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Week 19 Newsletter

October 16, 2018

In your box:

–Brussels sprouts

–Carrots

–Kale

–Leek

–Rutabaga

–Spinach

–Turnips

 

Welcome to your final week of our 2018 CSA season! We hope you’ve enjoyed the experience, tried a few new crops and recipes, and celebrated what the season brought us this year.

I think I’ll remember 2018 as the growing season of extremes—all of our crops this year seemed to work either really well or not at all. I don’t remember having this many crop failures before—green beans that wouldn’t fruit, tiny beets and garlic and sweet peppers, winter squash eaten by really hungry rodents. And yet it was my best year ever for tomatoes, carrots, spring broccoli, and season-long lettuce. The end result is that the boxes were always full, but never quite jam-packed with abundance. If we were pioneers relying on our own food we wouldn’t starve this winter—we’d just get really sick of tomato sauce and rutabagas and wish we had a little more variety to get us through.

I’ll also remember this year for the worst fall ever. Week after week of rain, clouds, and cold weather. All the leaves seem to have changed and mostly fallen from the trees during the incessant rain last week, leaving everything brown and November-like without the brilliant colors we usually get in October. This is especially frustrating for me since it’s usually the most agreeable time of year to work—no bugs, no sweat, and no allergies.

The harvest season may be done for the year now, but I still have a lot of work left to do in the garden. I generally stay pretty busy right up until Thanksgiving, and even a little after that if the weather allows. I’m always busy applying compost, reeling in irrigation materials, dismantling tomato cages, and cleaning out the greenhouse for next year. I’ll be planting garlic next week, so I’m hoping for a few more warm and sunny days. This year I’m also building a new compost structure for turning compost and looking to anchor our tomato high tunnels to avoid wind damage in the future. I am also looking forward to naps. Lots of naps.

Your last box isn’t overflowing with veggies, which is how I like to end the season. The consistent cold weather of the past few weeks has robbed us of broccoli, cabbage, and head lettuce that never achieved a good size. And I’m still upset with the critters that ate all of our butternut squash that should be in this week’s box.

But we do have a couple crops that don’t mind the weather—or all the mean things that many people say about them: Brussels sprouts and rutabagas. We’ve kept the sprouts on the stalk this year since that helps them to keep longer. You can keep the whole stalk in the fridge or even out in a cool spot on a porch. When you’re ready to use them, just pop off the sprouts and boil them for 3 or 4 minutes. Don’t overdo it—mushy Brussels sprouts are a certain way to turn people off from them for life! The rutabagas look like really big turnips, with a little more yellow than white underneath. These can be peeled to remove any residual dirt. Rutabagas keep until the new year in a fridge or root cellar. Try your rutabaga mixed with mashed potatoes or chopped and cooked into a thick stew.

Once again, thank you so much for your support this growing season. It hasn’t come easy, but farming continues to be my passion and I’m so grateful that you’ve supported our farm dream this year. We couldn’t run our farm without your support and encouragement. Supporting a CSA makes a real difference to our local economy, our rural landscape, and sustainable agriculture. And you get to eat rutabagas in the bargain!

I’ll follow up next week with a brief survey to get your thoughts on this season and suggestions for next year. I will also be returning to all of our delivery sites next week to pick up any returned CSA boxes. I can recycle the boxes that are spent and reuse some of them for next year. If you have any boxes around the house, please return these to your pickup site by Wednesday of next week so I can pick them up. Thanks!

Expected next week: Several nice naps and dreams of summer 2019!

Thanks again! Have a great winter!

-The Kirkmans, Fox and Fawn Farm

Week 18 Newsletter

October 9, 2018

In your box:

–Cabbage

–Carrots

–Celery

–Leek

–Salad mix

–Spinach

–Turnips

 

I am aware that there’s nothing really original or pleasing about a farmer griping about the weather. But this is absurd! We haven’t seen the sun in weeks. It rains EVERY DAY. The thermometer is stuck at 45 degrees when it should be in the 60s. I can’t even see my boots any more through all the mud that is coated on them.

Yet, we still have a good quantity of crops out in the garden that demand to be eaten. So I continue to trudge out in our ceaseless rain to pick them and bring them in for washing. Washing, unfortunately, is about the worst of it. Our packing shed isn’t heated, and neither is the water I use to wash the crops. So harvest days now involve scrubbing as quickly as possible in frigid water and then running inside to wash dishes or find a warm radiator or anything that will give some blessed relief to my frozen hands. Ah, the joys of farming….

Some growing seasons I don’t want to end, but with how lousy the weather has been the past few weeks I’ll admit I’m really looking forward to next week. We do still have one more box of veggies coming your way after this week, and then I’ll quickly move into hibernation mode.

I do have a slight correction to make from last week: raccoons are not rodents. I mistakenly lumped them into that family last week when I was mentioning the widespread damage done to our pumpkin and squash field. This is important to raccoons, since it officially removes them from suspicion of eating hundreds of our squash and saves Nathan’s favorite animal from any blame. Based on bite marks on half-eaten squash, whatever ate all of our squash and pumpkins has large incisors for front teeth, which is a feature common to all rodents (picture a beaver). Raccoons have a beautiful smile with flat teeth in front, totally incapable of causing the damage in our field. They are also really cute and wouldn’t think of crossing me.

We have a couple of new crops in your box this week, both of which we expect again next week for our final box: leeks and turnips. Leeks are a close relative of onions and garlic, and are most commonly used in soups and stews. These have a deep, rich flavor that develops over the course of the entire season. Leeks are the first crop that I start in the greenhouse way back in late February, and they are happy well into November out in the field. The greens as well as the white stalk are edible, but it’s the stalk itself that has the richest flavor and works great in potato-leek soup.

Turnips are a great versatile winter crop that works in a wide variety of meals. Try grating them into a cole slaw along with the cabbage or cook them with potatoes and mixing for mashed potatoes/turnips. Our favorite use is to mix them in a hearty stew. If you try this, slice them up and add them at the same step when you would add potatoes. Peeling them is not necessary and they’ll keep in the fridge for up to a month.

Remember—next week is your last delivery for the 2018 season. For our Thursday delivery sites, we will be shifting your drop offs to Wednesday to avoid delivery on the long MEA weekend. Tuesday sites will receive their box as usual, and Thursday folks will find their box at their usual site and time (just a day early). Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns about that change. Enjoy your last local veggies! We’ll have your final newsletter next week and then follow up in a week or two with a request for feedback.

Expected next week: Cabbage, carrots, spinach, turnips, leek, rutabaga, and Brussels sprouts

 

Week 17 Newsletter

October 2, 2018

In your box:

–Arugula

–Bok Choy

–Broccoli

–Garlic

–Kale: “Red Russian”

–Onion

–Radishes

–Salad mix

 

Our growing season officially came to a close last Friday night, when we received our first frost of the season. We had good cloud cover to keep us from an outright freeze, but we still had frost basically everywhere on the farm. There were no big losses—tomatoes and peppers and squash were done for the season, so everything that died from the frost was not going into the boxes anyway. The frost will actually improve and sweeten the flavor of many crops, so the taste of carrots, rutabagas, turnips, and Brussels sprouts actually benefits from the touch of frost.

I do have some most unfortunate news from the garden to pass on. The large part of the field set aside for winter squash and pumpkins is an impenetrable forest for most of the season, with sprawling vines and no shortage of weeds quickly taking over the whole area. The good news is that I don’t have any work to do in this part of the garden after planting and one quick weeding. The bad news is that there’s no easy way to check on the progress of ripening squash in the field, and, as most disastrously happened this year, it also leaves the field vulnerable to small rodents with sharp teeth that really enjoy the taste of squash. I’ve always lost a dozen squash or pumpkins to rodents looking for a meal. But this year, it was hundreds. The entire squash field is a disaster area of rotten jack-o-lanterns, butternut squash with their guts spilling out, and hollowed out pie pumpkins. So far I have only found 4 squash that the rodents left alone, compared to 500 to 1000 that were eaten. I’m still not sure what would have done this—rats and raccoons seem most likely. Next year I will set out live traps to avoid this ever happening again, and clear a path through the squash patch so I can keep an eye on them as they ripen. But for this year I’m afraid it’s too late—there will be none of my favorite crops in the box this fall. But as we always say in farming, there’s always next year.

Even without squash and pie pumpkins, there’s still plenty of produce to fill out the rest of the year. This has been a great fall for the bok choy, some of which has reached a threatening size! I was able to break off some of the outer leaves so that the heads would fit in your box, but even still some of them are quite large. Hopefully by now you’ve found some good ways to use bok choy. All of our archived recipes are still on our website and I’ve included one more below, as well. This should be the end of the bok choy season, and we’ll switch to regular cabbage for next week’s box.

At this point in the season the arugula is well beyond the “baby” stage, but it does still work well in a salad or chopped onto a sandwich. You’ll probably notice that the flavor is much more mild now than it was last week—the arugula was well frosted over the weekend, and this causes a lot of the spicy “bite” to soften as the leaves sweeten up. If you still don’t care for the taste, it can also be processed into pesto. Our basil this year fell victim to disease much too early, so if you didn’t get enough basil pesto you can easily substitute the arugula for it. We like to make a lot and freeze it in small containers for use throughout the winter. See the recipe, below.

Thanks so much to everyone who made it out to our harvest party last weekend! We had a great turn-out despite the cold, and it was great to see so many old friends and new members out for the evening. We did have one child’s winter hat left behind—if this belongs to your family, please e-mail me and I’ll get that back to you with your next CSA box.

Expected next week: Salad mix, arugula, cabbage, carrots, spinach, turnips, leek, and Brussels sprouts

Week 16 Newsletter

September 25, 2018

In your box:

–Arugula

–Beets

–Celery

–Radishes

–Red Onion

–Salad mix

–Summer squash, cucumber or eggplant

–Sweet pepper

–Tomatoes

At this stage of the season I’m no longer planting veggies, of course, but I am still busy in the fields getting ready for the winter. As soon as I’ve harvested everything from a row in the garden or an area of the field it’s important to me to get it in good shape for the winter and then for the next growing season. This means adding compost, primarily. All through the fall I’m busy pushing around wheelbarrows full of rich black compost, dumping them in the field and returning for more. Compost replenishes nutrients to the soil to replace what the crops have removed with harvest, but just as importantly it adds millions of bacteria and helpful microbial life to the soil and works to condition the soil. Dirt with added compost has lots of “glue” to help hold moisture and nutrients but also has a proper texture to drain well during heavy rain events.

Once the compost has been applied I seed cover crops whenever I can. There are hundreds of different crops that work well in this regard, and they all have different strengths and benefits when they are planted. Some crops, like winter rye and hairy vetch, can survive the winter and resume growth in the spring. Others, like oats, radishes, and field peas, grow quickly in the fall but die during the winter and leave a nice covering of decomposing plant material. Either way, what is important is that the field is covered and not just bare dirt. Without a root system in the soil and plant leaves on top of the dirt, any exposed soil is vulnerable to wind erosion. Having a root in the soil going into the winter also helps to stabilize nutrients in the soil for next year and prevents them from leaching into the ground water, where they go to waste or wreak havoc in watersheds downstream. I’m always changing what cover crops I plant and experimenting with new mixtures, but I’ve always found it worth the cost to plant cover crops whenever I can.

Thanks so much to the families that made it out last weekend for our work day! We were able to get all of the red onions cleaned and ready for the CSA boxes and we removed all the pepper plants to the compost pile. Thanks again! I know it’s a busy time of year for many families, so I would definitely like to add some more work opportunities earlier in the summer for next year.

This week’s box is kind of an “everything must go!” free-for-all as we clear out the garden ahead of a potential frost this weekend and as we transition to more of the storage veggies soon to come your way. This is certainly the last week for tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, eggplant, and sweet peppers (most of which are pretty small, but since it’s the last chance for them I thought we’d include them in the boxes anyway). All of these plants will die at the slightest hint of frost, and even if we avoid getting that cold at night the days are just too short for them to continue bearing.

This week brings our only celery of the year. The celery we grow isn’t the light-green, bland, over-watered nonsense you’ll find in a grocery store. Ours is dense, delicious, and actually tastes like celery! Celery keeps well for up to three weeks in the fridge, so be sure to bag it and store it for additions to soups over the next few weeks.

Don’t forget: our year-end Harvest Party is this coming weekend, on Sunday the 30th. We’ll get started at 3:30 with farm tours, yard games, and socializing with our community members. Around 5:30 we’ll have a potluck, so bring a table setting and a dish to pass. You’ll also want a chair and comfortable clothing. Friends of the farm who aren’t with our CSA are always welcome. The weather looks a little unsettled at this point, and in the event of rain we’ll postpone the party for a week. Check your e-mail and the website for more information. Hope to see you on the farm!

Expected next week: Salad mix, arugula, bok choy, rutabaga, garlic, radishes, onion, and kale.

Week 15 Newsletter

September 18, 2018

In your box:

–Arugula

–Bok Choy

–Carrots

–Head Lettuce or salad mix

–Sage

–Summer squash or cucumber

–Sweet pepper

–Tomatoes
We’ve been keeping an eye on the weather as we endure a really soggy transition from summer to fall this week. After a couple more days in the 90’s over the weekend it felt like we were back in the middle of fall. But after we pick up 3 inches or more of rain this week, it looks like colder weather will be moving in for good. The rain isn’t really helpful at this point in the season, especially since the days are shorter and cooler and it won’t soak in very well. The crops have essentially grown as large as they will for the year, so getting more moisture doesn’t help them too much. It just leaves a lot of mud to follow me around!

This week we welcome back a couple of crops we haven’t seen since fall: arugula and bok choy. The arugula hasn’t been plagued by the flea beetles that left it in sorry shape this spring, and looks really good. Arugula keeps its spicy bite until frost, so enjoy the sharp flavor of it for the next couple weeks. If the flavor isn’t to your liking, you can always process it into pesto or wilt it before consuming.

Bok choy has done really well with the heat and moisture of late, and this is about as big a crop as we’ve had with it. I do have another variety ready within the next week or two, so I recommend using this as quickly as can so you have room in your fridge. I’ve included the casserole recipe that I mentioned back in the spring, especially since this has become a favorite of our family. The greens in the recipe can be varied, and since the bok choy is so large you can basically chop up the whole thing and not worry about adding the spinach or kale (arugula would also work in this recipe). There are also some good soup recipes with bok choy available online that would work well on these cooler days.

The garden is still quite full of great-looking crops for fall, so at this point it looks like we can still plan on finishing up a 19-week season. This leaves four more weeks of veggie boxes after today, and the season will wrap up the week of October 15th. We hope you enjoy the rest of the season! After that final box I’ll be sending out a survey to get your feedback on the year and look for ways to improve going forward.

A note for Thursday pick-up sites: Our final delivery would fall over the schools’ long MEA weekend, which is one of the few times all year when my schedule lines up with our kids and my wife to get away. We will be up on the North Shore as early as we can on Thursday, so my plan is to deliver your final box on Wednesday the 17th. All of your other deliveries will still be on Thursdays—it’s just week 19 that will be moved up to Wednesday. Please let me know if that doesn’t work for you. I’ll send out a couple of reminders as we get closer.

Don’t forget—we have two opportunities to visit the farm coming up in the next couple weeks. On this Saturday, the 22nd, we’ll be having a farm work day and tour starting at 3pm followed by a potluck at 5pm. Please e-mail me to confirm you can make it so that we can plan out some jobs to do. Bring footwear that can handle some mud—it looks like we’ll be pretty wet all week and there will be no shortage of puddles to jump in.

We’re also looking forward to our year-end Harvest Party the following weekend, on Sunday the 30th. We’ll get started at 3:30 with farm tours, yard games, and socializing with our community members. Around 5:30 we’ll have a potluck, so bring a table setting and a dish to pass. You’ll also want a chair and comfortable clothing. Friends of the farm who aren’t with our CSA are always welcome. Hope to see you on the farm!

Expected next week: Tomatoes, salad mix, cucumber or zucchini, arugula, celery, beets, garlic, radishes, and kale.

Week 14 Newsletter

September 11, 2018

In your box:

–Fennel

–Garlic

–Head Lettuce

–Kale, “Red Russian”

–Potatoes, “Red Gold”

–Summer squash or cucumber

–Sweet pepper

–Tomatoes
The fall harvest season has a nice nostalgic touch to it. The harvest is bountiful, the hard preparation work of the spring and summer are over, and it’s time to take stock of the season and note changes for next year. But what I’ve learned the past few years is that fall is also about forgetting.

There’s a certain amount of forgetting and ignorance that is necessary to keep going as a farmer. If I remembered what it’s like to thin beets while surrounded with a cloud of mosquitoes, I’d think twice about doing it again next year. If I had a good memory of transplanting kohlrabi well after dark with the light of a headlamp, I would realize that this job is more work than it’s worth. If I could think back to the time I spent carefully weeding the green beans only to get an absolute dud of a harvest all year, I’d be tempted to give up the farm this winter.

But the purpose of September, and the harvest season in general, is to wipe all of that reality and replace it with the sheer ecstasy of running a farm. Of walking out in the morning in a sweatshirt and basking in a pure blue sky and no humidity all day. Working into the evening without even the buzz of a mosquito. And though the work still abounds, it’s the kind of work that paintings capture and children’s books chronicle—hay wagon rides, scouring the pumpkin patch, and bringing in delicious apples.

So long as we have September, I’ll forget about all the anxiety, mud, deerflies, tractor mishaps, weeds, and crop failures of the year. And in January, when I purchase my seeds for the next growing season, it won’t be the ceaseless rain of June or the humidity of July that I’m picturing. It will be a 70 degree day in September with a brilliant sky as I head out to the field to do the work I love.

With the onset of cooler weather, there’s no doubt that fall is beginning to creep into the picture. Cucumbers and summer squash are wrapping up a great year with just a another week or so of meagre harvests, and it looks like this will be the final big week of tomatoes. Enjoy them all while they last!

This week we welcome back Fennel for its last entry in our boxes. If you don’t remember fennel from the spring, it has white stalks, green leafy fronds, and smells strongly of licorice.

The whole crop is edible, with the leafy fronds a common ingredient in soups and baked dishes, and the bulbs used for stir-fries and roasting.  The bulbs can be substituted in any recipe calling for celery.  For a good starter into the world of fennel, try it baked: cut into quarters, drizzle with olive oil, and bake until tender, about 35 min at 350°.

To store: The bulbs will last for two weeks in a plastic bag in the fridge.  The leaves will go limp, and should be wrapped in a moist towel in the fridge.

We are getting close to our open house/fall work day next week, and we’d love to have you out to the farm! We will be gathering on Saturday the 22nd at 3pm and we’ll work and visit until around 5:30, when we’ll have a potluck. Please send me an e-mail or call us if you would like to join us—we need to know how many jobs to set up and we’ll need a contact list in case we need to postpone due to poor weather. Jobs can range from easy (seated) jobs like cleaning onions to hauling compost and removing weed debris from the fields. Hope to see you at the farm! 952-353-1762 or foxandfawnfarm@gmail.com

Note—we will also be having a harvest party the following weekend, on Sunday the 30th at 3:30. More details to come. As far as the rest of the season—I’m still optimistic we can stretch out the season to a full 19 weeks, which will wrap us up the week of October 15th. Then the snow will begin…

Expected next week: Tomatoes, head lettuce, cucumber or zucchini, sweet pepper, carrots, bok choy, sage, and celery

 

Braised Fennel and Potatoes

September 10, 2018

from Epicurious.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large fennel bulb (sometimes called anise) with fronds
  • 1 large onion, halved lengthwise, then cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (2 cups)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb red boiling potatoes
  • 1/2 cup water

PREPARATION

  1. Chop enough fennel fronds to measure 2 tablespoons, then cut off and discard stalks from bulb. Quarter bulb lengthwise and core, then cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
  2. Cook fennel, onion, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, cut potatoes crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
  4. Add potatoes and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to fennel mixture and cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, 3 minutes. Add water and cook, covered, stirring once, until potatoes are tender, 10 to 12 minutes more. Stir in fennel fronds before serving.