Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Newsletter #4: May 2010

What could a farmer relish more than a string of rainy days, for his vines to swell, his gait to soften and his mind to wander, burying the debris of to-dos in the bliss of blankets and blankness. It is one of the great pleasures of farming to take a respite when Nature suggests it prudent. And rest has never felt so prudent. It is easy to live inside a to-do list, to order your existence around an illusion of tidy efficiency. It is one thing to continually “achieve” completion but quite another to achieve the clarity of knowing nothing is complete and to be O.K. with imperfection. It is enough to know that if you act according to your truth, your every action is complete.

Organic farming challenges any illusion of stasis in life. Change reigns supreme…you ride the wave or get swept out by the tide. Tidy as you may try to be, growth will continue, and growth can hurt, like weeding a hundred-foot row of onions. Weeds are like emotions – kill them off in one fell swoop (with, say, Roundup) and those that survive will regenerate into uber-weeds, peskier than ever. Bury an unwanted emotion or trauma, and the hurt becomes a complex of hurt, increasingly more potent. Somehow hand-weeding is more like “dealing” or “talking it out”. Satisfying? Not necessarily. But it sure is easier to sift and manage the buggers before they spread unchecked. I think you catch my drift.

Besides weeding and psychobabbling, we are still planting. Some crops are best succession planted so the harvest is spread out. Its better having just enough sweet corn to eat (or to sell) for a month than to have a lot all at once, so we are trying to extend our projected harvests of most crops to achieve a sort of drawn-out smorgasbord. In addition to planting, we are considering trellising the many green trails leading every which way. I say considering because there is a long way to go in this department. Tomatoes, Pole Beans and Cucumbers are the first to come to mind…they grow best upright. And if there any hope of winning the battle of the weeds, much straw will be spread.

Early heat and the miracle of drip irrigation, mixed with a bit of sweat on the brow and eventual rain has brought on a flush of growth: sugar snap peas and sugar beets are ripe and sweet fennel is near. Potatoes and garlic are blooming, meaning June harvests a possibility. We began eating cherry tomatoes here and there last week, though we don’t expect to get a proper harvest until it heats up once again. All you CSA members can expect more lettuce for as long as we can fend off the hot, hot weather and broccoli for at least another week (to be followed by cabbages). I hope all you “Plus” members enjoyed the all-natural strawberries provided by Ken Vanhoy of Rail Fence Farm in Kernersville. They were perhaps the finest I’ve tasted. The eggs are compliments of Christina Nazarro of Dragonfly Farm in Pfafftown and Donna Dunlap of Pinnacle. The eggs will be mainstays of the “Plus” program.

I’m sure some of you are wondering why some of the lettuce and broccoli you have been receiving are not like your standard grocery fare. Commercially grown vegetables are typically varieties bred for two characteristics: shelf life and uniformity of appearance. These characteristics come at the expense of taste and character. The lettuces you have been eating are rarely found in markets because they are tender: they wilt and thus quickly shed the illusion of freshness. (Grocery chains are not so much interested in freshness but the appearance of it.) The same goes for broccoli. You all have been receiving (mainly) heirloom, or open-pollinated varieties that have not been hybridized for shelf-life or uniformity. Heirloom broccoli can grow limp quickly, as it is meant to be eaten right out of the garden. Tenderness is a quality in vegetables, like meat, that lends itself to palatability and downright tastiness. Essentially the flavor has been bred out of so many commercial vegetables. Perhaps that is why a child that won't eat salads will change their mind after eating delicate Bibb Buttercrunch or rosy Rouge D’hiver. (Such was the case with a certain CSA member.)

Heirloom plants are those whose characteristics have not been hybridized over time; the seeds have been harvested and handed down over generations, so that when they are planted they are true-to-type. Preserving this tradition helps preserve the diversity of edibles that have colored our culinary and cultural history. Many of the crops we grow at Harmony Ridge are raised from heirloom seed stock. This is why our vegetables have character.

I’ve been pleased with the ease with which the CSA deliveries have been conducted thus far. I would like to thank you all for being as prompt as possible. I have been quite lenient in these first two weeks as far as providing special arrangements for those unable to attend the designated delivery times. However, I cannot guarantee that this will always be the case due to time limitations. If you are unable to attend, please have a friend pick up your basket for you. However, I am a reasonable man, and sometimes a back-up plan is necessary. Any baskets that go unaccounted for I will leave on the front porch of our barn inside a cooler through the weekend. Those that go unclaimed will be donated to my kitchen.

A few other things swimming around my head…recipes are meant to be kept. You may either leave the plastic attached to the basket to be reused or keep it – it’s up to you. Any containers, particularly berry quart boxes or egg cartons may be left inside the previous week’s basket to be reused. The lettuce, as you may know will keep outside the fridge as long as the root ball remains moist. It will keep in the fridge just as well. If the leaves are removed from the plant, they may be preserved per the instructions for storing greens provided by my mom, Wendy. I hope you all have been enjoying her recipes. I would like to thank her for all the hard work she’s put into providing these and for making each week’s delivery less like a plain, old crate of vegetables and more like a neatly wrapped present.

Which leads me to an outpouring of gratitude. There are some family members whose gracious help has egregiously gone unmentioned. My Dad, Kevin, and grandfather, Dale, are the foremost in my mind, as they have given much time and effort not only to help out with the many farm chores but to help shape the man I am. As many of you know, my Dad works full-time in a high-stress position and still manages to be here almost every day putting in his very best. Dale and my grandma Betty helped shape my desire to live an honest life on a farm as I spent many-a-summer on their small farm in Ohio as a youth. At almost 80 years old, Dale has a work ethic like no one I know: when he visits, I can scarce keep up with him. Much of the wood we have stockpiled for next winter was cut by him (and my Dad). I would also like to thank my “Uncle” Phil of PA. He handled our BCS walk-behind tractor like a champ. Thanks also to Mark O’Neil, a good friend of the family from St. Louis. He helped me accomplish in a couple hours what would have taken me an entire day. Thanks also to my wife, Holly, who has provided much needed moral support.

I look forward to seeing you all later this week for our third round of CSA deliveries. As indicated, you all can expect a little more variety this week: beets and sugar snap peas in addition to broccoli, herbs, spring onions and lettuces. To recap our revised weekly delivery schedule:

Thursday, on-farm, between 5 and 7 PM. 3835 Bowens Rd., Tobaccoville, 27050.

Fridays at New Planet Yoga between 10:30 and 11 AM

And then at my parents’ house between 11:45 AM and 1:15 PM. If any of you need to change your usual pick-up locale please let me know. Once again, I ask you to please stick to a weekly routine so your share winds up in the right place. Oh, and don’t forget to bring last week’s empty crate!

I wish you all a salubrious week.

K. Isaac Oliver


Harmony Ridge Farms

P.S. To any of you wishing to join our CSA or know of anyone interested, I have begun a waiting list. We may open up more shares for purchase in the near future.

I leave you all with some more pictures from the farm…

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ken Vanhoy's Strawberries

Wanted to share this...Ken grows the strawberries all you "plus" members received last week. He's a good man. Growing all-natural strawberries is no easy task. http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/notes/krankies-farmers-market/strawberry-fields-forever-ken-vanhoys-quest-for-pesticide-free-strawberries/121138874574077