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January 31, 2015
Planning Ahead
A note from the Farmer
Greetings from the farm! As I look out the window, a steady snowfall is blanketing our already white yard. I look back to my computer screen which is filled with a spread sheet full of dates and figures. I am finishing the planting plan. Six months of seeding and transplanting laid out in advance. Every head of lettuce fits into the plan, every carrot has a schedule. Hundreds of entries, each representing the start of a new crop, a new item for harvest months down the road. In this way we can be sure to have enough quantity and variety to harvest every week during the season.
Transplants will need to be started six weeks before they go to the field, and as long as three months before the expected date of harvest. February is already time to get started. Early greens are seeded in February, early tomatoes, March 1.
Lettuce transplants
How many flats of tomato plants will we need in late April. What’s the best date to start them? Too early and the whole crop could be taken by a late spring freeze, too late, and we must all wait an extra week or two for those first delicious ripe tomatoes. Timing is essential and what worked last year does’t always mean it will work this year. Last year our early greens were ready to leave the greenhouse and we still had patches of sno
w on the ground. You can’t plant anything into cold mud. The result was unhappy, root bound transplants and a delayed CSA start. So we take our best guess based on experience and stay flexible in case things change.
Once we start planting we don’t stop for six months. The first seeds go into trays in February and we are still seeding the last few late greens after Labor Day. Some crops need to be planted as many as twenty times. Lettuce every week from spring until fall, snap beans every other week from May to August, broccoli five times, carrots twice. Crops that most home gardeners plants once in May we plant multiple times; tomatoes four times, cucumbers four times, squash four times, and peppers twice. This ‘succession’ planting helps guarantee a strong harvest throughout the crop’s growing season. Layer upon layer the plan expands, helping us make sense of this complicated puzzle.
We plan now because we know that come June, we will be lucky to be able to see a day or two into the future. The summer rush is all consuming. No time to stop and consider, just do, do, do.
Plant, weed, harvest, repeat. We follow the plan without question, the questioning has already been done. So I sit, watching the snow, sipping my tea and working my figures, knowing that this job may be one of the most important I do all season.
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January 24, 2015
Sustainable Land Preservation
By Charis Lindrooth
Many of our long-time CSA members remember the Land Project, started five years ago. This began as a fund-raising drive, which helped towards the downpayment for 90 acres in the Lehigh Valley. Initially, a wide open field edged by young tree groves, this new farm needed infrastructure before we could depend on it for vegetable production. We planted a few acres of potatoes the first year and by July the plants were begging for water. We dug a well, but with no electric the potatoes were out of luck. I don’t even want to tell you how much that electric box cost, since our residence is not on the property, but we finally bit the bullet.
25 acres of vegetables? it's more work than you might think!This past year we planted 25 acres on the “Land Project,” now nicknamed the “New Farm.” This step was huge and meant that we were’t trying to maintain two crews in two separate counties. Equipment shed, greenhouses, nursery, pack house with a walk-in cooler big enough for an elephant, two wells, a gravel drive. Now we are ready for the next step, a “gutter connect” greenhouse, allowing us to extend our season more reliable beyond and before the first and last frosts. Besides a house on the premises (farmers really should not commute to their farm) we harbor an additional dream for this Farm. That dream is the creation of an educational series for members, children and neighbors interested in sustainable living. I mentioned in the last post the plan to build an earthen oven as a community project. Around this we hope to create a space for Farm to Table dinners, educational classes, live music, and more. We would love your input about your interests. What learning or social opportunities would lure you to visit the farm?
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January 17, 2015
Real Bread
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
Something about cold, grey days inspire thoughts of warm, comfort foods. For me, I am inspired to bake bread. Bombarded with health claims about coconut flour, gluten-free this and paleo that, one can feel at a loss about how comfort foods, especially bread, fit in a healthy lifestyle. Bread takes a bad rap these days. Everyone is afraid of it. But who doesn’t love the smell of home-baked bread? Slicing the “heel” while the loaf is still piping hot and watching the butter quickly melt into its surface is sure to arouse the palate of any hard core foodie, no matter how stringent their dietary guidelines. Bread is a beautiful thing, and I would hate to leave this earth regretting that I had not indulged that craving more. What could be better than a steaming bowl of winter vegetable soup and a fresh loaf of bread for “simple supper?”
Even so, not all bread is “bread.” Eat hand-made artisan sourdough bread and you will realize how the sliced stuff in plastic bags at the grocery store barely qualifies as food, much less as “bread.” I have long followed the standard American method of baking bread using quick rise yeast, in the oven and out from start to finish in under 4 hours. I used to think bread like that was delicious. Until I experienced bread made by the hand of our Austrian-born farm crew manager. Using a true sour dough, void of commercial yeast, and proofed over several days this bread deeply satisfies both palate and belly. Moist, rich in a diversity of flavor and texture bread like this inspired me to expand my knowledge of traditional baking.
That is when I decided to build an outdoor masonry oven. Made with stone, brick, mud plasters or a combination, these ovens vary widely in size and appearance. They inspire art. Although I have decided to build this oven, the only steps I have taken is to acquire some books on the subject (note my favorite volume pictured above). I envision a sweet brick oven capable of handling six or more loaves, or a few pizzas, set up near our pack area. Once fired up, an all day affair from pizzas, to roast chickens, to round loaves of sour dough can become an educational food get-together for CSA members, friends and family. The building of the beast might become a community effort and learning experience. Who wants to come over and help me play in the mud for a day? I am convinced that bread made with wholesome ingredients, and baked in an earthen oven, and then shared with a community of like-minded people brings health to the eater and joy to the spirit.
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January 10, 2015
5 Tips to Eat More Vegetables
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
With the holiday feasting and gastro-extravagance behind us our minds turn to New Year’s resolutions. Diminishing the midline tops many lists, with ideas of elliptical workouts and newfangled diets.
Perhaps, one simple adage could be remembered for those seeking trimmer, healthier bodies. “Eat your vegetables!” We repeat it all the time to our kids, but do we follow up ourselves? I’m guessing there is room for improvement for most of us and implementing a few of the following strategies may help make this goal a reality in 2015.
1. Eat More Meals at Home
Even if your refrigerator drawer is loaded with fresh vegetables, if you do not eat at home they most likely will not enter your digestive tract. Yes, you can grab a handful of “baby” carrots (more about these in a future post) and cucumber slices for your lunch box. However, let’s talk “real” veggies - dark leafy greens, sweet orange squashes, garlic, onions, and more greens. Exploring recipes that use a variety of vegetables can be inspiring to the palate. With online resources, the possibilities are endless. How about Winter Vegetable Stew as published in the New York Times? Kale, carrots, onions and garlic up the nutritional value and satisfy the appetite for many would-be meat eaters. Take a look at your weekly meal habits. See if you can commit to increasing the quantity and quality of your meals at home. Even one meal per week can make a difference.
2. Prepare Vegetables in Advance
Take some time on the weekend to slice and dice, carefully packing your accomplishments in airtight plastic or glass containers, ready to be added to salad, soups, stews, or simply the side of your plate. This makes a huge difference on last minute meal preparations. Your investment on the weekend heightens your commitment to use these veggies during the coming week. Does the advance prep diminish some of the nutritional value? Yes, any exposure to oxygen will deplete some vitamins and antioxidants, but not completely and if it makes the difference between eating and not eating them? I have a set of not-so-sharp knives so that the kids can help out here, a great supervised kid chore.
3. Eat at Least One Vegetarian Meal/Week
For some carnivores, this can be challenging - especially if you are trying to satisfy a teenage boy. The goal here is to increase vegetable consumption, not bread, noodle and cheese consumption. Look for vegetables that have a hearty, meaty flavor such as eggplant, mushrooms, winter squash. A side of mashed local potatoes can please almost any teenage palate. Try a vegetarian shepherd’s pie, for example.
4. Invest in a Vitamix or Juicer
Juicing roots, greens and fruits can be delicious and very beneficial to energy and appetite. Try using leftover pulp in burgers, homemade bread or homemade dog food.
5. Join a CSA!
You knew this was coming of course! Your CSA box arrives every week. Set a goal to finish your box before the next one arrives. One of our members lost 25 lbs the first year he joined our CSA - just by eating more vegetables.
What tips do you employ to consume more vegetables? Any ideas for kid-friendly recipes?
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