other CSAs, farmers markets, etc.), why you continue to come back to our farm, etc.  If you have comments or stories you’d like to share please let me know.  If anyone is interested in writing their story that would be even better.  Don’t be shy and don’t expect one of the other members will do it.  Share your story!  And thank you in advance for anyone who steps up!

Third, there is always a third.

As always, do not hesitate to contact me with questions, comments, suggestions, requests, jokes, etc.

It’s the End of the Season as We Know It

Harvesting tomatoes while it snows

First of all I want to thank everyone for their support of the farm this past season.  Without your support our business would not succeed.  Our farm survives on the personal connections we strive to have with each of our members.  It is more difficult to have this connection with our delivery customers but we do our best to be available and accessible to everyone.  I hope you enjoyed the season as much as I’ve enjoyed getting to know you.  I look forward to another successful season with all of you next year!  And if you this isn’t clear, last week was the final week of this season.

Second, we are doing Winter FruitShare again this year!  What is winter FruitShare?  It is like summer FruitShare except it is in the winter with fruit that is available in the winter!  It is approximately every other week (with exceptions around the holidays).  We have three locations for picking up the fruit: here at the farm, a drop site near 94 and Dale St. and St. Paul’s Monastery near Larpenteur and Century Ave.  Pick-up days will be on Wednesdays again this season.  You can order online or by emailing me then follow up with payment.  You are also welcome to use a payment plan; no need to pay it all upfront.  Winter FruitShare starts November 15th so get your order in ASAP.  Let me know if you have any questions.

Third, we are taking orders for 2018!  We have had a great response so far but would love to get everyone signed up before the holidays hit and it gets forgotten.  The store has been updated for those who like to purchase online.  You can also just send in a check for $100 to reserve your spot.  A third option is if you have a PayPal account you can send a $100 deposit using their “Friends & Family” service; use my email address as the recipient.  It is free if your PayPal account has money or is linked to your bank account.  There is a fee if you use a credit or debit card.  Let me know if you have any questions!

Farm News

Here are a couple of things I should have mentioned in the last newsletter:

You should let the sweet potatoes sit for a few weeks before eating them.  Sweet potatoes when first harvested are not as sweet as you’d think.  It takes a bit of time for them to develop the sweetness.  I suggest you save them until Thanksgiving.  This gives them time to sweeten up a bit more.

The popcorn we sent out last week may not be fully dry yet.  Then again it may be.  The only way to tell is to test a few of the kernels.  If they pop the way you like then the rest should pop.  If not, wait a few more weeks.  Pro Tip: if the kernels are hard to get off the cob it is probably not dry enough.  I will test some in a few weeks and publish my results.

We did our best to get the carrots clean in the time available.  We felt it was more important to get you an abundance of somewhat dirty carrots than to get fewer cleaner carrots.  Hopefully this is your preference as well.  Speaking of carrots, this variety stores pretty well.  Keep it in the coldest part of your fridge.  And if you want to ensure they keep well put them in damp sand (sure Chris, I’m going to fill up my crisper drawer with damp sand).  The goal is to keep them cold and damp but not wet.  Cold to preserve them.  Damp to prevent dehydration.

The most crucial activity at this time is to find a way to get the garlic planted.  We’d typically have it done by now but with the wet October and the amount of work we still had we did not find a time to get it done.  If we can’t plant it this fall we may not have garlic next year.  Not good.  Plus we’d have to buy new garlic seed for 2019 at a cost of $1,000 or more.  Definitely not good.  I’ve done a bit of research and we still have a chance to make it work — as long as the weather cooperates.  But looking at the forecast I don’t see a whole lot of cooperation.  We’d prefer a week of warm, dry weather.  I’m seeing nothing but cool and damp.  One strategy may be to plant it in the hoop house.  If we can figure out a way to do this yet still have space for the tomatoes this may be our only option.  Otherwise we make the choice between garlic and no indoor tomatoes or no garlic and indoor tomatoes.  Neither is our preference.

Carrot Soup!

Speaking of an abundance of carrots, this past weekend we made carrot soup!  It was delicious and easy to make.  There are a lot of carrot soup recipes out there; here is the one I made.  It was easy and tasty.  I’ve seen others using peanut butter, interesting.  If you have a good recipe for using a lot of carrots send them my way!

And for those of you who have read all the way to the end I have a whole bunch of under-ripe tomatoes.  If you are interested in getting some please contact me and we can schedule a time for you to stop by.

I think this newsletter is plenty long enough.  But before I go here is a use for romaine lettuce.  Might come in handy next season (plus it looks warm)!

As always, if you have any questions do not hesitate to contact me!

How Sweet It Is!

This is the last week of the 2017 season!

Be sure to sign up for 2018!  We’ve had a great response so far and hope to hear that all of you will be returning.  To reserve your shares send in or bring in a deposit of $100.

Don’t forget to fill out the online survey conducted by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.  Cards with the link were handed out last week.  If you didn’t receive a card please contact me and I can send you the link.

Farm News

Just a whole lot of harvesting and washing going on these days.  A lot of our harvesting is of below ground veggies — carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc. — which makes the washing part so much more work.  We do our best to get them clean but with only a couple of tanks and a hose it is hard to scrub off the dirt.  So we give a little bit farm away free with every order.  Hopefully you don’t mind a little extra scrubbing.  We could certainly spend the extra time washing them but then you would receive far less produce.  There is only so many hours available to do all the farm work.  Next week we will have more than enough time to do it, but then there won’t be any left to wash…

What will we have this week?  Most importantly sweet potatoes!  We dug the sweet potatoes two weeks ago and have been curing them in our greenhouse.  They were a bit dirty when we pulled them out of the ground and as far as I can tell they haven’t cleaned up much since.  We will try to get them washed prior to distribution but if we run out of time I apologize in advance for their uncleanliness.  Also new this week is popcorn!  The popcorn may not yet be dry enough to pop.  I suggest waiting a couple of weeks.  To test if it is ready take a couple of kernels off the cob and try popping them.  If they pop the rest should be ready.  If they don’t pop, wait another few weeks and try again.  I will send out a newsletter when I find ours is popping.  Pro-Tip: If the kernels are really difficult to get off the cob it is most likely not ready.

What else will we have this week? We have plenty of carrots, onions, shallots, and garlic.  Hopefully we have enough potatoes though I’m not positive if we have enough for every share; it may need to be matched with something else.  We will have bigger squash like butternuts.  Then the rest is odds and ends from what remains in the field.  Things like brussels sprouts, leeks, beets, cabbage, kale, etc.

We have SeafoodShare and SalmonShare this week.

The potatoes for WinterShare will also be distributed this week.

I believe that is all of the extra shares left for the season.

As always, do not hesitate to send in comments, questions, etc.

Addendum to Heavy Lifting

I forgot to mention that we have been selected to participate in a survey on CSA customer satisfaction being conducted by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.  Details regarding the survey and a link to the survey will be included on a card that I will put a card into each delivery box for delivery members and on the sign-up table in the pick-up tent for on-farm members.  Feel free to contact me with questions.

Thank you for your participation!

Heavy Lifting

Not much time to write so first a couple of announcements then some other stuff.

We are taking orders for 2018!  Thank you to everyone who signed up so far.  We appreciate your support!  To reserve your spot for 2018 (we turned a few people away this season due to being sold out) simply put down a deposit of $100 — either cash or check.  Or if you prefer to use a credit card you will have to go through our online store and pay the whole amount.  Also for those savvy enough to know how to use PayPal you can send your down payment to my email address.

WinterShares are being distributed.  The first pick-up/delivery will be the garlic, onions, shallots and squash.  Next week the rest of the shares (which is potatoes) will be available.

Speaking of next week, that will be the final week of the season!  Please make a note of it.

Last chance for syrup.  Stock up for the winter!  Purchase in the tent or we can send it out in your delivery box.

Due to untimely rain we still have not planted the garlic.  Stay tuned as we figure out what we will do.

It looks like a beautiful week for farming.  If anyone is interested in helping out please contact me.  We have a couple of projects that could use a “many hands make light work” approach.

Farm News

As I mentioned last week we had a frost on Monday night.  It killed the warm season crops and even scorched some of the cool season crops.  But we managed to harvest everything we wanted.  It took us longer than we hoped.  The sweet potatoes didn’t get harvested until Wednesday and Thursday but they don’t seem any worse for the wear.  We have a pretty good crop of them.  They currently reside in our greenhouse “curing”.  When we first dig the potatoes the skins are quite delicate and easily scarred.  By heating them to around 85 degrees for some number of days we can heal the scars and toughen the skin.  Curing also helps sweeten the potatoes.  So we are waiting until next week to hand them out to give them a chance to cure.

Speaking of putting things in the greenhouse.  This time of year involves a lot of moving of heavy produce.  Not only do the sweet potatoes need curing but also the winter squash.  So much of our energy is in moving heavy things into and out of the greenhouse, then washing them, then packing them for later distribution.  Way too much moving around.  There are a few things we can do to improve the flow but there would still be a need to move lots of heavy things too many times.  It becomes obvious why large scale producers have so many fork trucks.  Hydraulics are a wonderful thing if.

So if you see me and I look a little shorter or one arm seems a little longer you now know the cause — lots of heavy lifting.

What will we have this week?  Rutabagas!  Ok, maybe that didn’t really need an exclamation point. Lots of carrots.  The rest of the peppers (there are still quite a few).  Some leeks and onions. Garlic.  Tomatoes from the hoop house.  Brussels Sprouts!  Maybe another place where an exclamation point isn’t necessary? Some kohlrabi, some cabbage, some beets and some other things.  Oh and of course winter squash and pumpkins!  Don’t miss next week since it is the last week and there will be sweet potatoes!

FlowerShare gets gourds this week.

The final CoffeeShare is this week.

SeafoodShare and SalmonShare are next week.

All other shares are done for the season.

As always, do not hesitate to contact me with questions, comments, volunteer offers, etc.


The Five Letter F-Word

A couple announcements then on to farm news!

Due to all the rain this past Friday night the Garlic Planting Gala is rescheduled to Sunday October 15th from 1:00 until done, followed by a bonfire and potluck.  Sorry we can’t make it on Saturday the 14th but there is already something in the way.  Let me know if you can make it.  We are typically done planting garlic by 4:00.  Eating by 5:00 and done by 7:00 so plenty early.

We are taking orders for 2018 (2018 already?  Seems like it was only yesterday when all years started with a 19!)  You can reserve your share by putting down a $100 deposit.  Send/bring in a check, or bring in cash.  If you want to pay with a credit card you have to pay the full amount since our store doesn’t allow partial payments.

We are starting to assemble WinterShares.  These may or may not be available this week.

Farm News

Frost.  We got our first frost of the season last night.  We saw the forecast was for frost so we went into frost mode Monday.  What is frost mode?  When frost is forecasted for the first time in the fall we review what is left in the field that is frost sensitive, then develop a plan to harvest as much as we can during the time we have available.  Typically the frost sensitive plants still around in the fall are tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, eggplants, beans, hot peppers, sweet potatoes, and okra.  Since this year’s frost came later than usual the beans were already done for the year.  The outdoor tomatoes and cherry tomatoes were done as well.  If the frost was earlier we would put row covers on the beans to get them through the cold.  We would keep the pepper plants alive by running the sprinklers overnight (click here to learn why this works!)  That way we could have several more weeks of peppers and beans.  But with it being late in the season we just harvested the peppers green and let the bean plants perish.

We harvested all the ripening tomatoes in the hoop house.  There is a good chance these plants will survive since they are indoors but there is also a chance they would not.  By harvesting the ripening ones we hedge our bets and don’t lose all of them yet still have a chance for more later.

We harvested all the remaining tomatillos, eggplants and hot peppers.  There are quite a few baby eggplants this week but then we’ll be done with them for the season.  The okra was harvested as well though it was pretty well done for the season — okra likes it hot.

That left the sweet potatoes.  We started digging them on Monday until we ran out of time.  They look pretty good and though the frost will kill the tops we still have a day or two to dig the roots.  Hopefully today or Wednesday we will finish this project.

That’s pretty much how our long, frost-plan Monday went.

What will we have this week?  The usual onions, and garlic.  We’ll also have peppers, eggplants, hot peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos (not many), winter squash, pie pumpkins, potatoes, a few okra, a few cabbage and lemongrass.

This week also includes FruitShare, CheeseShare, EggShare, IceCreamShare, and MeatShare.  As mentioned above we may or may not have WinterShares available.

That is all for now.  Let me know if you have any questions, comments, suggestions, etc.

Garlic Planting Postponed

Due to the rain we are postponing the garlic planting until Sunday, October 15th.

Garlic Planting Gala Status

Just a quick message to update you on the plans for the garlic planting gala.  With the forecast of showers this evening into tomorrow morning there is a good chance we will have to reschedule the event.  If the forecasted rain does not occur we will have the event as planned.  In any case, please check the farm web site for an update before you head out to the farm.  The most likely reschedule date would be Sunday October 15th.

As always, do not hesitate to contact me with questions.

A Squishy Squashy Week

Four more week!  Four more weeks!  What’s up this first of the four?  Find out after these brief announcements.

One last reminder about the Garlic Planting Gala this Saturday from 1:00 until done, followed by a potluck and a bonfire!  This is a great opportunity to meet your fellow farm members, see where your food comes from and enjoy some nice weather (my forecast calls for temps in the 60s and plenty of sunshine!  But if there is a threat of rain please contact me, check the website or facebook page before coming out).  Please let me know if you can make it.  The more people the faster the project and the sooner we get to eat!  There are activities for all ages and physical abilities so don’t let that stop you.  In the past we’ve had helpers from 1 year old to over 70!  Let me know if you can make it.

We are taking orders for 2018 VeggieShares!  To reserve your share all we need is a check for $100, $100 cold cash or if you are clever you can send $100 through PayPal to my email address.  If you want to purchase using a credit card unfortunately you’ll have to order online and pay the full amount for 2018; our online store doesn’t allow partial payments.  We sold out in 2017 and hope to do so in 2018 so tell all your jealous friends that now is the time to reserve their share!

FlowerShare this week (actually started on Friday) is three pumpkins.  You can pick them up at your usual pick-up location.  If you don’t have FlowerShare please do not take a pumpkin.  We will have pie pumpkins for VeggieShares later this season.

We still have honey and maple syrup for sale.  On-farm members can purchase them in the pick-up tent.  Drop site members can send me an email to order and we will include it in your next delivery; payment can be made either through PayPal or by sending a check.  Honey is $10 for a 12 oz jar.  Syrup is $10 per pint, $6 per half pint.

WinterShares will be going out over the next couple of weeks as we assemble them.  They may come in multiple shipments i.e. onions one week, potatoes the next, etc.  We may have extras if those who haven’t yet ordered one want to purchase one.  We’ll know more as the season progresses.

Farm News

This past week we harvested the winter squash, pie pumpkins, gourds and ornamental pumpkins.  This is a large task that we typically undertake after a frost.  Once the frost hits the plants die and the squash are easier to find.  This season we don’t see frost in the forecast so we decided since it is October it is time for squash.

We have a few varieties of squash.  The most abundant are the carnival squash.  These look similar to acorn squash but are mottled with various fall colors — quite festive!  They are delicious with a flaky consistency.  For a quick squash meal they can be cooked in the microwave.  We’ll hand these ones out first.

A similar squash we grew this year is the sweet dumplings.  They are smaller than carnivals with fewer fall colors on the outside.  We didn’t get very good germination from these so there aren’t many of them.  We also had germination problems with our acorn squash so those are not very abundant either.

Another similar squash is the delicata.  It is a longer, slimmer version of the sweet dumpling.  It has a sweet flavor with a flaky consistency.  People like to use them for stuffed squash since they are boat shaped when cut lengthwise.

Spaghetti squash is a unique variety where the flesh, when cooked, can be scraped out into spaghetti-like strands.  It is a great pasta substitute.  We cook it by boiling the whole squash until it is easily pierced by a fork, then we cut it in half and scrape out the seeds with a spoon.  Finally we switch back to the fork to scrape out the spaghetti strands.  It looks like a yellow football without the laces or NFL logo.

Butternut is a favorite of mine.  Its fine-textured flesh is quite sweet and flavorful.  Plus with a small seed cavity there is a lot of good eatin’ on these bad boys.  We cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and bake it in the oven until done.  A little butter on the cut side makes it even better.  Butternuts are the squash that look like jumbo peanuts.

The Invasion of the Body Snatchers

You might also see a few hubbard squash.  These are the extra large, grey squash that look like something out of the horror movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”.  We grow these as a trap crop for the cucumber beetles.  The beetles seem to prefer hubbards over the other squash so we reduce the beetle pressure on our main crop by planting the hubbards.  Some years the hubbards survive and we get squash off these plants.  Typically we don’t send them out to delivery sites because they would take up the whole delivery box — they are that large (see picture).

Finally we have the pie pumpkins.  These look like small pumpkins but the flesh is less stringy and sweeter than the typical ornamental pumpkin.  They are great for pies, muffins, soup (inside the pumpkin) and decorating until you are ready to eat them.

Once we harvest the squash we cure them for a week in our greenhouse.  The curing process helps seal any wounds and hardens the skin to reduce future damage during storage.  We’ll be giving out the first of the squash before it is fully cured but that shouldn’t be an issue.  It can be eaten right away or you can store it until later in a cool, dry spot in your house.  The butternut squash will get sweeter the longer it is stored — of course don’t wait until it rots though because it will suddenly be less appetizing.

So besides squash what else will we have this week?  The usual onions and garlic.  The tomatoes are still going even though it is October!  The warm weather has allowed the eggplant to keep producing.  Some may say the continuation of eggplant are the yang of the warm weather ying.  Carrots, the last row of the second planting.  We have a few tomatillos, a few okra, some storage cabbage (great for storing), kale, a bit of chard, peppers, and probably a few things I am forgetting.

FlowerShare is the only additional share this week except for MeatShare arriving on Friday.

I think this is long enough.  What do you expect when it is raining?  As always, do not hesitate to contact me with questions, comments, suggestions, jokes, etc.