Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spring Break

Last Friday was a beautiful sunny day, perfect for getting a few beds seeded. I even managed to toss a few fingerling potatoes in the ground.

This week I'm on a kind of busman's holiday, visiting Foxglove Farm on Salt Spring Island in BC. They're planting strawberries between showers and preparing ground in the tunnels for tomatoes. I'm getting to hang out with the SOLE Food crew, who is having a little training up here, and enjoying some excellent food.

Next week is the first week of the spring harvest season. I'm hoping for more dry weather to get more plants in the ground. Harvest starts on Thursday and the sun would help speed up a few of the early greens too.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Happy Spring! It's still cold and wet, but I have it on good word that the La Niña pattern we've been stuck in could be going away by April - lets hope. Yesterday I was happy to have enough dry to prepare two beds well enough to get favas seeded and the above pictured Kweik lettuce starts planted.  Unfortunately the Emerald Oak and Flashy Lightning lettuce starts I planted and covered two weeks ago are hardly growing and the slugs are finding them.  Yep, it's wet and cold. This is the game every spring though.  Plan and plant with the hope of warm weather at some point, then wait. If it doesn't work out, plant more and harvest later.  Meanwhile, the garlic and chives are coming up strong, as are the radishes and turnips in the greenhouse. 

Kji enjoying the balmy lunch time weather

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bike Transport

Yesterday was a great day for a bike delivery trial. Mike Cobb from Antload lent me his Yuba Mundo, and one of his great lashing systems so I could try it out.  Even with the copious rain I had a great time and completely wore myself out. 

The route ended up being 33 miles, a bit more than I originally thought.  Half of that was with a load of boxes filled with CSA shares, probably only 70 or so extra pounds of payload.  As long as the road was flat or slightly downhill all was fine, but anytime there was even a slight uphill it was painfully obvious and I slowed to a crawl. 

Mike only had one of his lashing systems to loan me so I used a bunch of webbing I had to lash the other side.  Having tried to lash with the webbing vs. Mike’s system, Mike’s system rocks - so much easier. Mike also has an iphone mount on the handle bars - oh, it's the little things that are so nice!

The whole ride into town I was busy thinking about better rack systems for the boxes.  It was also clear to me that electric assist would make a huge difference in the feasibility of the system.  I can do the ride, but I was pressed to keep on schedule even leaving an hour earlier than I usually do and not spending any time on the blog.  I was also pretty worked by the time I got to Near East Yoga, which was partly due to not being in shape, but also had something to do with hauling that much weight that far.

The ride took me almost 4 hours.  I think I could cut that in half with the electric assist and if I were in shape.  As a comparison, when I drive it takes me about 1 hour. 

The Yuba was a workhorse.  It reminded me of the beater trucks that are ubiquitous on farms. It’s not a high end vehicle, but it’s utilitarian and very functional. The frame handled my load with no troubles (although a special rack for the boxes would make loading way easier).  I could see some of the advantages of the long john style bikes, and the more agressive position of something like the Bullitt (I’m still temped to test one of those on the route), but a used Yuba is definitely more in my price range.

More on the Greens

So, there are a variety of stories on the greens in this week's share. Catalogna is probably the most unusual in this country.  It looks a lot like dandelion greens, and is closely related.  There are different types of catalogna, this one, at this point in the season, has nice thick leaf ribs that are crunchy, with the typical slight bitterness of a chicory, but good, fresh sweetness too.  You can make a typical chicory salad with these greens, but I also like cooking them in bean soups, and they hold up to sautéing as well.

The red, frilly green is a kind of mild mustard called ruby streaks.  It's a great salad ingredient, by itself or in a mix.

This time of year many plants in the brassica family start to go to flower.  Those flower stalks, called raab, are delicious and very nutritious.  The most standard raab is broccoli raab, which is more like a mild mustard than broccoli.  It's the one with broad, light green leaves and small florets.

Slightly darker raab is coming from the arugula right now.  This has a spicy mustard bite and is great in salad, or cooked.

Unusual is Hakurei turnip raab.  You might recognize this from the small white roots I left on.  Because of the timing on this planting the plants are going to flower before sizing up the roots, but the good news is that the leaves and flower stalks are super tasty.

Finally, the kale that we planted last spring, and harvested last summer, all fall and winter, is now creating wonderful raab, and this is the most broccoli like raab we have on the farm.  I don't actually like broccoli that much, but I love this raab which has lots of sweet kale flavor.

With a little luck we'll keep the raab going for the first spring shares which start at the beginning of April.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


I'm running a bit late on deliveries so I'll post more detail later. Needless to say from the photo and title, today's share is all about greens. Broccoli raab, catalogna, arugula, ruby streaks mustard, kale raab and Hakurei raab. All great in stir fry, and a few other things as well. More soon.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Part of the community in CSA

When I started this whole project Casey at Near East Yoga was the one that convinced me that it should be a CSA from the start, and Near East Yoga has been the main distribution site for the CSA shares since the beginning.

I've been practicing yoga at Near East for at least eight years now (I've lost track).  I started a yoga practice to strengthen my back, which I've always had some problems with.  Through the practice I've definitely become more aware of how my physical body works.  I didn't expect more than just a physical practice when I first started, but the yoga has taught me a lot more than just how to get my back stronger.

Casey is offering a new track for folks new to the practice.  Near East Yoga is very different than most yoga studios, offering more individualized instruction and an open, supporting environment for developing your own practice at your own pace.  This is a wonderful extension of eating seasonally with the CSA, and requires a similar commitment to regular practice.

I know that many of you already practice at the studio, but for those that don't this is a great way to check it out - or you might just come to a regular mysore time and learn the yoga the way I did, one pose at a time.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Another sunny day

I've been getting lucky with the weather recently. Today was dry and even a bit sunny, about as good as it gets for prepping beds and planting this time if year. I was especially excited to have the new farm cart to try out.  Roger dropped it off on Thursday as I was racing off to do deliveries.  It doesn't have a proper bed yet, but I tossed my digging board on it and used it to haul tools, compost and plants around all day and it works great.

Today the first of the lettuce got planted out.  Radishes got seeded outside, and in the greenhouse I seeded more lettuce, the kale for the next year, and a bit of fennel.  Very successful day all around.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Snow slowed down the harvest a bit this morning. I was able to use the time to do a bit of cleanup in the greenhouse, but it did set me back enough that the share is a bit smaller than I had planned. There just wasn't enough time to harvest and clean everything.

In the share is frisee which has been incredible this winter. There is also a bunch of collard greens and the last of the salsify. There is one more share after this one so I'm hoping the weather will be good and I can load up a few of the vegetables that got missed today.  This time of year there's a lot of mud and damaged leaves to deal with so harvest and packing takes longer than at any other time of year.  That combined with the short days makes it tougher to get everything done in one day.

I made time to seed a patch of peas today as well.  The bed was prepared on Monday and it dried out just enough this afternoon to seed them and then cover the bed with plastic to speed germination.  Keep your fingers crossed, I'd love to see a good crop of shell peas this summer.