The last vegetables of the CSA season are here! Thank-you to all of our share members for supporting us in 2019: your enthusiasm for and love of our vegetables makes the work worthwhile! I will spend the next few weeks closing the farm down for the winter and keeping my fingers crossed that this all happens before the snow flies.
For those of you eager to sign up for our 2020 season, I expect to have sign-ups live by mid-November. As mentioned in a previous post, we are transitioning to an online CSA management system and all the details of the system and the 2020 shares will take a couple of weeks to compile. As in previous years, this early sign-up will be for existing members only and any new member spots will open up in early January.
One exciting addition for the 2020 season is the return of egg shares and sales! Now that our kids are getting older, they are looking for more meaningful (aka paid) ways to work on the farm. Terran will be working part-time in the fields with me during the summer and Rowan is going to manage the egg production. This means that we can increase our chickens to meet the demand for our eggs. We will be offering two ways in which you can purchase eggs: a full-season egg share or weekly sales. The full-season share is a pre-paid commitment to 1 dozen eggs for 24 weeks (of course, if you are a big egg eater you can purchase more than one share). In addition to the egg shares, we will also have weekly sales for those that would like the occasional option of eggs. With our new system, you can order your weekly eggs when the share contents are emailed to you and the cost automatically comes off your credit card (no need to remember cash at pickup).
After a few weeks hiatus due to insect damage, we have some beautiful fall kale in the shares this week. Fall kale is the best kale because the cooler temperatures and occasional frosts sweeten the leaves and keep them tender. Aside from using in smoothies, soups, and stews, here are a few ideas for your kale:
Honeycrisp Kale Salad
Garlic Parmesan Kale Pasta
Kale and Quinoa Patties
The leaves on our sugar maple trees are a gorgeous burnt orange colour and we had a heavy frost a few nights ago: now it is feeling a lot like fall here! While my time spent in the fields does lessen slightly in the fall, there are still many field tasks to do to put the farm 'to bed' for the winter. With the help of some work-share members, I have been busy rolling up landscape fabric and row covers, harvesting the last of the storage crops, and pulling the spent summer crops from the fields. Each year I aim to accomplish more cleanup tasks before the snow arrives because it is disheartening to see your unfinished work revealed as the snow melts in the spring.
Rob, Terran, Rowan, and I also started the construction of our greenhouse extension this weekend! I can't wait for this new structure as it is going to be a great space for growing tomatoes and other heat loving crops in the summer and loads of greens in the shoulder seasons. The first stage of construction involves leveling the site, building the wooden foundation and securing the foundation with t-bars. The t-bars are driven into the ground on an angle every four feet or so and this prevents the greenhouse from lifting off in high winds. Since these t-bars have to be four feet deep and we are sledging them in by hand, Rob and I are getting our shoulder and forearm workouts in in spades. Once the base is complete we will be erecting the metal ribs and then the final step is pulling the plastic. Late fall isn't the ideal time to pull plastic due the higher winds and lack of heat and sun, which help to stretch the plastic tight. But building a greenhouse during peak harvest and planting season is rarely a feasible option so we make do with the fall!
As I work on the last tasks of the 2019 season, I am also deep in the planning for the 2020 season. I am particularly excited for two things next season: our longer CSA season (which I have mentioned in a previous post) and a new online platform that is going to offer some awesome options for share members while streamlining the administrative side of the farm for me. I will share more details once they are finalized, but the best part of the this platform (called Harvie) is that will allow all share members full customization of their shares. This means you will never be offered a vegetable you hate or cannot eat and you can mix and match the vegetables you receive to fit with your plans for the week, what is growing in your garden, or the changing preferences of your children! And you will also have the option to order extras on any given week if you are entertaining guests or doing some preserving. Full details will follow later in the fall but feel free to chat with me at pickup to learn more about how this system works.
I hope each share member has a lovely Thanksgiving weekend filled with good food, friends, and family.
It's now officially fall but the weather is feeling much more like summer! It's been a lovely week here with warm sunny days and cooler nights, which make field work a pleasure. In fact, we haven't had our first frost yet which is a bit unusual. But I'm not complaining: a few extra days of warmth keeps some vegetables producing!
Over the next 3 weeks we will be enjoying many of the classic fall vegetables with some absolutely lovely greens thrown in for contrast. The spinach in particular is delicious and beautiful. While winter squash is normally a reliable workhorse for our farm, we had a particularly bad winter squash crop this season. The poor crop seems to be a results of a variety of factors. I planted it too close to a large sugar maple tree, which it didn't like. And then we had heavy cucumber beetle pressure, which killed the already struggling vines. Our butternut squash did really well and the spaghetti and red kuri did OK. But the other varieties didn't produce. To compensate for this I have bought in some lovely organic winter squash from Reroot Organic Farm. So we will still have lots of squash to go around, just not all of it was grown on this farm.
I also made the decision this year to grow enough potatoes for early potatoes but to purchase fall potatoes from another farm. This saves my back from the pain of harvesting by hand and freed up my time and energy for other crops. For the last two weeks we will have lots of great organic potatoes from Zocalo Organics.
And on the final 'farmers trading vegetables' front, Salad Days Farm needed some storage onions, which we had extra, so later in the season we will be enjoying some carrots and salad mix from their organic farm. This is the first year I have used produce from other local farms but I think it's a really important part of the organic farming community. For every farmers that experiences a crop failure or other issue, there is another farmer who has a surplus that they don't want to go to waste. With the challenges of unpredictable weather and other vagaries of nature it's nice to know that there are other farmers that can help keep our share members' bellies full!
You can see from this share that we are straddling the line between summer and fall vegetables! Next week is an OFF week for the CSA and we will be firmly on the fall side of the line when the shares resume.
It may seem a little early to be thinking of the 2020 season yet, but the next season is always at the back of my mind and I wanted to share some informal details about my plans. As mentioned earlier, we received a grant to extend our greenhouse, which means that I will now have the ability to extend the growing season. This excites me because it allows me to level my workload across the year rather than concentrate it all within a shorter period. It also excites me because it means more fresh, local vegetables for longer! Here are the basic plans for next year (exact prices and dates will follow later in the fall):
The first of the winter squash are in your shares this week and I am excited! Winter squash are a favourite of mine. This week, you can choose between Spaghetti Squash or Red Kuri Squash. As the name suggests, Spaghetti Squash are perfect as a pasta replacement and are commonly served with your favourite tomato sauce. Red Kuri are my hands-down favourite for soup. Their flesh is rich and delicious and the skin is thin and tender so you don't need to peel - simply puree the skin into the soup. For further inspiration, check out these recipes:
Roasted Kuri Squash Soup with Harissa and Crispy Chickpeas
Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Eggplant Puttanesca
How to Roast Spaghetti Squash
A Simple Recipe for Roasting Red Kuri Squash
I haven't mentioned our bees lately but it I am happy to report that they have done well this summer. They started the spring strong, with all of our hives surviving the winter. They have steadily built their numbers and stored honey. One hive has grown particularly tall and may require a step stool to lift off the top box of honey!
I have had several requests recently for honey and I wanted to provide an update: Rob will be harvesting and spinning the honey within the next couple weeks and we should have fresh, bottled honey to sell by the end of September. We sell honey in 500g, 1kg, and 5kg containers.
While honey itself is a precious resource (and priced accordingly), the cost of packaging (jars and labelling) is not an insignificant cost. I wish we were able to reuse our honey jars as I know many of you would be happy to return them to us. However, food safety prevents us from doing this as we have no sterilization method here on the farm. Plus, our labels are nearly impossible to remove cleanly. If I find a source for dissolvable labels that will work with our label printer then perhaps we can take our jars to a certified processing kitchen and sterilize them. Until then, I hope you can find a good use for your empty honey jars rather than just recycling because that is neither cost-effective nor sustainable.
On the vegetable front, all are doing well and enjoying the slightly cooler temperatures and rain that we have received in the last two weeks. The tomatoes are still going strong and the peppers are doing well. Our eggplants this year have not done well. We lost a number of the plants early on due to rodents eating the entire tender transplant. And the remaining plants have not thrived. As a result, we have not had nearly as much eggplant to go around this year than normal. For some of you, this is probably something to celebrate ;) but for the rest of you we will have some small eggplants as a choice item in the shares this week. Well, there is always next season for bigger and better eggplants!
,Rather than sharing some specific recipes this week, I wanted to share a few websites and blogs that I particularly enjoy for recipes, food inspiration, and food growing and preserving information. I hope some of you may find these enjoyable too.
Feasting at Home The recipes on this website are absolutely beautiful to look at even if you don't cook a single one. But that would be a mistake because they are also delicious. My favourite aspects of these recipes are their seasonality, the plentiful and creative use of vegetables, the easily customizable options for meat vs. vegetarian, and their ease of preparation.
North Ridge Farm This blog includes recipes, seasonal thoughts and homestead happenings. There is great inspiration for eating seasonally and simply and lots of ideas for preserving the harvest for the winter months.
Venison for Dinner This website mostly acts as a recipe file for recipes that Venison for Dinner talks about on her instagram and youtube videos. While not heavy on the vegetables, these recipes are great staple recipes for things like sourdough bread, yogurt making, making use of unusual cuts of meat, and other important homesteading eating necessities.