CSA Week 13

This Week’s Harvest

Red bell peppers
Dragon tongue beans
Broccoli raab OR mustard greens
Red leaf lettuce
Tomatoes ( slicers, heirlooms, sungold cherries)
Onions (red and candy)
Sweet corn
Summer squash and zucchini
Cucumbers
Cantaloupe ( Oakwood and farm pick up only. Next week other sites will get melons)

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Notes from the farm

This week we went from one extreme (too dry) to another extreme (too wet) in a 24 hour period. While I feel a little badly complaining (it could have been worse) the 3 inches of rain we got did do some damage to the crops. On the other hand we really did need some rain! The break from constant irrigation is certainly a welcome relief.

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We read an interesting article this week about how the number of heavy precipitation events is increasing in a warming climate. Here is the link to the article: http://wxug.us/1k4e4
It will be interesting to see how climate change effects the farm. We have noticed on our 8 acres that the fields that we have given the most care too (cover cropping, nutrient building, and other management practices) seem the most immune to weather extremes, bug pressure, and have the healthiest looking crops as a result. Over the years we have acquired equipment to help us manage the land in the best ways possible. Soil building remains a priority so hopefully the warming climate won’t effect us all that much. On the other hand, I’m wondering if we need to start accounting for crop loss when we make our seeding charts and planting plans during the off season! Meanwhile, mud not withstanding, the harvest continues. This week, while still rolling in the heat loving crops, we see the return of large lettuce and the first of the fall greens ( mustard or broccoli raab). Seasonal eating at its finest! Enjoy!

Recipes

Tomato stuffed peppers

Mustard green and sweet onion sauté ( you can use broccoli raab in place of mustard greens)

Sweet corn, tomato, and onion salad

CSA Week 12

This Week’s Harvest

Tomatoes
Globe eggplant or fairytale eggplant
Candy onions
Leeks
Red bell peppers
Salad mix
Head lettuce
Purple potatoes
Summer squash and zucchini
Sweet corn

Food notes
Tomatoes retain their flavor best when they are not refrigerated. They should store for a good while on your kitchen counter.
While we weren’t able to plant as many heirloom tomatoes as originally planned, we did get our absolute favorite, striped German, planted. Each box has at least one and you’ll want to wait to eat it until it has fully colored: deep red with streaks of yellow.

Farm notes

Perhaps you have already delved into the world of food preservation, but if you haven’t we highly recommend it! It can be hard to find the time, for sure, but just like a farm fresh tomato tastes better then a grocery store tomato, a bag of frozen corn prepared by you tastes better then grocery store frozen corn. Plus time spent in the summer is time saved in the winter — there is no kitchen prep when all you have to do is grab bags from the freezer or open a couple cans from the cupboard!

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We will most likely be offering our CSA members a bulk tomato deal in the coming weeks. One favorite way to put up tomatoes is to make a purée. We cut the tomatoes in halves or quarters and throw them in a big pot. We cook them down on very low heat for at least half a day, stirring every so often. We then run them through a simple hand held food mill and let it cool down. Then we pour the purée into quart freezer bags and freeze. In the winter we use this purée as a base for soups and stews (it can be used traditionally, like in minestrone or chili, or in place of any recipe calling for veggie or chicken broth). If we need pizza or spaghetti sauce, we let the purée cook down further and find the sauce to be plenty thick- if we need thick sauce in a hurry we just add a can of tomato paste. We can make enchilada sauce with our purée, tacos, crock pot meals, BBQ sauce– the possibilities are pretty endless.

Other favorite food preservation methods include roasting eggplants whole and grating summer squash and zucchini. Once the eggplant is cooked, the skin peels right off. We then plop the whole eggplants into freezer bags and freeze. When we are ready to use them in the winter, we thaw, cube, and throw into the pot. With the zucchini, we grate, squeeze out the extra water and into the freezer bags it goes. Grated zucchini is then great for baking, and winter is great time for baking! Of course it helps to have freezer room, so canning is a wonderful way to preserve food that doesn’t require special storage.

Then there is the world of pickling and fermenting! While we only have experience with making sauerkraut, we really hope to expand in this arena starting with pickled beets and eggs. So good!

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Since we are unable to provide our customers with fresh veggies year round, it is our hope that you all get to preserve at least something while we have it for you fresh!

Recipes:

Sweet corn and zucchini pizza ( we have homemade pizza a lot… This recipe is a new take that I am excited to try this week)

Potato and leek frittata

Sweet corn polenta with eggplant sauce

Pasta alla Norma (this recipe comes with a CSA member recommendation!)

CSA Week 11

This Week’s Harvest

Tomatoes
Sungold cherry tomatoes
Okra ( pick up sites that have not received it yet)
Candy onions
Leeks
Potatoes
Garlic
Golden and red beets
Salad mix
Green leaf lettuce
Summer squash and/or zucchini
Bell peppers ( the peppers are just starting to turn red. if you leave them out on the counter they should continue to ripen, but use them if you see them getting soft)
Jalapeño peppers

Fruit share:
Early Gold apples from Downing Fruit Farm ( tart, crisp apple good for fresh eating or cooking)
Red Raspberries from Berryhill Farm

The potato harvest will be wrapped up this week- we are just about half way through the field. Potatoes have gone out to the CSA a few times already, we have 600 lbs in the cooler, and 3 more beds left to dig.

Potatoes are one of the first things that get planted in the spring. Once upon a time we would crawl around on our hands and knees with a trowel. We’d bury the seed potatoes into the bed one by one. It took days. Little by little we’ve modified the way we plant to have the process go faster and smoother and this year I think we nailed it! We had 2 people sitting on our Mechanical transplanter. Their job was to send the seed potato down a metal shoot that dug a furrow in the bed and placed the potato right in. A tool on the tractor then covered up the furrow with dirt. You can watch the video below and see the little spuds slide down the shoot into their summer home.

Since the potatoes were planted mechanically, the rows were completely straight– meaning that Ben could weed them with the cultivating tractor with ease. Ben could also hill them (throw dirt up over the plant to further bury the growing tubers below) with the tractor using disks. At the same time as hilling and weeding, Ben dropped organic fertilizer with a spreader. Any crop that requires just one person to take care of makes us super happy!

Potatoes in their flowering glory

Potatoes in their flowering glory

After planting, the only time we need additional labor with the potatoes is the harvest. Ben runs down the bed with a chisel plow and (remember those oh so important straight rows?) is able to lift the potatoes right to the surface. The crew follows behind and places the potatoes into harvest bags.

2 beds dug and stored away (in sacks, of course), 3 more beds left to dig

2 beds dug and stored away (in sacks, of course), 3 more beds left to dig

Once all harvested, we are back to minimal labor. They store for months so we can keep them in our cooler, and just pull and wash as needed for market or CSA. Because yields were good this year and we have figured out an efficient management system of the crop, potatoes are looking like a good candidate for increased production in future years!! Plus they taste great and it’s fun to grow all the different varieties out there– all of which will make their way into future CSA boxes. (By the way– there is no need to peel our potatoes. The skin is tender and tasty)

Recipes

Onion strings (We made these for the first time this weekend and immediately I wondered how we could have raised sweet onions for years without this recipe in our lives. Amazing, worth the indulgence, and a new Saturday tradition for us!)

Potato Leek Soup

Vegetable chili

Aloo Bhindi

CSA Week 10

This Week’s Harvest

Sungold cherry tomatoes
Tomatoes
Globe eggplant
Candy onions
Garlic bulb
Green beans
Bell peppers
Cucumber
Salad mix
Summer squash and/or zucchini
Sweet corn

Fruit Share
Raspberries and blueberries from Berryhill Farm in Xenia

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News From the Farm

This week already marks the half way point of the CSA and the box screams summer. Tomatoes and eggplants are rolling in, the sweet corn is crisp and delicious and we have the fixings for some terrific summer salads. While the box reflects summer, the work on the farm has been centered around the fall for a couple weeks now. I spoke about our major fall brassica planting (which is looking good) and our onion harvest (which is fantastic – we have 1200 some pounds of onions in the cooler and at least that many still curing in the barn). This week we uncovered our winter squash. The plants have been growing under a row cover, which protects them from bugs and weather. The plants look really healthy and if all continues to go well we’ll have acorn and butternut squash as well as pie pumpkins, but not until the final shares.

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Recipes
Roasted corn and sungolds with pasta

Ratatouille

French Onion Soup (in case you are getting a stockpile of onions)

CSA Week 9

This Week’s Harvest

Sweet corn
Green or red cabbage
Green beans or dragon tongue beans
Fairytale eggplant
Summer squash and zuchinni
Red gold potatoes
Candy onions
Green bell peppers
Tomatoes
Cucumber OR sungold cherry tomatoes
Okra ( farm pick up only)

News From the Farm
While you have been enjoying the candy onions for some time now, we are gearing up for the remaining onion harvest this week. We still have a few weeks of candy onions left, but they do not store well so their season is shorter. We also grow red onions, a yellow storage onion and shallots. We have the red onions harvested and drying in the barn and are planning to pull the yellow onions and shallots tomorrow. So far, the candy and red onion harvest alone is more then our entire onion crop last season. We really focused on the onion crop this year and made a few changes to improve yields and size. Our efforts paid off!
First we start the onions – way back in February- in small open flats. A couple weeks later we pluck the seedings out and pot them up into individual cells. They grow in the greenhouse in these trays and are ready to be planted in April. Ben is able to cultivate them a few times with the cultivating tractor, but we do have to devote time to hand weeding the crop as well. In past years the hand weeding step has been trumped by other farm tasks, but this year we made it a priority. Then we watch and wait. Sometime in July the tops of the onions will flop over and when at least half of the crop has flopped over tops, you know it’s time to harvest them. For onions to have maximum storage life, they need to dry and develop skins. This happens by transforming our greenhouse tables into onion drying tables stacked in our barn. We are excited to see what tommorow’s haul brings and plan on having great onions for you all season long!
Here is a series of photographs that document the life of an onion on Mile Creek Farm!

Recipes
Grilled veggie pizza on naan

Veggie shish kabobs ( lots of vegetables in this weeks box are good candidates for shish kabobs– no need to be limited by the recipe)

Potatoes and green bean salad ( use candy onions in place of the red onion)

Onions starting to sprout

Onions starting to sprout

Potting up onions into individual cells

Potting up onions into individual cells

trailer full of onions ready to be planted

trailer full of onions ready to be planted

Planting day!

Planting day!

Field of freshly planted onions

Field of freshly planted onions

Weed free (for now!)

Weed free (for now!)

Candy onion harvest

Candy onion harvest

Red onions drying

Red onions drying

CSA Week 8

This Week’s Harvest

Red gold potatoes
Celery
Leeks
Candy onions
Summer squash and zucchini
Green beans OR okra
Rainbow kale
Jalapeño peppers
Tomatoes

Food notes
Our first green bean planting got stunted in a low lying wet section of the field so yields were really low, but we have more plantings on the way so the green bean amount in the boxes will increase. Okra is a veggie that we have to send out to individual pick up sites over the course of the season. Every pick up site will get it at least once this season. Field tomatoes are not quite ripening yet and this week’s harvest comes from the hoophouse. Tomato portions will be increasing soon!

Farm notes
While I am typing this post, the field crew is back at the farm transplanting our first fall brassica seeding. Brassicas are a major vegetable family including broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, kale among others. Brassicas like to mature in cooler weather, but we have to start thinking about them long in advance of the fall harvest. First we seeded a cover crop of buckwheat and hairy fetch in the field back in early June. Here you can see how tall the buckwheat got.

20140722-163814-59894519.jpgBuckwheat is a fast growing crop that helps with weed suppression and provides nutrients to the soil once it is mowed in and breaks down. Hairy fetch is a nitrogen fixing legume and brassicas love the extra nitrogen they provide. The wet weather we have had actually really help with our cover crop as we have no way to water it and have to leave it up to Mother Nature.
Then, a week or so before planting we have to mow the cover crop down– preferably before it has gone to seed! Ben had to fix our mower and got it done just in time to do just that!

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Yesterday Ben chisel plowed the beds (which helps with soil compaction) and tilled the field. This picture was taken this morning and really shows the beds, nice and ready for planting.

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Then we had to prep the plants. In the past we have covered our brassicas with row cover to protect against cabbage moths and flea beetles, but our hoops and row cover are still being used by the winter squash (to protect against cucumber nettles, squash vine borer and squash bugs!) We have heard from several vegetable farmers of an easier yet still effective way to combat pests so we are trying it this year. It is called Surround and is an organic control derived from kaolin clay. It coats the plants in a layer of film that insects find unsuitable for eating or laying eggs. Here is picture of the plants with Surround on them. They look to me like they have been to one of those “color runs” that Dayton just hosted.

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Finally, the planting can begin! It took all day, but we got it done. While today was quite hot, a cold front coming through should provide for some nice cooler temps to get the planting good and established. IMG_1490
Meanwhile, on this week’s agenda is starting another round of fall brassicas in the greenhouse. So we will be doing this whole process again in about a month!

Recipes
Bhindi masala (one of our employees suggests this recipe for yummy, not slimy okra!)

Sautéed summer squash with beans and leeks

Summer squash and potato gratin (feel free to use zucchini as well)

Potato salad ( any recipe will do– just include potatoes, celery, sweet onion and any dressing you choose!)

Jalapeño poppers

CSA Week 7

This Week’s Harvest

Globe eggplant OR fairytale eggplant
Green peppers
Swiss chard
Candy onions
Celery
Carrots
Cucumber
Tomato (first of the season, let it fully ripen on the kitchen counter)
Beets with beet greens
Summer squash and/or zucchini

Farm Notes

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One of my favorite parts of this job is when I am all alone in the early morning cutting our beautiful flowers. It’s not too hot, the dew and morning sunlight make for a picturesque scene, and I can slowly gear up for the busy day ahead. My only company is the pleasant chirping of song birds like indigo buntings, gold finch and song sparrows, and the occasional sound of the rapid wing flapping hummingbird. We really like operating a diverse farm that includes speciality cut flowers. The flowers provide beauty, a source of nourishment for bees and other pollinators, and attract beneficial insects to help control the populations of not so helpful insects.

Last year it became clear that we needed an additional walk in cooler just for flowers. By August the cooler was stuffed with the hundreds of sunflowers, the weekly vegetable harvest, plus storage crops like onions and potatoes. Well, I am happy to report that the cooler walls and floor are installed! And so, Mile Creek Farm is a couple days away from having a flower cooler! The timing is perfect as the onion harvest has begun– and looks terrific– with the potato harvest right around the corner and the flowers are productive as ever.

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In addition to having the CSA flower share, we also sell a hundred plus bouquets at 2nd Street Market on Saturdays and have recently delved into wedding flowers. Earlier this month, I made my first official bridal bouquet, bridal party bouquets, altar arrangements, and boutonnieres.

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Recipes
Beet and celery salad (you can use celery leaves in place of parsley and candy onion in place of green onions)

Swiss chard sausage and carrot orecchiette ( use carrots in place of parsnips. Add beet greens to the Swiss chard)

Roasted vegetables ( most veggies in this weeks box are great roasted, and with the cold front it’s a good week to fire up the oven!)

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