Blog

Surrender To Uncertainty

There is a philosophy which says for no anxiety one must surrender to uncertainty. And another that says good “luck” is preparedness. Your CSA Farmers attempt to follow both of these philosophies! We do our best to be prepared and the weather is definitely uncertain–so we surrender! This has been another busy week. A great many weeds were pulled and a bit of mowing was accomplished. One must exercise different sets of muscles to endure farming.

20200717_183120

Someone called today looking for blueberries. I understand Cloud Nine Farm has some late blueberries to pick this year.  The late frost took care of most of the area blueberries which were in full blossom at the time. On the other hand, we had a bountiful spring garden which successfully tided us over until our summer garden began to produce! Cross your fingers that our “luck” will hold out a bit longer.

20200703_165924

Baby Bear can for a visit one day last week. A friend and I were sitting at the kitchen table in the window extension part of the kitchen at the time. Baby Bear sat down outside the window upon a rock and watched us for several minutes. I felt that WE were the animals in the cage and he was the wildlife viewer–a reverse zoo experience of sorts! My friend was wanting to leave so I went to the garage and laid on my vehicle horn. Baby Bear turned his head and only snorted. Obviously, he was quite content where he was! My friend tried the Panic Button on her vehicle which was parked in the drive. The erratic sound and flashing lights caused Baby Bear to quickly scoot up the hill to the next human visitation area. He was way too comfortable to make me happy, but he was!

20200719_191830

Last week Robert and I witnessed a red fox come up the hill and trot the length of our front walk, then around the peony circle in the courtyard before he disappeared up the hill. Again, wildlife acting as if it was at home! At least the Coyote Family that lives in our woodpile stays in the field areas.

20200703_170505

Next year we have decided to invest in a second deer fence to go around no only the spring garden but also the winter squash gardens. For the first time in 27 years, the turkeys ate out winter squash sprouts as quickly as they erupted from the soil. Why this year? Robert tried various maneuvers to scare them away and dutifully replanted the squash seeds until they finally had their fill of sprouts. I fear this winter crop may be delayed which I suppose will dovetail beautifully into the summer crop being delayed. Wildlife . . . Gotta love ’em!

20200714_220504

In the box this week and next week look for a variety of patty pan summer squash, zucchini (green, yellow and/or Italian), green cabbage, the best red garden beets we have ever grown, and the best carrots we have ever grown! The carrots come in two varieties. One is crisp and crunchier and the other variety is more tender. See if you can tell the difference. They will be all mixed together and I will take the tops off as they are looking a bit ragged. Also, we will have heads of broccoli and cauliflower (again, some of the best we have ever grown!), a smattering of broccoli florets, and green or yellow flat beans and cucumbers which are getting a start. We think we have the sweetest cukes in Buncombe County! There will be the last of the kohlrabi and romaine and endive. This is the first of what we trust will be many Summer Veggie Bonanza Boxes with 13 different veggies and 31 – 32 different possible varieties–OH MY!!

20200708_184402_001

There will be some funny looking carrots in the mix, but all in all, these are best Robert has ever pulled from the ground. Sometimes one is just “lucky.”

 

 

In The Box . . .

The boxes will contain broccoli, cauliflower, broccoli florets, beets, and the first of a variety of patty pan squash and zucchini (see the last post). There will also be green or purple kohlrabi and beautiful endive, escarole and romaine lettuce for your salads. Probably red or green kale and perhaps some flat beans–either green or yellow, as they are just getting started.

20200703_165902

The cucumbers are still a few days out. Robert has them and the melons all weeded and the plants are looking good. Refer to the prior Blog for more information on the veggies in the boxes this week!

Welcome to the Garden 20200626_180636

Summer Season Veggies

We trust you have enjoyed your Spring Season Veggies. Some of you will be happy and some of you will be sad about their disappearance. Whichever camp you fall into, remember the present is temporary and it will change tomorrow—just like the temperatures! Coming now are our early Summer Season Veggies.

Patty Pan Summer Squash Variety 20200705_194132

Your next box will contain broccoli, cauliflower, broccoli florets, beets, and the  first of a variety of patty pan squash (see above), and zucchini which come in green, yellow and Italian varieties (see below). You will get only one squash or zucchini in this week’s box. Weather permitting, we shall have all you can possibly want as time progresses! There will also be an onion, green kale, and green and purple kohlrabi. We are harvesting the last of a wave of endive, escarole and romaine; therefore, these veggies will be random.

Zucchini in green, yellow, and Italian varieties 20200705_194021

Our garden beet are red. Beets are closely related to Swiss chard. The colorful tops are sautéed as chard, spinach, and other greens. Beets may be eaten raw,  pickled for salads, or cooked whole–steamed, boiled or roasted, or tossed into a smoothie or onto a salad.

Beets DSC04715

Fresh beet juice has a powerful red pigment which stains dish towels, wooden cutting boards and sinks. If your hands get stained, salt or lemon juice will remove the color. Note: Beet pigment can affect bodily fluids. The condition, called beeturia, is the excretion of red (or pink) beetroot pigment in urine and/or stool of some people. The pigment is harmless, but can be quite alarming to the unsuspecting.

To store cut off the greens of the beets one inch ABOVE the beet top because the leafy greens will quickly draw the moisture from the root greatly reducing the flavor. Also, leave the taproot intact to retain moisture and nutrients. Wash beets carefully with out breaking the skin. Breaks and tears allow color and nutritional value to escape. Beets stored in a plastic bag in a refrigerator (32°F and 95 percent humidity) last several weeks.

Potatoes, etc. 20200626_175846

We will have green beans, cabbages, and potatoes (see above and behind Robert), and cucumbers. These crops all have flowers and are growing nicely at the present time. Robert plants multiple “waves” in multiple gardens for our kind of home-grown “crop insurance.”

Tomatoes 20200626_174711

Later still there will be tomatoes which are currently staked. Yes, you may have tomatoes that are ahead of ours; but we were busy planting and harvesting all of those other veggies you have been eating this spring when you were planting (only) your tomato plants! But we are happy to hear you are attempting to grow vegetables just the same. One can do much with a small patio garden!

Pepper and Eggplant in Garden 20200626_174440

Above you see ONE of our pepper and eggplant gardens! And in yet another garden there is a big maybe for cantaloupe and honey dew melons. The plants look good now, but harvest is still a ways off for them. We shall see what Mother Nature has in store for us this 2020 Harvest Season.

20200630_101611

I made a great broccoli soup with white beans pureed in the mixture for added protein. And we convention oven baked some delicious kohlrabi slices last evening! I want to try kohlrabi au gratin with gruyere cheese as a member told me how delicious theirs was. So many veggies–so little time . . .

Counting Our Blessings!

Spring Garden 20200626_175111

Look closely at the above photo and you will see Robert’s seven-foot deer fence which goes all around the Spring Garden. Except for the white poles, the fencing is difficult for humans to see–but the deer know perfectly well they are not allowed within this zone! We go out of our way to keep clover planted for them along the base of the mountain. There they can eat heirloom apples from the trees. These “planned temptations” are our attempt to lure them away from the openness of our fields and gardens. They are our friends and were here long before us. We try to live in harmony with the abundance of wildlife in Cane Creek Valley which finds an ever decreasing habitat as man encroaches.

MDGC0286 (2)

We do not often eat food we have not grown, however, one recent evening we ordered ribs, egg rolls and fried rice which arrived with fortune cookies. My fortune cookie said, “No need to worry! You will always have everything that you need.” I do believe this, of course. What else could explain the fact that our Spring Garden is still producing enough veggies to fill our weekly CSA Boxes despite the fact the Summer Gardens have been delayed by the May rains and the June cold? We are most grateful for the bounty from our gardens which we have been able to share these past six weeks! And the “You will always have everything that you need” part, along with our Guardian Angels, is all that can possibly explain how the very next evening how we avoided a head-on collision with an oncoming truck which came around the curve on our side of the road! Robert and I cannot explain the “space” we were allowed, but it was there. Please, stay in your lane–some rules simply cannot be broken! Robert and I continue to count our many Blessings.

RAP in Garden 20200626_174413

Among those Blessings are all of our CSA Family Members. We are honored to be able to provide you with nutritious, seasonal gourmet vegetables which “can send your genes the equivalent of healing “text messages,” providing a schematic and guide map for what your body has always known how to do–heal” to quote Sayer Ji from his new book Regenerate–Unlocking Your Body’s Radical Resilience Through The New Biology. This book is about taking charge of ones body, habits, activities, and which environmental factors one should avoid as well as which foods, habits, and activities one might want to participate in to stabilize ones genome and epigenome.  I have not had much time to read this spring, but look forward to reading more about gene-regulatory microRNAs and plant intelligence from a scientific point of view. As a farmer, I always knew plants were intelligent and had “senses,” but it seems their neurobiology and sessile lifestyle make them much more complex than ever  we could have imagined. All the more reason to be sure the vegetables we have tended and loved are going to appreciative homes and families via our CSA Boxes/Bags!

20200623_103325

Now what you really want to know . . . in the box you will find broccoli, cauliflower, romaine (green and perhaps red), kohlrabi (purple and green), snow peas, collards, kale (red or green), endive, perhaps collards and a stray escarole or choi. What beautiful world it can be . . .

Choi Snack 20200621_155459

Above is my favorite choi snack. Oh, and eat your lettuce first. It does not like rain as is evident from the condition of the “heads.”  It will not last in the refrigerator as one might expect. The End of a Season . . . Farewell to the choi salads for 2020. I shall miss you . . .

Spring Salad 20200619_184411

And here is another snack idea for the last of that choi you might still have . . . bok choy paletas ie: popcicles!  One of my favorite CSA Members with two young children says these were a real hit.

https://www.iloveorganicgirl.com/recipe/baby-bok-choy-paletas/?fbclid=IwAR0TiHPDewn6TwiH1GLHdCFXpK43GDTchO0m5xjS8ouIjHf9oteLJ9UTVyU

 

Setting Records

It appears 2020 is turning out to be a season of setting records. First nearly 30 inches of rain by the end of May and now the coldest June temperatures! Our gardens are hanging in there–it is still Spring.  The summer squash, cucumbers and other summer vegetables need warmer temps in order to grow. On the other hand, the Asian greens are happier in the cooler temps! And even better, the white “butterflies” that lay the eggs that become the larvae and worms are kept at bay a bit longer when it is cool!

20200606_230615

In the boxes this week you will find Joi Choi, Ching Chang or Black Summer (but not both),  kohlrabi (green or purple), spring onions, snow peas, lettuce, romaine, endive, and kale–either red or green, and either white, sweet baby turnips–or sweet tender collards, depending on the day. FYI we are not growing radishes–you can use these turnips in the place of radishes if you wish.

Collards 20200614_123300

Now a few word on collards. Robert and I were late to the game when it comes to eating collards, however, we have become aficionados. First, we like to buy organic and specialty seed varieties. Next, we attempt to harvest our crops at the growth stage where we can call them Seasonal Gourmet Vegetables! This means small and tender veggies.

20200610_112359

This year we will have two varieties of collards–flat leaf and curly leaf. I think the flat leaf has a sweeter stem. Do your own taste test and see what you think.

Collards 20200614_133553

Our collards come in hand sizes.  These are not the type of collards one should boil in a big pot of water! I suppose you may, but I stack the leafs up and chop them. Then we saute/steam the chopped collards on medium low heat in a covered pan in virgin coconut oil with onions for about 20 minutes, slowing turning and mixing, until the stems are cooked and look dark green vs. bright green.

Collards 20200610_142128

Collards 20200610_142202

Wednesday, June 17 UNC-EX, Channel 27 has two cooking shows about greens. At 8:00 p.m. A Chef’s Life will be preparing turnips. At 8:30 p.m. Somewhere South will be making Collard Sandwiches. I have never tried them, but will be watching and may do so!

20200604_161704

Finally, when you visit Troyer’s Country Amish Blatz to pickup your CSA veggies, be sure to check out Bonnie’s beautiful orange poppies with purple centers near the windmill cacti. FYI, it it rumored Phillip makes the best Ruben sandwich in the county! Call ahead and he will have it ready when you arrive and even bring it to your vehicle. However, they have so many delightful items inside the store that you might want to go inside and browse their offerings. I can keep your veggies until you are ready to leave rather than putting them into your hot vehicle.

 

STRESS

Plants do not like to be stressed. When they are, the bolt or produce inferior crops. What stresses plants in our gardens? Extreme heat, temperatures that are too cold for the variety, too much rain (we’ve had nearly 30 inches so far this year at the wrong time), too little rain, insect pests, hail, soil conditions–just to name a few things. What stresses your CSA Farmers? All of the above! That’s about it for us though–we do not bother with other stressors. Instead, we try to do the best that we can under the circumstances we are facing, smile at one another, and breathe in the fresh air. We get plenty of exercise already! And the butterflies, wildlife, and natural surroundings are there to remind us to live in the moment while planning for the future.

20190816_172624

Speaking of the future, in your next CSA Box you can expect the Triumph of Spring Harvest:  Chinese cabbage, ching chang, Black Summer, Joi Choi, lettuce, onions (but I will start cutting some of the green tops as they are getting unruly), romaine, red kale, and the first broccoli. This first wave is a new variety of broccoli for us. They look rather like broccoli stalks!

Broccoli Stalks 20200611_195941

We do eliminate some crops each year which explains any discrepancies you may find in our Vegetable Identification Photo Albums on the web site. We are already making our list of what to delete for our next planting season. The weather patterns are changing in our growing area. Our May was much cooler and June has turned hotter quicker; thus, there are crops that simply do not last as long as we would like before bolting or “going to seed” and becoming “undesirable.”

20200606_230615

Salad crops will not last forever. The day will come when you actually miss them–Mark My Words! In the meantime, I am enjoying this Tatsoi Quiche with feta, walnuts, and mushrooms and even more greens on the side! Any variety of green can be substituted in almost any recipe by the way. On the horizon are sweet, white, turnips and purple and green kohlrabi. Things are always changing in our gardens.

Tatsoi Quiche 20200606_230542

 

So Many Greens; But So Little Time . . .

20200512_164029

Four days ago the sweet potato plants finally arrived and were planted into the fall garden. The last of the tomato and pepper plants were removed from the greenhouse to the outside staging area. Now our greenhouse sits empty and hot.

20200603_180605

I don’t know if you can tell it, but this outdoor staging area of plants waiting to go into the gardens is greatly reduced in size! And we can see the ending days of planting on the horizon.

20200603_180308

May was an exceptionally cool month so the cucumbers and summer squash seeds in the Summer Garden have been growing very slowly. Now it is June and really hot which will begin to stress the Spring Garden plants as these greens like cooler weather.

20200529_172216

It can be difficult to distinguish the various greens from one another. If you taste the stem end, you may be able to distinguish the turnip from the mustard from the collards. Don’t stress over the names; but if you want to know them, check out the web site Photo Album entitled “Vegetable Identification” under the Harvest Calendar section of the website to see photos of some of these first spring vegetables. The veggies are shown in the approximate order of their appearance in your CSA Box—although, of course, this will vary slightly from season to season and we are always adding new items! Here is a look at the Spring Garden through the deer fence!

20200517_145309

All of these first greens can all be used in a raw salad or a quick stir fry mix. I like to wash all of my greens at one time and have them ready to chop for salads or sauté at mealtime. I also keep a big bowl of all these greens chopped and mixed together in the refrigerator. Then I can make a tasty salad (or even a pizza) in no time. Beyond what I will use in two days, I leave washed but not chopped and in a bag.

When you get tired of salads try making a delicious veggie pizza. We use a gluten-free pizza crust, pizza sauce, mushrooms, black olives, onions, and pile on all of the chopped salad mix possible, and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake for about 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

20200603_224022

You might look through the recipes on the web site for these first vegetables and stock your pantry with some of the staples you see repeated in the ingredients. See “T” for Tatsoi, “C” for Choi and “L” for Lettuce.  In particular, I would recommend the Joi Choi Salad crunchy topping and dressing! These can be made in advance.

Included in this week’s veggies will be Ching Chang, Black Summer, and/or Joi Choi the last of the Tatsoi (for some boxes), spring onions, red kale, leafy purple Asian mustard greens, and peppery green Asian mustards, Chinese cabbage, endive, escarole, romaine lettuce or head lettuce.  Who knew there were so many GREENS?! Your CSA Farmers–that’s who–and now you, too!

 

Spring Is SALAD TIME

We made it through the first two weeks of the CSA. As we are on an every-other-week rotating schedule, every CSA Member has received their first “bag” of veggies. I have so enjoyed meeting in person and/or talking on the phone with each of you in our CSA Family. I confess that when we meet I see “Last Name, First Name” as my business background and even Quickbooks dictates. We never know from day to day what Mother Nature has in store for our gardens. However, know that Robert and I planned and prepared to provide you with fresh, local, seasonal gourmet vegetables for this spring, summer, and fall. The summer gardens are in the process of being planted as the soil dries out. Here he has planted future summer squash, zucchini, melons, and cucumbers!

20200529_174551

The first week we got over four inches of rain, the second week we got one inch of rain. We are looking forward to sunshine during this third week so the soil can dry out and the plants can grow. In this photo you can see the broccoli heads just starting to form up! They are about three weeks from the start of harvest.

20200529_172239 (2)

We had a bear carry off our trash can into the woods and down the hill.  We had a bear eat our bird seed, but this week we had a different bear event. A very angry bear totally destroyed one of the plastic trays which held fifty sweet bell pepper plants. He smashed and mashed and mangled the entire tray and all of the plants! Fortunately, Robert and I always plant extras because we never know when wildlife will intervene with our best intentions. The bird feeder was within a few feet of the fenced-in transplants, but apparently he was in the mood for something green that particular day!

20200529_132534

Speaking of greens, your second CSA Box will contain more greens as they are seasonal. Spring is SALAD TIME. Most of the ones you just enjoyed will show up again along with frilly red and leafy purple Asian mustard greens–also, red kale for a different look in your bowl. There will definitely be a Chinese cabbage and endive. And perhaps escarole, romaine or head lettuce. I never know for certain until I see what The Farmer has brought up in his truck from the garden on that particular day; but we do attempt to have at least two weeks of approximately the same veggies for “the box.” In the photo below are escarole on the left and endive on the right! And then there is the Veggie ID Pages under Harvest Calendar. And Garden Angels on the far left and seed packets yet to be planted on the counter on the far right!

20200601_202920

A CSA Member shared what she did with the bok choy! Sauteed choy mixed with rice, ginger, soy sauce, cashews, slivered almonds — put on top of an egg with green onions.

From Gail Huber 5.26.2020

I did not have soy sauce or cashews, so I substituted organic Coconut Aminos Garlic Sauce and toasted sliced almonds on top of a fried egg and heirloom red rice served with some of our 2019 Season sweet potato slices. 2019 was a very good year for sweet potatoes! Now it is your turn to get creative and change the recipe to your heart’s desire. And always remember, one can do much with a few leftovers!

20200526_214433

Many studies have shown behavior is learned and ingrained over the years and people like to stick to their habits. With that awareness, we trust “eating from the CSA Box” will be the start of new habits and traditions for you and your family. Each and every bite we take has the possibility of providing the nutrients we need to live healthy, happy and productive lives. Robert and I intend to encourage you along this path by introducing you to a variety of seasonal gourmet vegetables grown by the two of us on our small, WNC family farm located in Fairview, North Carolina!

WEEK TWO . . . CSA Up & Running!

According to a report released May 14, 2020 by the Organic Produce Network and Category Partners, supermarket organic produce sales in April increased by 20.5% in volume. Conventional produce volume was up 15.4%. The top four categories for the organic movement were packaged salads, carrots, apples and bananas. These four categories were responsible for more than half (52%) of the total organic retail volume.

You will not find apples and bananas in our CSA Boxes. Unfortunately, our carrots will  not be as big nor as pretty as the ones available in the retail stores. We keep trying, but do find it next to impossible to produce carrots like those. And our salads will not be “packaged” in a plastic clam shell.  Our greens shall require a triple wash on the part of our CSA Members. However, when it comes to salads, we shall claim the prize!

20200523_192050

I recommend washing and chopping everything in your first CSA Boxes for some of the best salads you have ever tasted! Get creative and add the toppings of your choice. You might find some ideas under the Recipes “F – L” for greens and lettuces. The chois, endive, and tastoi are all hardy enough to stand up to the addition of protein such as grilled chicken tenders if there are meat eaters in the family. If a sweet tooth is more your style, try adding Craisins or even a light drizzle of honey to mix in with your dressing of choice. On the other hand, if you prefer to cook your greens, we have some suggestions for that method of preparation as well. To each his own–simply ENJOY!

As said before, I suggest reading prior Blogs as the contents of the CSA Boxes will be similar for the couple of boxes. Different greens will be added as they mature, but “spring time” is “greens time” in WNC. Included in this week’s veggies will be Ching Chang (spoon-shaped stems), Black Summer (spoon-shaped stems with darker leaves), Joi Choi (whitest stems), Tatsoi (darkest leaves–it looks like spinach), spring onions, and green kale–maybe some red kale. Wash, chop, and mix all together for a culinary delight!

20200523_193657

The wildflowers are blooming and all of our CSA Members have now received their Start Date for the Cane Creek Asparagus & Company CSA 2020 Harvest Season. The soil seems to have accepted the five inches of rather gentle rain we have gotten over the past days. We really DO NOT need or want anymore, however. Robert was diligent about ditching to remove water which certainly helped. It is a muddy job. I could do a CSA Farmer TIDE commercial.

 

 

WEEK ONE . . . Farm To Table Fresh!

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, food costs increased Month to Month, March 2019 vs. March 2020. It may make you feel better to consider that in the USA we have some of the least expensive food (% of income) in the world even if supply chains can be complicated.
20200517_151938
Fortunately, if you are the member of a local CSA, you have a very short supply chain–farm to table! This means you get the freshest vegetables possible and the most nutrition for your family. When in a CSA, you will probably get some vegetables you have never eaten before. Or perhaps you have eaten them in an Asian stirfry at a restaurant, but just never purchased and prepared them in your own kitchen. A culinary adventure awaits!
20200517_153727

Everything we put into the CSA Box is edible. You can see after chopping off the stems, I have only about one cup of refuse. If you will wash the ends under running water as you remove them, you will rinse off the majority of the soil before putting the greens into the first rinse water. If you want your water colder, toss in a few ice cubes. Greens looking a bit limp will perk right up!

20200517_154945 (2)
The veggies are smaller this first week, but they are rapidly growing in size and we have decided it is time to begin. Our first CSA Boxes are going out this week! Included will be Ching Chang (spoon-shaped stems), Black Summer (spoon-shaped stems with darker leaves), Joi Choi (whitest stems),  Tatsoi (darkest leaves–it looks like spinach), spring onions, and green kale–maybe some red kale. Wash, chop, and mix all together for the best Spring Salads EVER!
Keep an eye on your email so you don’t miss your CSA Start Up Date. You will be asked to RSVP to the email so that I know you know when your first veggies are being harvested. If you do not get an email this week, you will get one next week. Remember it takes two weeks to get our entire CSA up and operating–so do not think you have been forgotten!