Monday, October 29, 2012

The start of chicory season

Last week when I harvested the last of the lettuce I wasn't sure what would actually be left for the shares this week. It turns out there is plenty, and some really great stuff. This is the first week for a chicory. I use the term loosely, meaning plants in the Cichorium genus broadly. I grow a number of vegetables that fall into that category, and I grow them in the fall and winter when I think they taste best. Today there is a head of escarole (C. endivia) which is delicious raw or cooked. The variety is Bionda Cuore Pieno, or blonde full heart. My favorite preparation is to slice the head thinly, crosswise, which effectively shreds it. Then I soak that in cold water for 20 minutes or so to crisp it up and to draw out any bitter, which accentuates the natural sweetness. An anchovie, or even just a salty, olive oily vinaigrette fully coating the leaves goes very well. Also in the share are a couple of old favorites: carrots, celery, kale and a small fennel. The carrots are a yellow variety that is excellent for cooking, and would make a nice base for soup or beans along with the celery. 

I was surprised today when it not only didn't rain (forecast was for 90% chance), but there was actually some beautiful blue in the sky, and it was dry enough to get a little more cover crop seeded. We'll see if my luck holds out for my delivery run this evening. I rigged up a new, lighter, sleeker prototype box for the front of the delivery bike so I'm excited to test it out. So far it's working well and is easier to load and unload.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cleaning up

It was a nice dry day today, perfect for getting a little clean up done in the field after harvest. The share is basically the same as Monday. A few folks got an extra head of lettuce. I cleaned out every last lettuce head today so that's it for lettuce this season. I also tore out the pepper plants and the beans, which were long done. In their place I seeded cereal rye as a cover crop. It's on the late side for seeding cover crop but I think it'll be fine looking at the weather forecast. I also did a bit of weeding and hoeing in the chicories and covered them all with row cover. They're all a bit behind where I'd like to see them right now so maybe the cover will help speed things up. Unfortunately the voles have found the radicchio and so I set some traps hoping to minimize the damage. They love the roots and eat both the root and the heart out of the plant, just leaving the outer leaves. I could use another day or two like this to finish cleaning up the last of the summer beds.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Designing the shares

The share is a bit smaller today. Beets are in abundance right now, so even though it feels like I'm overdoing it in the shares, that's what has done well this fall. Chard on the other hand is struggling and usually I wouldn't give out chard and beets in the same share since beet greens are so similar to chard, but in this case there is so little chard that I thought they could be used with the beet greens, which are also small. Leeks make their first appearance this fall. There is definitely a bit a dirt in the cracks and the easiest way to clean them I've found is to split them up the middle and then gently separate the layers while holding them under running water. The lettuce holds on for one last appearance thanks to the relatively mild temperatures, at least so far. Finally, there's a bit of coriander (cilantro that's going to seed). This is a little experimental, but it seems to have good flavor so I'd strip the leaves, chop it up finely with a bit of cashew, tamari and lime juice and then toss that on some noodles. Or you could do something else.

The shares I pack each week are designed to an extent in the previous fall when I decide what seeds to order and how much I'm going to plant. Really, the final edit is made on the day they are harvested when I have to decide what is ready now, what can wait, what is good enough to go in, and what just isn't worth harvesting. Frequently some plantings fail outright (many carrot and hakurei plantings this summer), and others do better than expected (beets are a stand out this year). What goes into the shares is controlled to an extent by me, but really it's a strong reflection of what is happening in the field and all the factors there: weather, pest and disease pressure, soil health, etc. To me, this is a big part of what makes CSA special, being tied to a specific place and getting to taste that place throughout the year.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Looking for Land part 2

Crossing the St. Johns Bridge
photo pulled from video by Ryan Creason

Back in May I posted about this being the last year that Slow Hand Farm will farm on Wild Goose Farm's Land. It's been a great four years but it's time to move on. I've managed to put off finding a new spot, growing in my own backyard and my neighbors' yard for the winter season. At this point I need to start up the search again. It's not that there aren't options out there, but for now I'm being picky. 

In my first post in May I listed the few essential characteristics for a new piece:
  • At least 5000 square feet of growing space, but 1/2 and acre or more might be nice for possible expansion (I am also considering contracting, so maybe less space?). 
  • I need at least 5 gallons per minute of clean water (more is better). 
  • It needs to be within a 12 mile radius of North Portland.
  • No pests whatsoever (I can dream can't I?)

But really there are a few other things that I'd like, and one of them is a space that's appropriate for having folks out to the farm to show them what I'm doing, and give them ideas for what they could do. The photos in this post were taken during a day that I had some folks from the OSU Small Farms program out making a video about the farm for part of a larger teaching series they're putting together.

Making deliveries to Near East Yoga
photo by Garry Stephenson
Over the past four seasons I've taught multiple workshops at the farm, had many visitors stop by for a tour, and almost as many folks come out to volunteer their labor in exchange for an opportunity to learn some of the techniques and to connect with the growing that happens on the farm. I've also hosted seasonal farm parties (not enough recently), and all of this is essential to my vision of agriculture being a community effort, and recognizing that as an essential part of our modern food system, it should also be more accessible and recognizable.

So, I'm back in the search and I have a couple more criteria that, while not essential, are important to me:

  • Space and capacity for hosting small workshops, parties and visitors
  • Good access to town by bike

If you know of anything please let me know. It's getting to be planning season and I'd love to start planning next season with a particular space in mind.

Josh Volk, Slow Hand Farm
photo pulled from video by Ryan Creason

Monday, October 15, 2012

Yay for the rain!

I'll admit it, usually I spend a little time trying to arrange the vegetables, at least so you can tell what's going on. Today, not so much, and the proportions of the vegetables are a little funny to me. On the bottom left there are shallots. These are leftover from the bumper crop that came this summer. They store wonderfully, but really they're so good you'll probably use them right away. They're kind of like an onion, but much more flavorful so use them in smaller quantities. Onion's not really right, I seem them compared to garlic sometimes, which kind of fits in some ways, but isn't right either.

Kale is back. There was a lot of aphid leftover from the summer but the leaves are looking great now so I'm cleaning up the plants. If you do find any aphid on the leaves just wipe them off (or ignore them), they're completely harmless. This rain and cool weather has brought out amazing color in the plants. They should continue to increase in flavor as the temperatures drop.

Celery, just one small stalk. I toss this in as something to chop finely with the shallot, sauté and use as a base for soup or cooking beans. It's probably not something you want to eat raw, although you could. It should have a ton of good celery flavor packed in and if this weather holds we'll get a little more. The plants went in late and didn't do terribly well, but the ones that survived are starting to take off. Unfortunately it doesn't hold up to frost so we need some more time.

Lettuce continues, and I'm still not sure if this is the last week or if it'll be next week. I did the lettuce plantings a bit differently this year, with bigger blocks of the same variety, meaning less week to week variation. I'm not sure if this was the right thing to do. Let me know if you'd like more variation from week to week next year.

Finally, there's a really big Hakurei turnip in the photo. My fall turnips completely failed, but Kji had this monsters as extras (a few folks get reasonable sized ones). I had a couple of bites, they're actually very tasty, although they wont' keep for long. The turnip greens are good cooking as well.

This is the first day of bike deliveries in the rain. I can tell it's going to take a few months to get my "outfit" just right. All in all, a pretty mild day though. The rain is germinating the cover crop that was seeded last week which is great. It also means no more irrigation work this season, also great!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Late Post, and Walnuts?

Thursday was a cold damp day. It didn't rain, but you could tell is was going to and I'm glad it did because I held off on irrigating, glad to at least be done with that. I'm a bit late with the post because I've been a little under the weather for the last week and I'm very behind with everything because of it. It was actually the first delivery by car I've done in months and it felt a little strange. I was sad to not be on the bike, but I just didn't have the energy. The good news is that just before the rain I did manage to get quite a bit of cover crop seed in, which I hope will now come up strongly.

I wanted to mention that a friend of mine who recently bought a walnut orchard in the Canby area is offering u-pick walnuts, kind of a unique experience. He also has walnuts that aren't u-pick. You can find out more at his new website -

Monday, October 8, 2012

Summer Fades

It's been an amazing run of sunny dry weather we've had so far. This morning was the first frost significant enough to do any damage, and only to the most sensitive herb, basil. Summer vegetables are basically done at this point. The summer squash and cucumber plants are composting tomatoes have just about given up for the season and the kale and chard are starting to recover from the heat stress of the summer. Peppers, they way I grow them, outside, without plastic, I think of as an early fall vegetable. This is probably the final week for them, but it's been a good season so far, especially compared to the last two. In the share there's also the last few tomatoes and a head of lettuce. The lettuce may hang in there for a week more. Today I harvested fennel, which is very nice, fronds are in there too and can be used in salad, or cooked. This has been the best beet year I've had on the farm so far, by far. I apologize if there's anyone out there who hasn't figured out how great beets are yet, there have been quite a few this year and they should keep coming. Both the roots and the greens are edible, but they should be separated for storage (I should have done this for you, next time perhaps). Finally, theres a few sprigs of thyme for seasoning (not in the above photo for some reason). 

Clean up in the fields  continues and tomorrow I'm hoping to get a bunch of cover crop seeded. It's supposed to actually rain this weekend which would be good for the cover crop seeds. We'll see what actually happens.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Cleaning Up From Summer

Today's share is more or less the same as Monday's, not everyone got a cucumber, but there was an extra pepper in every share. The tomatoes are slowing way down with this cooler streak as well, and I actually saw a little frost on the grass this morning, although I'm sure it was just due to a clear sky. 

This afternoon I pulled all of the summer squash and cucumber plants to make way for cover crops. The plants were pretty close to dead already, although they were still trying to make more fruit. I also pulled all of the drip tape out of the fields to make it easier to clear space for the cover crops, and in hopes that it will rain one day. In the mean time I have some sprinkler lines that I'm using to irrigate the fall crops. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

First Fall Harvest

Kji did the first harvest for solar fall last week, but today is the first day of fall for Slow Hand Farm shares. The summer crops are just barely hanging on and for those who are continuing from the summer season you may notice the seasonal differences.

Today's share has some beautiful Napoli carrots. The voles have started to show up so it's time to start trapping before they eat the rest if the roots. Lettuce continues along with what is probably the last if the cucumbers and summer squash. Tomatoes are slowing down but as long as the weather stays dry they will likely be with us another week or two. Peppers are in their peak right now. I've put some bell peppers in the shares that have a little sunburn. Most of the pepper is good, but the white part needs to be cut out. All of the peppers will benefit from sitting out an coloring a bit more. Rounding out the shares are a few sprigs of dill.

In the field I'm busy clearing old beds and making way for cover crops. I'm loving this dry weather but one good soaking rain would make seeding the cover crops much easier. I'll take the dry though and see about running some extra overhead water.