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CSA

Lazy Tasty Salsa

Yum yum!  We’ve been getting wonderful tomatoes and jalapenos from the CSA lately.  Here’s an easy, tasty salsa using all local ingredients (unless you need a little lime juice thrown in).

1 large white onion (or two smaller ones)
2-3 jalapenos
6-8 cloves garlic
4 ripe red tomatoes

Remove the peels from the onions and garlic, and the tops from the jalapenos.  Cut onion into fourths and place into a food processor with the garlic and jalapenos.  Pulse a few times to get the onion pieces roughly chopped.  Quarter your tomatoes and add to the food processor.  Pulse until tomatoes are chopped and thoroughly combined.  Be careful not to over-process.  Stir in salt to taste (you can add the juice of one lime too at his point if you like).  Generally, this is good with cilantro in it as well, if you like that sort of thing.  Just add it, leaves not stems, with the tomatoes.

I made two batches like this and froze in 2-cup packages.  That way we can enjoy the taste of a summer fiesta in February, when mealy tomatoes rule the grocery store shelves.  Do you have a simple salsa recipe you love?

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Categories: CSA, Food, Recipes | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Pan Roasted Cauliflower with Cannellini Beans and Kale

Last week we made a tasty side dish with our garden and CSA goodies.  Rick thought it was good enough for me to share.

Pan Roasted Cauliflower with Cannellini Beans and Kale

2 TBS butter
1 TBS olive oil
1 head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into bite size florets
coarse salt and red pepper flakes
1/4 water
1 bunch of kale leaves from the garden, tough stems trimmed, washed, dried, and cut or torn into pieces
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
parmesan cheese

In a 12 inch skillet, heat butter and olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add cauliflower to pan and season with red pepper flakes and salt to taste.  Let the cauliflower brown well before turning and continuing to “toast” on all sides.  When the cauliflower is getting nicely browned, add water to the pan and scrape up any browned bits.  Add kale, cover the pan with a lid and let cauliflower steam until most of the water is absorbed or evaporated, about 5 minutes.  Remove cover and stir in garlic and beans.  Stir until beans are heated through and the rest garlic is fragrant.  Serve topped with grated parmesan cheese.

I wish I had gotten a picture, but it was so good that we ate it before I could grab the camera.  Let me know if you give it a try and you like it.

Categories: CSA, Food, Recipes | Tags: , | Leave a comment

The Impact of Eating Organic

A sustainable dinner - organic beans and squash, bakery made bread with organic butter, organic meat raised on pasture and wild brush - all local within 100 miles.

This past Tuesday, I came across a video interview of Michael Pollan with MSNBC, talking about eating organically as an investment (you can watch the video here).  He included some great tips for getting affordable sustainable meat, keeping hormones out of your diet and reasons to eat organically/sustainably.  Additionally he talked about the difference between animal products from grass-fed or pastured animals, and ones that are fed on a feed lot, even an organic feed lot.

Then, this morning, I noticed on the side of my Organic Valley half and half a note stating that by “using a quart of organic half and half [in lieu of conventional], every week for a year, you help to keep 6.2 lbs. of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and 1.3 oz. of toxic pesticides from being used.”  They said they offered a calculator on their website so you could see the impact you are having by consuming their organic dairy products.

I don’t eat strictly from this brand, but I wanted to see what impact my dairy dollars are having on the environment each year.  In a typical week our family consumes two gallons of milk, one quart of half and half, one and a half pounds of butter and one pound of cheese.  They calculate that buying these items organically instead of conventionally saves the environment from 65.9 lbs. of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and 14.3 ounces toxic pesticides and herbicides per year. That’s just our family’s dairy purchases, let alone meat and produce!

Additionally, the Organic Valley site states that  “public health costs associated with pesticide-related acute poisonings and cancer alone add up to an estimated $1.1 billion dollars per year.*”  Below are listed some of the other impacts of pesticides on children.

“Impacts on Children

Pesticide exposure poses special concerns for children because of their high metabolisms and low body weights.

  • More than 1 million children between the ages of 1 and 5 ingest at least 15 pesticides every day from fruits and vegetables.
  • More than 600,000 of these children eat a dose of organophosphate insecticides that the federal government considers unsafe.
  • 61,000 eat doses that exceed “unsafe” levels by a factor of 10 or more.5

“Prenatal Exposure

Most babies today are born with persistent pesticides and other chemicals already in their bodies, passed from mother to child during fetal development. 21 different pesticides have been found in umbilical cord blood, suggesting tremendous potential damage at a critical developmental time. Since a baby’s organs and systems are rapidly developing, they are often more vulnerable to damage from chemical exposure.  The immature, porous blood-brain barrier allows greater chemical exposures to the developing brain.6″

Wow – that’s pretty huge motivation to eat organic foods!  But they can be a bit more expensive.  Which brings me back to the Michael Pollan interview.

Organic foods are more expensive because there is a greater demand for them than there is supply.  In America, we vote with our dollars.  The more we demand organically grown and produced foods, the more farmers and companies out there will be motivated to switch to using organic practices, adding more organic foods to the supply chain.  the more food suppliers producing organic products, the more competition.  The more competition, the lower the prices.  the way we demand products is to buy them.  So, if you want organic food at competitive prices, start buying it and watch the price drop.

There are a lot of options out there.  Buying locally will be the least expensive and have the biggest impact on protecting the environment and the local economy.  Check out http://www.localharvest.org/ for local farmers, markets and CSAs near you.  There you can find not only produce, but local meat processors and restaurants who use local and organic products (you are still effecting the supply and demand of how food is produced when you eat out).

To read more about the impacts of synthetic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, GMOs, hormones and antibiotics, check out Organic Valley’s website.

* “Promoting Sustainable Food Systems through Organic Agriculture: Past, Present and Future,” Christine McCullum-Gomez, C., and Riddle, J. HEN Post: Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Practice Group of the American Dietetic Association, Spring 2009. www.hendpg.org

Categories: CSA, Food, Sustainability | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

So You Want to be a Farmer

hoeing the fields closeupOf course it’s no secret that I want to be a farmer.  Rick and I joke about it almost daily, and, very un-jokingly, we work hard putting up produce from the CSA, growing our own in the garden, raising the chickens and generally learning all we can about living on the land.

Getting chickens was a baby step.  We started with four and moved up to seven.  They eat a lot.  And they poop a lot.  And for the first year, we didn’t get a lot of eggs, but spent a lot of money on building them a coop.  Now we know more, and we’re getting lots of eggs, and though they’re messy and dig holes, we are glad to have them, and thinking of better ways to do things with them.

Part of the reason why we decided to be working members on Monroe’s farm, was so that I could get a taste of what went into this pipe dream.  Every week last year, Rick sent me off to Kersey with the admonition to pay close attention to what Jerry said, and to ask him about ______.  He wanted me to pick Jerry’s brain weekly.  Did he grow Brussels sprouts?  When did he plant potatoes?  How do you know corn is ready to harvest?

A week or so ago, a working member friend, Tracy, posted an article about taking A Farm Vacation on her Facebook page.  At the moment I first saw it, I was tired from processing food and working, and thought, “Vacation!  What?  Farming’s hard work!”  And it is.  But after the trip to Palisade last weekend, I’ve changed my mind.  I want to take this vacation myself.

Palisade was so beautiful.  The Western slope of Colorado is sunny and warm and the towns charming.  Rick and I saw an orchard for sale and picked up a flyer.  Ah – we could live here, and we could grow this.  If only we had more [money, and] time to sit here and pick Buck’s (the owner of the orchard where we harvested peaches) brain on how to do it all.  If only we could stay here and give it a try for a while before investing in property.

Monroe piggies by Rachel Carlson PhotographyI really love having H (and now E too) out there on the CSA farm every week.  While his biggest thrill is playing with the other kids, catching toads and feeding the pigs, I have the opportunity to remind him that those pigs will become pork chops, and those toads eat the bugs that destroy crops.  He gets excited when we move from the barn to the fields, and he plays behind us in the rows, eating melons, catching “buggies” and pulling weeds.  He is gaining an understanding of where food comes from.  And this means so much to me.

A few months ago, I read a blog post called This Place We Know by Sharon Astyk.  Sharon is a beautiful writer, and the post is quite long, but it really captures something. I want my children to understand where their food comes from and what happens on a farm.  That a farm is more then a cutesy place where cows say moo and pigs say oink.

And I know, now days, I’m not the only one who feels this way.  Here are a couple of articles that have appeared recently on people dreaming of the simple life: one from Utne Reader: The Organic Farm Fantasy Meets Reality and on Mother Earth News: Skills for Farming.

I envision my boys growing up in an agrarian life style.  Being connected to the earth and to our food connects us with God.  The Maker made this and made us.  The grocery store has broken the connection for most of us.

Seeing my boy pick a peach or nectarine and delighting in that sweet first bite before he’s even taken a step away from the tree is amazing.  There’s no lesson about fruit coming from tree needed when he picks it himself.

In our home, we don’t have many conversations about limiting candy.  You’re more likely to hear, “No, you’ve had enough carrots,” or “Ok, but this is the last tomato before dinner.”  And these statements don’t make me sad.  Last night as Rick prepped green beans for going into the freezer, we worried about Henry eating so many beans that he’d spoil his dinner cooking in the oven.  And he did!  This is a good problem to have, we’ve decided. For Henry, going to the garden to pick (and graze) tomatoes brings joy.  The fruit of  spring’s labor is wonderful.

Henry in the orchard 2When he sees us tilling the garden, he knows it’s to get it ready for the plants.  When he plants a seed, and then gets to see it grow into a plant and then the plant grows a flower, and the flower grows a zucchini, he gets it.  There’s not a lot of explaining to do.  And compost is an opportunity to show him how we give back to the ground to keep the circle going.  The eggs are a reason to be kind to the chickens.  Sharing scraps with pigs makes the pigs happy and helps them get ready to be a delicious meal in the fall.  Happy animals make better food.  Happy chickens lay tastier eggs.

It’s funny to think that just a few years ago, I had never gardened before.  Rick was the one who wanted a place for a garden when we bought our home.  He had grown up with it.  I think he may have thought twice about that first garden if he had know what it would spiral into.  🙂

I’ve always wanted to be in the country, to be on land.  I grew up doing 4-H, wishing I had a horse.  I even made Rick promise that I could have a horse after we got married.  But I had never thought about farming or growing things until that first garden.  Now I’ve gotten carried away.  I want my own beehive, my own milking cow.  Steers for beef, chickens and ducks for meat and eggs, a turkey to raise for Thanksgiving.  And fields full of veggies and fruit, melons and squash.  Fruit trees.  Grain. I want it all!

I don’t think Rick was prepared for the fallout of that first little veggie patch.  Certainly not for the chickens.  Sharon Astyk wrote another post to this effect.  Rick and I could relate to her guide, “So You (Don’t Particularly) Want to be a Farmer” on more than one account.  It’s a guide for the spouse/partner/family member of a person who has been bit (hard) by the farming bug.  The post had us both laughing out loud, for it was so very true.  Despite planting the seed with that first little garden patch, Rick got dragged into this wanna-be farming thing against his better judgement.

For example, the chicken thing was all my idea.  I used phrases like “think of all the money we’ll save on eggs!” to convince him.  Our very first egg from our very first chicken had to be (ever so gently) pried from the vent of that hen… she was egg bound.  And who did it?  Not me… HIM!  I was afraid of hurting her.  He saved the day.  And I’m sure he resentfully thought me a madwoman!

But most especially one line at the end of Sharon’s post hit home for Rick and I and this crazy pipe-dream of owning a farm together:

Sweet FruitSometimes there’s nothing more to dream of than being yoked together in the same harness, on the same land and doing the same good work for all the days of your life.”

Rick and I continue to be members of the CSA because we are still learning things, and because we have become addicted to the beautiful food that comes from Jerry’s land.  We still ask questions, pick brains, read book after book.

We’ve so much to learn, although I feel we’ve also learned so much.  Winter squash is harvested after the vines fall,  melons are sweeter if you limit their water.  This is how you store potatoes and canning isn’t quite as hard if you’re doing it with a friend.

But the best thing we’ve learned from growing things together: Seeds sown in love produce sweeter fruit.

 

Excerpts cross posted at BlogHer.com and monroefarms.blogspot.com

Categories: Chickens, CSA, Food, Garden, Recommended Reading, Urban Homesteading | 6 Comments

A Week in the Life… Part 3

Well here it is… the rest of a typical week on our beloved CSA: Monroe Organic Farms. Thanks again to Jacquie for letting me share this with you all, and to my buddy Rachel for the great pictures!

We are now on Friday and Saturday of our general daily work week description. We plant extra produce, more than what the CSA needs, just in case there is a weather related or insect problem. We attend four farmers markets over the weekend. If there is a production problem, produce would be taken away from the farmers markets. We are hoping the CSA will not feel it. Think of it as an insurance policy for your CSA. This is also how you get your extras to pick for freezing & canning. We have also found that if we do not pick produce just about every day, your zucchinis would be enormous, your tomatoes would be overripe, etc.! In general, your produce would not look as nice! Whatever produce the membership is not using, we take to the farmers markets.

crates full of veggies by Rachel Carlson PhotographyThe employees start picking Thursday and will continue until noon on Friday for the markets. After lunch, they will wash any produce with excessive amounts of dirt on it and bunch crops such as carrots & beets. Once this is completed, Jerry gets out the worksheet for loading the trucks. We keep track of what has been placed on each truck. The truck will also need tables, tents, table clothes, plastic bags, pens, paper, signs with prices & baskets for display.

On Friday, Jerry again, begins his day with changing his water. If he can get into fields, he likes to mow the weeds. This cannot be done in fields with vining crops, such as, pumpkins, watermelon and muskmelon, or with tall crops such as tomatoes & corn. But he likes to keep them down around his irrigations ditches and in as many fields as he can. I can tell you this doesn’t happen every week and we are lucky if he can get to it once a month! The animal pens need to be checked at least every other week. Fencing never seems to stay where you want it because of wind, predators and weeds. We spend quite a bit of time checking fencing and fixing it. It is amazing how quickly the animals figure out the electric fence is down!

Friday is “technically” my day off. This is the day I try to get my house cleaned, start the laundry, grocery shopping, shopping for Alaina and Kyle (if needed), Dr. appointments, weed my flower beds and water the trees in the yard. If farmers markets tents need repairing, I do this on Friday too. Other than this, I can lay around watching soapies and eating bon-bons! (I can tell you this happens frequently! Ha-ha!)

kids feeding the pigs by Rachel CarlsonEveryone leaves Saturday morning somewhere between 4:30 and 5:30 in the morning for their destination. We attend the Cherry Creek Farmers Market, the Boulder Farmers Market and the Longmont Farmers Market on Saturday. It will take about one hour to get to a farmers market and about 1 ½ to 2 hours to set up. We will sell for 6 hours then load up anything that did not sell or give it to the Food Bank. This takes approximately one hour. When the trucks come back from Saturday farmers markets, we unload all the returning produce. This is noted on the worksheet. The produce is sorted and reloaded onto one truck. Anything that is determined to not be “good enough” for market is fed to the animals. Employees have picked just a little produce on Saturday to fill in what was sold on Sat. They have also changed Jerry’s water for him while he is at market. Half the employees have Sat. off; the other half has Sun. off. The day ends at 5 pm. for me and Jerry will be done as soon as he has checked his water.

Kyle goes to the Ft. Collins Farmers Market on Sunday. He leaves at 9 am. and returns about 5 pm. And once again, we will give excess produce to the Food Bank at the end of the day & bring back what will be fed to the animals. Crops such as potatoes can be kept until the next weekend.

Our biggest money makers are the potatoes and onions. The reason; we have these crops from the very beginning until the very end of the season. The customer favorites, however, are the strawberries, melons, tomatoes and beans.

This concludes our general daily work week. Of course there are so many other things we do during the week; so many they cannot be listed. But it gives you a good idea of what happens on a regular basis. Jerry and I work 7 days a week, March through November, then we slow down to 5 days a week during the winter. We try to take a week or two off during Christmas. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t!

I hope you have enjoyed the farm posts!  Rach shared so many great pictures and I didn’t get to include them all… but keep an eye out, with her permission, I might just attach them to other farm posts in the future!

Categories: CSA, Food, Urban Homesteading | Leave a comment

A Week in the Life – Part 2

*Note that I wanted to post some pictures of us working on the farm, but I forgot my camera two weeks in a row! Luckily, Rachel came along this week and got some photos… Thank you to her for sharing!!!

This week, Jacquie Monroe shared with us what Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays look like on Monroe Organic Farms.

Last week I started to tell you about a week on the farm finishing only Sunday and Monday. Today I will talk about the next three days.

crates by Rachel CarlsonAs I mentioned before, I have worksheets I use to tell not only the employees what to pick each day, but also to tell the working members on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday what to put into each bag. This worksheet breaks down each Distribution Center into Single, Half and Full Shares; adding the totals of each category so that I know how many total Shares. Cucumbers, for example, are calculated to give the Single Share one, the Half Share two and the Full Share three. These numbers are multiplied to the total number of each category and I get a total number of how much to pick. The working members know how many cucumbers to give each share and I have a total number to be picked..all in one swoop of the pen!

I do this Sunday evening for picking on Monday for Tuesday Distribution; again on Monday night for Tuesday picking for Distribution on Wednesday and again on Tuesday night for Wednesday picking for Thursday Distribution. This is why it is so important for you to call me at least two days in advanced if there is a change to your share. If you wait until the day of or the day before Distribution to make a change, it is too late, we have already picked the produce!

Red (single), Purple (half), and White (full) shares for the members.Working Members arrive no later than 7:00. They will help unload produce into the barn, count the number of red, white and purple bags, count small and large bean bags, get the containers out to measure beans and potatoes, unload delivery trucks if needed, fill egg orders into coolers, count produce not bagged into boxes or baskets for delivery, fill bean bags; basically get everything ready for Distribution.

Team leaders give instructions to the Working Members on how many of each crop goes into a particular colored bag. There is one person stationed at each crop. The rest line up at the “potato bar” and get a bag filled with potatoes. From there they go down the line of crops each being added to the bag. They then go outside the barn and line them up in rows of 10, by bag color. When all is done, the bags are counted one more time before loading them onto the trucks, just in case we are one short! 

There is a Team Leader stationed at each vehicle. They call out the number of white, purple and red bags needed; egg coolers are loaded; fruit & honey too if available; corn, tomatoes & melons (depending on the time of year) for each Distribution Center until the entire truck is filled. During melon season, we have to pull a trailer because it cannot all fit on the truck!

Rachel helps load!After the working members get the produce on the trucks, empty bags that are put into the coolers by Distribution Centers are removed, sorted & stacked. The coolers are cleaned and stacked. The barn is raked, any produce not good enough for members is fed to the chickens (except onions and garlic). And everyone heads to the fields to work. Working Members spend early spring/early summer planting and hoeing, but by the end of summer, the Working Members spend quite a bit of time harvesting.

At 6 am, the employees have finished the animal chores and are now pulling out all the produce picked the day before; lining it up in order listed on the worksheets. Once all the produce is lined up, the employees get their instructions on what to pick for the day, all heading in different directions!  Jerry, in the mean time, has gotten up at 4:30 and has changed his water. He has given instructions to the employees and is checking in with the team leaders on what their day will consist of. Then he is off to ditch rows of crops for irrigation.

hoeing the corn by Rachel CarlsonThis will need to be done every time we have either hand hoed or used the Weeder to remove weeds from the fields. It tears down the humps of dirt needed to keep the water in each row. If each row is not intact, something will not get watered!

After greeting the Working Members and answering any questions that may arise, I am in the office writing a letter to each Distribution Center. I tell them how many bags they are getting for each share size & the color of that bag. If there is anything extra, such as corn, this number is also reflected so that when the Non-working Members arrive, the Distribution Center knows what to give each member. Newsletters are added to this letter for each Center.

At the beginning of the season, the Distribution Centers are given a list of all the Members picking up at their homes, phone numbers and information about eggs, fruit and honey. They turn this list into a check off sheet to use during Distribution. This is how they know who gets what and how much of it! If we are delivering any produce to restaurants, an invoice is typed out and added to the pile of newsletters with Distribution letters.

truck is loaded by Rachel CarlsonBetween 10 and 11 am, the trucks are ready to leave for Distribution Centers. Two trucks leave on Tuesday, one heading toward the South Denver Metro area and one heading to the West Denver Metro area. On Wednesday, two trucks leave heading toward Central Denver Metro area and the Ft. Collins area. Thursday, only one truck leaves the farm and follows the Turnpike towards the Boulder area. It will take most of the rest of the day to complete these routes, getting us home around 4pm. Where upon arrival back at the farm, Jerry will check his water and I start dinner! Wednesday I will do Distribution for the Greeley area, starting at 5:30 and I will work until dark.

The drip irrigation system is a wonderful tool we have fallen in love with. Not only does it keep down the weeds in each row/bed, it really conserves water. But at the same time, it is very labor intensive! Everything has to be hand planted into the plastic, each row has to be hand weeded, (no hoes allowed!) and the procedure for watering is extensive!

Every day that Jerry waters through the drip tape, he first has to fill the pond with water by turning on the pump at the bottom of the field where the irrigation canal is located. This canal carries the water from the reservoir throughout the entire irrigation basin. Once Jerry has chosen a field to water, there is at least one turnkey at the top of each bed. There can be as many as four rows and two drip tapes per bed with turnkeys. After turning on the water to several beds, he walks down each bed to check for leaks or breaks. He also has to walk the entire main line to check for leaks or breaks. A small leak can turn into a big problem because there is a lot of pressure in a drip irrigation system! It can wash out the crop, but more importantly, it will release the pressure and all the water will go to that spot and nothing else will get watered.

In the fall, all the drip tape and plastic has to be removed and discarded. However, when we do keep the drip tape for more than a year or two, the mice get into it and chew it up!

This really sums up the work I do as a working member. There is lots of counting! Last week after all the share bags were filled and loaded onto the trucks, we sorted garlic by sizes into crates. Some will get distributed, some stored for the winter shares, and some stored for planting in the fall. We also do things later in the season like spreading hundreds of onions on black tarps to dry in the sun for the winter shares.

This week Rachel worked really hard, and to thank her for her work, she got to take home a share of produce! She really earned it!!  Thank you again, Rach, for sharing your rockin’ photos!  p.s. – Rachel is amazing, and she can be hired to photograph you!  😉

Categories: CSA, Food, Urban Homesteading | 2 Comments

A Week In The Life [of an organic CSA farmer]…

Full Farm ShareTake a look at the beautiful bounty in this week’s CSA share, waiting to be washed on my kitchen counter!  From left to right there are walla walla onions, carrots, q-ball squash, cauliflower, cabbage, purple bell pepper, pickle cucumbers and red potatoes; and in the bowl: three kinds of squash (zucchini, crookneck and yellow), cucumbers, and a green bell pepper.

This was my first week back up at the farm, and I had Henry and Emmett in tow. Everyone was excited to see Emmett!  And Henry had a great time catching toads and playing with the other kids, while Emmett rode in the Moby wrap as I distributed squash and sorted garlic. 

This week, in our newsletter from Monroe Organic Farms, Jacquie Monroe wrote up a piece on what farm life is like.  They work hard and are quite busy… she only got through two days worth! 

I thought you all would also be interested to see what life looks like on our CSA farm:

A week in the life…  by Jacquie Monroe

A member once asked what a week on the farm looked like? What was our routine? Well…let’s start with just a couple of days! Our week starts on Sunday at 4:30 or 5 am with Jerry setting his water on those parts of the field that need a little drink. This takes approximately 3 hours. Setting water isn’t like turning on your garden hose. The ditch fluctuates up and down according to users up stream. Once the water is set, he goes back a half hour to an hour later and checks it again. He may have to irrigate fewer rows or start additional rows depending on how much water there is at that time; then checks it one more time before he starts his next project. In the mean time, our employees get going about 6 am. They have gathered eggs, watered and fed the chickens, steers, pigs and sheep. At 8 o’clock, everyone meets at the barn. They take what produce has returned from the Saturday farmers markets and reload a truck. Kyle takes off at 9 am for the Ft. Collins farmers market. He will be there for 5 1/2 hours.

Once Kyle is set and has left, Jerry turns to the four wheeler and checks the field for mature crops. It is at this time when he decides what you will be getting each week. He come to me and gives me a list of crops and how much he believes we have. I take those numbers and apply them to the membership. Sometimes we are limited to what we have, so you will only get one, or he tells me to calculate three different numbers.

Jerry has now moved to either his cultivating tractor or the planter. If he chooses to cultivate, he will do this all day, taking out as many weeds as he can so that the hand hoeing won’t take as long. Planting is a timing thing. If Mother Nature cooperates, Jerry is pretty good at getting you crops on a pretty regular basis. To give you an idea, corn and green beans need to be planted every week; cucumbers & summer squash every three weeks; peppers, and potatoes one time; watermelons & muskmelon every four weeks; carrots, tomatoes and beets three times a summer and broccoli and cauliflower are planted five times a summer. This job requires he get on and off the tractor several times to check to see if the seed is planted at the right depth; making adjustments to the planter as needed.

Meanwhile the guys are digging up potatoes for Distribution on Tuesday. They are stored in a strawbale building. The strawbale building is approximately 20 degrees cooler than the outside temperature! They will set up sprinkler pipe to sprinkle up the seed Jerry has just planted; moving the pipe every three or four hours. This will need to be done every three days until we see a crop. Then it will be switched to row irrigation thereafter. Some of the crew will be hoeing, stacking the newly cut & baled hay and gathering eggs (which will be done at least once more before the end of the day). If there is time, three people will use the tractor and a machine called a Weeder to cultivate.

We take an hour for lunch (Jerry doesn’t come in for breakfast, too much to do & he wants to do it while it is cool!). But before he quits, he checks his water again. If it needs changing, he will do this, checking it again after lunch. Jerry wants a hot lunch so I normally fix him leftovers from the night before; afterward going back to the planter or cultivator.

I get up in the morning and check messages. (I don’t get up nearly as early as Jerry!) Get a bite to eat & read a favorite magazine for an hour. I then sit down to my computer and start writing. Sometimes these newsletters come easily to me and I will be finished by noon and sometimes they will take me all day to write. When I’m done, I count our earnings from the Saturday farmers markets and partially start a deposit, finishing it on Monday after adding Sunday farmers’ market earnings.

While I’m busy making the deposit, I start to make the copies I need of the newsletter. I will answer the messages and if I have time, (between Sunday and Monday), I look at email. It is very low priority for me, especially since I love the computer so much! I can usually find more “important” things to do! Things like laundry. It’s funny how having clean clothes really make you feel good…ha, ha!

Dinner is served somewhere between 5 and 6 pm. Jerry needs to eat early because it will take him another three hours to change his water to new locations. We end our day watching the 9 o’clock news (the weather) and going to bed.

Monday morning at 4:30, Jerry begins with setting his water. This is a daily occurrence. If he isn’t row irrigating, he is irrigating using drip. To conserve water, we use plastic tubing to move water from one place to another. This prevents water from evaporating or soaking into the dirt below the ditch. All of it stored water from reservoirs holding the spring melt off of winter snow or spring rains. We have settling ponds to remove as much of the silt (fine dirt) from the water. Before sending it into our drip irrigation system, there is a filter system that takes out quite a bit more. These filters need to be checked frequently. Anything goes wrong and it will shut down not sending water to plants in need of water!

If Jerry didn’t finish planting or didn’t plant at all, it will have to be done on Monday. If there are any equipment failures, they will be worked on either Sunday or Monday. That includes the trucks too. Trucks are cleaned out from the weekend farmers markets. Any food that is not up to snuff to resell is fed to the animals. They are like dogs, begging for treats, running after the truck!

Meanwhile the employees are doing the animal chores. From my calculations, they will start to pick what is needed for Tuesday Distribution. The harvesting will take up most of their day. Bringing everything into the barn and set up in order they will appear in your bag. Stopping only to move sprinkler pipe.

Monday, I finishing the deposits, make the worksheets out for the Tue. Working Members & finish doing my laundry. Twice a month I pay the bills and Monday is the day I usually run errands for the farm. Jerry always needs parts for equipment; I take the deposits to the bank and go to the Post Office; go to the grocery store and ending the day with a nice meal. In the evening, Jerry and I take a ride on the four wheeler and look at the farm in all its’ glory; getting excited about the next new crop we’re going to give to you!

Categories: CSA, Food, Urban Homesteading | 3 Comments

Asparagus & Independence!

Well… asparagus season is upon us!  Today I drove up to the CSA farm to pick asparagus!  Yum!  I picked two rows, not sure what that equates to in pounds of asparagus, but I will find out as I put most of it up for storage tonight (and I’ll probably report back as well).  But, oh!  The sweet green shoots just called my name as I picked!  And I happily munched as I went along filling my big bags.  Henry enjoyed munching behind me as we went too!  Thanks to the Monroe’s who can sell their spears for $8/pound at the market for letting us take all we wanted! 

I read a couple of cool blogs today and wanted to share quickly:  the first was found on Hen & Harvest, called Convenience Store(d) Food. Wendy shared some great recipes for pudding mixes.  I had done a Thrifty Thursday post about making your own mixes a couple months back, and thought this would be a great addition to it. 

Then I followed the link to Wendy’s blog,  Home Is, and saw she was doing something called the Independence Days Challenge.  This led me to another blog, where it seems the challenge (at least on the web) started.  Check it out: Sharon’s Independence Days Challenge.  I really like the idea, and I’m going to try my hand at participating.  I hope you all find this interesting, and that I do as well.  🙂

The basic idea of the challenge is to do something each day or week or weekend that gets you closer to your goals (for example #91 on my 101 in 1001 list).  Basically, that big change can come from little things.  I like how Sharon put it:

It is easy to forget how important this “little stuff” is – easy to think that your little garden doesn’t matter very much, or that your preparations won’t be enough.  But we should also remember the exponential power of saying “no” and doing for ourselves.  The corrollary of the fact that every calorie of food takes 10 of fossil fuels is that every stir fry or salad you eat from your garden saves 10 times the oil as the calories contained within it.  The fact that almost every packaged ingredient uses 7 times as much energy to create that packaging means that your choice to buy bulk oatmeal just saved 7 times as much energy as the package contains.

In 1944, American Victory Gardens grew as much produce as did every vegetable farm in the country – fully half US produce came from home gardens. And while no one was sufficient, all together were something big.  Every bite of food you grow, every bite you preserve, every bit of waste you reduce is a contribution to a larger project – keeping everyone fed.  Every bit of compost you add to your soil, every bit of organic matter, every tree you plant is a contributor to a larger project – storing some of our emissions in soil, so we can have a future.  Small things are the roots of vast and powerful ones. 

Every kid who tastes a cherry tomato or a strawberry from your garden comes away with something that they take back to their homes and forward to the future.  Every neighbor who stops to chat as grow on your lawn or water the peppers in containers on your stoop is a new connection in your community, and a potential future gardener.  Every seed you plant multiplies and produces a hundred, or a thousand more seeds for next year (not to mention the food).  Every dollar you save you save on groceries that goes to the food pantry means your plot feeds not just you, but others.  Every time you point out that you are storing food and preparing for a different future, even if people don’t get it, a seed is planted somewhere in the back of their heads, where they realize…people kind of like me think about this stuff.  The future depends on a whole lot of little things.

I’m excited about it, though I’m starting the challenge a bit late.  🙂  But here goes!   There are seven categories in the challenge, and you are supposed to do something in each one.  The categories are:

  1. Plant Something
  2. Harvest Something
  3. Preserve Something
  4. Reduce Waste
  5. Preparation and Storage
  6. Build Community Food Systems
  7. Eat the Food

Make sure to read the challenge for details on each category if you’re curious or you decide to join the challenge too.  I’ll report in weekly… Wish me luck!

Categories: CSA, Food, Garden, Independence Days, Recommended Reading, Urban Homesteading | Leave a comment

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