I’ve had a lot of people ask me what this non-winter and really early spring will mean for the farm. My answer: I have no idea. We’ve had warm springs before, but hitting 60 degrees repeatedly in February and losing all of our snow cover by Valentine’s Day make this year especially remarkable. I just finished pruning all of our young apple trees before they broke dormancy, but I was surprised to see that our raspberries are already sending out new bud growth while I was pruning them today. Early springs are ultimately a blessing for produce farmers in Minnesota, with our short growing seasons, but I’d be happy to trade back an extra couple weeks of greens (and mosquitoes!) for climate stability and a healthy environment.
Planting is already underway here under the cozy grow lights we have set up in the basement. Green onions, chives, and garlic chives are already setting their roots and working their way toward the light. The green onions are destined for the first few CSA boxes while the chives serve as a companion plant in our orchard. All of our fruit and nut trees are planted with beneficial species–the chives in this case keep pollinators happy throughout the year and are thought to reduce scab pressure in fruit trees. Next week they’ll be joined by parsley, oregano, and thyme, with peppers and tomatoes coming in shortly after that.
After a quick start to selling our CSA memberships for this season, the pace has slackened off lately and we do still have openings. It’s not too late if you’re still considering our CSA–we’d love to have you with us this season! And referrals are always appreciated, too. If you are interested in our CSA please fill out this form: https://foxandfawnfarm.com/csa-form/ and mail it in. Please be in touch if you have any questions or if you needed a different payment schedule.
Thanks so much to everyone who has supported us this season. Our family farm is a labor of love and we’re proud to share it with our community! We wouldn’t be here without you–our members are truly the community that supports our agriculture. Thanks so much to all of our members for your support this year, and we hope the rest of you will consider joining!
In your box:
Welcome to our last delivery of the CSA season. We hope you’ve enjoyed the experience this summer and tried some new crops and recipes. We did have a hard frost on both nights over the past weekend and even ice in some areas on Saturday morning, so even though we have a few more nice days left it’s clear that winter isn’t far away.
I hope to have a year-end survey ready to send out by the end of next week, and I hope you’ll spend just a few minutes to let us know how we can improve for the next growing season. I’m also looking for guidance as to long-term changes, including season extension (at least a 19-week season, and perhaps 20 weeks or more?) and what to do once all the fruit trees and bushes we’ve planted start to fruit (a fruit-only CSA, or U-pick, or boxes with more fruits and less veggies). Also, we’d love to have you back with us for 2017! I will send out information about next year in mid-January.
This week brings our only celeriac of the year. Celeriac is, obviously, a close relative of celery, but it has been bred to emphasize its root mass. The green tops of celeriac can be used just like celery, but the root itself is what really distinguishes this crop. To use it, first remove the top growth and store that in a bag in the fridge. The root should be peeled to remove all root hairs and any dirt residue. Once it’s cleaned up, we run it through a medium cheese grater and add to soups, stews, or pretty much anything in the crock pot. It adds a great dose of celery flavor but with a consistency and texture closer to potatoes. The root itself will store for months in a root cellar, and it should last at least a month in the fridge. If you don’t end up using a whole celeriac in one meal, keep the unused portion in a tupperware and it should remain crispy and fresh.
Our winter squash this week are all acorns, though some might look unfamiliar. Some of you will receive a squash that looks like an actual acorn, but most of our acorns are a variety called “Fordhook Acorn” that looks more like a tan Nerf football than an oak seed. Acorns can be used like pie pumpkins or any other squash, but our preferred use of them is as a pizza topping. To add them to a pizza, first peel off the skins with a potato peeler. Then cut them down the middle and scoop out the seeds. The remaining squash can be cut into small pieces and tossed in olive oil in an oven-proof baking dish. Cook at 350 degrees for about half an hour, stirring a couple of times if you happen to think of it. After that initial cooking, they can go on a pizza and cook for as long as the pizza takes, usually another 20 minutes or so. We always like to season a squash pizza with dried sage.
Please return any produce boxes you might have around the house to your delivery site even up to next week. Some of the boxes are in good enough shape for one more season, and I can recycle those that are spent. I will make one more pass to all of our delivery sites to collect empty boxes by the middle of next week. Thanks!
Expected next week: Regrets over the brevity of Minnesota’s growing season, a lack of guidance without my newsletters to read, and whatever veggies have been hiding in the back of your fridge since July.
In closing for the season, I just want to thank you all for supporting our family’s small farm. This has been our eighth season of growing veggies at Fox and Fawn Farm, and it’s certainly had its moments. 2016 brought us never-ending beets, the rainiest summer on record, clouds of mosquitoes, the aroma of rotting onions, the successful return of potatoes, the most pathetic sweet corn I’ve ever grown, our biggest yield of green beans yet, and the Nobel Prize for excellence in agriculture. Well, most of those.
We also want to thank our parents, Steve and Arlene Kirkman of Chaska and Julie & Will Healy of Bloomington for all their help washing veggies, packing boxes, and picking weeds this summer. My biggest regret is not having tried more on-farm activity days for our members and for hosting our fall festival on such a cold, nasty day. Next year we’ll try for more field days to truly emphasize the “Community” in Community Supported Agriculture.
The next few weeks will bring a flurry of activity as I apply compost to the fields, move our tomato high tunnel to drier ground, plant garlic, and apply straw mulch to our strawberries for overwintering. After that, I’ll take a few weeks to relax before planning out the growing season all over again. Have a great winter—thanks again!
In your box:
–Winter squash or pie pumpkin
My summer reading this season somehow led me to a study of the history of agriculture in ancient Greece. The book ended up being a little too broad in focus, but it did provide me a great quote: “Nihil minus expedire quam agrum optime colere.” Now, I hate to waste your time translating this Roman proverb that you’ve undoubtedly just picked up on fluently, but in case you’re reading this to children who haven’t yet mastered Latin I’ll help out: “Nothing is less efficient than to take care of a farm too well.” The proverb is intended in a financial sense—too many aspects of running a farm make no money. There is never an end to the work available on a farm. There are always weeds, always a field that needs mowed, always raspberries that need to be picked. And, financially, if a farmer is always getting everything done perfectly than she is missing opportunities to harvest crops and bring them to market.
I’ve tried to hold on to this proverb this year (in Latin, of course), but not in a financial sense. Running a small farm is attempting to balance more jobs than can be physically managed. Yet, no matter how hard I work there will always be weeds to be pulled, compost piles left unturned, beds of crops that just look ugly. There is no perfection in farming, no matter how much time I throw at it. And the more time I invest, the less I have for my family and for myself. So I continue to seek that perfect balance where the farm is in good enough shape to bring out the harvest I’d like to share with you, while also taking long weekends with my family, reading stories to my boys every night, and cooking a meal with Nina whenever we can. I wouldn’t say I’ve found the perfect balance yet, but the winter makes up for it when all the unfinished projects are covered in snow and I have the whole day to sit and play with blocks. With my kids, of course. I don’t just sit around and play with blocks by myself.
This week we finally introduce winter squash for the first time this season. Winter squash is my favorite non-berry item that we grow on the farm, and one of the main perks of my job is that I get to eat all the leftover squash once the season is over. We go through several squash a week in our house, and squash find their way into soup, pies, smoothies, and even pizza until we run out.
This week our winter squash are of the pie-making variety (although squash are mostly interchangeable in their utility). Many of you will receive a pie pumpkin, either the usual orange globe or a long, zucchini-shaped variety called “Long Pie.” Others will receive a Long Island Cheese, Butternut, or Buttercup variety. These are all great in any baked good. Pumpkin pie filling in the store is usually actually butternut squash, but there’s not too much of a taste difference in any kind of the squash we have this week. I’ve included our family recipe for pumpkin pancakes, which we enjoy every Saturday morning in October and November.
There are many ways to cook a squash, but our usual method is to slice it completely down the middle and remove all the seeds. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and fill a large baking dish with about an inch of water. Place the squash face down (skin side up) in the water and put the whole dish in the oven for 45-60 minutes, depending on the size of the squash. Once it has cooked, scoop out all the filling into a blender and discard the skins. Blend the squash (with a little water if necessary) until it makes a fine goo.
We also welcome Brussels sprouts to the boxes this week. Our sprouts did just ok this year, and nothing like the great harvest we had last year. The plants were wiped out by the late freeze in mid-May and were slow to bounce back, so I’m glad to have any sprouts at all this year. We have just a few ounces in your box this week and we should have a similar amount coming next week—just enough so that you can cross off your New Year’s resolution to eat Brussels sprouts this year. The key with sprouts is to not overcook them. We usually cook them in boiling water for just 4 minutes, so they still have a little crunch left to them. Mushy sprouts are no one’s friend. They can also be grilled—just chop them small and put them on an oiled pan in the oven at 350 degrees until they reach your desired texture (probably 20-30 minutes).
Just a reminder that next week will be our last delivery. Please gather up any CSA boxes and return them next week!
Expected next week: Celeriac, red bok choy, garlic, salad mix, radishes, winter squash, kale, arugula, and Brussels sprouts.
In your box:
–Garlic, “Purple Glazer”
–Rutabaga or kohlrabi
Thanks to all the brave souls to braved the rain and chilly temperatures on Sunday for our annual Harvest Party! You never know what kind of weather we’ll get this time of year, and unfortunately the wet cold drizzle wasn’t exactly the mood we were hoping to set for our gathering. But thanks so much to everyone who came out that day!
After this week we have just two more weeks of delivery left. Our last boxes will be delivered on October 11th (for Tuesday sites) and October 13th (for Thursdays). After that I will send out a year-end survey to gather your feedback as I already start planning out our 2017 season. We hope you enjoy the final CSA boxes this season!
September is usually my favorite month of the growing season, when temperatures moderate, mosquitoes disappear, and the sky is a brilliant blue after the humidity finally subsides. The September of 2016 has been a disaster in all of those respects. The rainy pattern we kicked off in August has continued, mosquitoes stuck around until the middle of the month, and we’ve been stuck with too many cloudy, humid days for my liking. So it was a minor miracle when the weather pattern switched to what it should be on Monday morning, with a cold blue sky, a crisp wind, and a brilliant sun that chased the mosquitoes down to Texas and chased me inside for apple cider. It looks like we’re finally in for a good dry spell and the weather I love—just in time for October.
I’ve started the process of bringing in our crop of winter squash and pie pumpkins, but this week I’ll start off with their decorative cousin, Gourds. These are the only crop we provide that isn’t edible (although some of you might have labeled eggplant as inedible….). I hope to have squash or pie pumpkins for everyone for the last two boxes.
This week marks the end of our tomato harvest. Even though we still haven’t had a frost, the plants are tired and with these cooler days and shortening hours of daylight, there just isn’t much ripening going on. After a great start to the tomato harvest, we ended up losing a hundred plants to flooding in our wet August and our yield peaked much earlier than it has most years. I’m giving the peppers a week off to bulk up, and we’ll have one more harvest of those peppers in our next box.
This week brings our only crop of rutabagas for the season. Our plants this year were way too excited to grow their leafy tops, and the roots themselves didn’t all fill out as they usually do. I’ve included the greens in the box—they can be used just like kale. The roots themselves can be peeled and diced and added to any stew or soup. They’re also tasty on their own or mixed with potatoes for mashed ruta-potato.
We have a great crop of arugula in the field, and this spicy green makes up our salad contribution this week. Arugula loses its spicy character after a frost, but since we haven’t had one yet this fall it still has its characteristic heat. If the spice is too much for you, try mixing it with a lettuce salad or burying it in dressing.
Expected next week: Celery, Napa cabbage, sweet pepper, salad mix, turnips, winter squash, chard, and Brussels sprouts.
–Garlic, “Georgian Crystal”
Don’t forget—our fall festival is coming up this Sunday, September 25th from 3pm until dark. We’d love to have you out to the farm for yard games, jumping in mud puddles, farm tours, and a potluck starting around 5pm. Please bring yard chairs, table settings, a dish to pass, and footwear that won’t mind a little mud. Ok, a lot of mud…. Friendly dogs are welcome, politicians are not.
This week we finally welcome back head lettuce after much too long of a break. Between plantings that were eaten by deer, other batches that didn’t germinate well, and others that were flooded out, we’ve certainly been missing good salads lately. This week we have one of my favorites and perhaps the best tasting variety, called “Nevada.” After a few weeks of nothing but kale salads, we were all salivating over dinner tonight with the return of a nice crispy lettuce salad. Next week we should have arugula ready to go before we finish out the season with some welcome loose-leaf salad mix. I had also planted a good crop of spinach, but unfortunately the seeds all rotted in the soil during our really rainy August. I had a total of eight plants germinate (out of about 5,000 planted), so unfortunately we’ll have to wait until next spring to try spinach again.
One experiment that I’m looking forward to is overwintering spinach. This spring I made some much-needed upgrades to our greenhouse (where we start nearly all of the plants that end up in the garden and eventually in your CSA box). I needed a heat system of some sort to help keep things alive and happy in the frigid nights we still often get in April and May, and I was looking to do it for as little money as possible. After researching the options for greenhouse heat, I was most struck by the idea of compost heating. Since I need a lot of compost for the fields anyways, this is a way to both make compost and utilize the heat by-product.
Back in early April I made a large compost pile out of old straw, grass, alfalfa, wood shavings, dirt, kitchen scraps, and several hundred gallons of water. The whole pile is fifteen feet in diameter, six feet tall (at the beginning of the year), and surrounded by straw bales to help keep the heat in. The compost shrunk to about 3-4′ in height after the contents broke down, and the end result is compost of very high quality that I didn’t need to turn.
But the insight I gained from research is harnessing the heat by-product of the compost pile. My pile hit 130 degrees inside (at which point my thermometer ceases to function until it falls below that mark) even on a 40 degree cloudy day in April. What other folks have developed is a system that circulates water through the compost pile, sharing some of the heat naturally produced by micro-organisms breaking down compost. So I connected 800′ of radiant floor tubing and ran it in circles all through the compost pile. One end of the tubing has a pump that pulls the water out of the compost pile (at 90-100 degrees) where it runs through more radiant floor tubing in the greenhouse. After stretching for 600 feet in the greenhouse, the water inside is now around 70 degrees and gets forced through the beginning of the coil in the compost pile. This endless loop ensures piping hot water around the clock. The only carbon emissions come from the simple pump, which doesn’t draw much in energy. Certainly nothing compared to a propane water heater or an on-demand electric heater.
Even after all of my research into the process, I could hardly believe it when it worked. It’s hot water, heated in just seconds, with no carbon footprint. And it also works in the greenhouse. The hundreds of feet of heated tubing make a huge difference in the greenhouse at night. On one April night when it dipped to 22 degrees outside, the greenhouse air temperature stayed above 55 degrees with no heat source besides water that had quickly passed through a compost pile.
Now that I have the system set up, I’m hoping to experiment with winter production in the greenhouse. The only downside is that the materials I used are fully composted by now and are no longer producing heat. But assuming I get my act together and get another pile built, it’s likely I could provide heat for the greenhouse all winter long. If so, I can plant spinach and kale right into the dirt flooring of the greenhouse (the heat tubing coming from the compost pile passes just below the surface of this soil, so it’s extra toasty) and harvest greens all winter long. This is still theoretical, but it’s definitely an exciting option for year-round production even this far north. I’ll let you know how it turns out!
Expected next week: Cabbage, arugula, onion, broccoli, rutabaga, sweet pepper, garlic, and tomatoes.
Curried Celery Soup: https://foxandfawnfarm.com/2014/07/16/curried-celery-soup/
Humble Vegetable Casserole: https://foxandfawnfarm.com/2010/07/16/humble-vegetable-casserole/
Bok Choy Yuke: https://foxandfawnfarm.com/2012/06/21/bok-choy-yuke/
I finally got around to writing a newsletter, only to have my computer eat it before I could save it. So there’s no newsletter this week thanks to technology.
In your box:
–Cucumber, summer squash, or eggplant
–Garlic, “Lorz Italian”
–Kohlrabi or broccoli
Expected next week: Head lettuce, celery, bok choy, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, parsley, and potatoes.
Kohlrabi Fritters: https://foxandfawnfarm.com/2016/09/14/kohlrabi-fritters/
Noodle-less Lasagna: https://foxandfawnfarm.com/2016/09/14/noodle-less-lasagna/
from CSA member Sarah Palkowitsch
1 medium to large size kohlrabi
1 red or yellow onion
1/2 cup all purpose flour (or gluten free all purpose or whole wheat)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
olive oil for frying
Using a food processor with a grating disk, grate the kohlrabi and onion. You’ll need 3 cups, so if your kohlrabi is on the small side add more onion or another vegetable. If your kohlrabi is on the larger side, reduce the amount of onion. Wrap the kohlrabi in a clean dish towel and squeeze as much water out as you can. Transfer the kohlrabi to a mixing bowl, and combine with remaining ingredients.
Heat a thin layer of oil over medium high heat in a cast iron skillet. Pan-fry kohlrabi in 1/4 cup scoops, about 2 minutes per side until golden. Drain on paper towels. Serve with desired sauce or Lemon Dill Yogurt Sauce.
Lemon Dill Yogurt Sauce
1/2 cup greek yogurt
1 small garlic clove, minced or grated
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
salt and pepper to taste
Combine yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, and dill in a small bowl. Mix to combine, then season with salt and pepper to taste.