Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Birch Point CSA Week 9: Soil Moisture=Increased Production and Weeds!

It finally feels like bounty has returned-- we are proud to share this week's harvest with you, and look forward to more diversity and quantity over the weeks to come.  We'll try to make sure your boxes are full and delicious without overwhelming you.  Keep in mind: we'll send an end-of-season survey, to help guide decisions next season, but we welcome your feedback any time!  Keep the comments, suggestions, and questions coming, please.

In Your Share This Week:

Swiss Chard- this most gorgeous of leafy greens is in the beet and spinach family-- in fact, chard and beets are the same species (Beta vulgaris)!  Our favorite preparation is a simple saute-- saute onions and/or garlic with chopped chard stems in olive oil, add in chopped leaves and saute til tender (not mushy).  Douse with your favorite acidic condiment (CSA member Kat Eldred recommends the espresso balsamic vinegar from Fustini's).  Perhaps some grated parmesan or toasted, chopped pecans?

Italian Parsley-- these generous bunches are intended to be used like a vegetable, not a garnish. Did you know parsley is an excellent source of vitamin C?  Besides its nutritional value, parsley is delicious-- of course there's the classic tabbouleh salad (chopped parsley, chopped tomatoes, diced onions/garlic, bulgur wheat, lots of lemon juice and olive oil), but use your imagination-- parsley is wonderful as the base of a salad, tossed with marinated and/or grilled summer squash chunks, coarsely chopped and tossed into hot (or cold) soup by the handful- not just a sprinkle, a handful ;)  And of course parsley potatoes  (to die for-- toss lots of chopped parsley with hot, bite-sized potato chunks and LOTS of butter, some salt and pepper. Cream=optional)!  It's hard to go wrong with Italian parsley-- we prefer it to the curly parsley for its superior flavor AND ease of cleaning (less dirt gets stuck in the large, flat leaves), but any parsley is a good thing.

Summer Squash/Zucchini OR Cucumbers-- more of these beautiful and tasty members of the Cucurbit family.  Check last week's blog for a marinated summer squash salad recipe.  Use little cucumbers the same way you'd use big ones. cheers!

Sweet onions-  you may get Walla Walla or Ailsa Craig, the two varieties we grew this year.  Sweet onions are fantastic as themselves (try marinating thick rings along with cucumber slices and serve as salad OR throw slices or halves on the grill just til hot) or in cooking-- they're not as pungent as yellow or red storage onions, so even the onion-averse might decide they like onions after all after trying these.

Beans!  Beans are really coming in like mad.  The pole beans (yellow Gold of Bacau, green Fortex, or Purple Podded Pole Beans) are producing crazy amounts of beans, and the second planting of bush beans (green, purple, and yellow) are coming into their own and starting to produce.  You could see any of these or a mix in your share this week. Try a fresh (uncooked) chopped bean, parsley, sweet onion, and cherry tomato salad with vinaigrette- yum.

Potatoes- the very first potato harvest!  We sample-harvested a bunch of different varieties just to check progress, and ended up with a nice amount to share with you. You may see Anushka (medium yellow-skinned white flesh), Purple Viking (purple skin with red streaking and white flesh), Bintje (small yellow/tan-skinned, pale yellow flesh), or any number of different redskin varieties.  A few shares may get fingerlings-- tiny potatoes with thin, tender skin that you can cook and eat whole. We determined that most of the spuds could stand to size up a little more, so we'll probably skip a couple of weeks at least before the next potato harvest.  It promises to be a GREAT potato season once they do size up!

Pea shoots- Saturday and Monday shares got pea shoots in their shares this week. Our favorite thing to do with them is a very brief, hot saute with generous amounts of minced garlic.  You can also toss them into any salad or at the end of any stir-fry.  They taste like peas, as you might imagine, and are a fun twist on greens.  Tuesday and Wednesday shares will get pea shoots in a couple of weeks, and extra beans for the time being.

Tomatoes- finally the field-grown tomatoes are starting to ripen!  Up til now we've gotten about a dozen tomatoes TOTAL from outdoors (not hoophouse-grown).  This week marks a turning point in that we finally have some ripe heirlooms coming in. At CSA pickup, your farmers are happy to help identify the different varieties by name and characteristics, if you're curious. If you just want to slice and eat them and do your own taste comparison, that's great too.  Fingers crossed for a critical mass to continue to ripen each week til frost! tip: never store a tomato in the fridge.  Keep at room temp for best eating quality (flavor and especially texture).

Cherry Tomatoes- the same mix of reds, Sungolds, bumblebees, and black (brown) varieties you've seen the past several weeks.  Enjoy!

OK, that's the list for now-- more juicy farm news next week ;)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Birch Point CSA Week 8: the rain came down! the spirits lifted.

The latest additions to the farm!

Glad I waited til today to send this newsletter- finally, the news we've been waiting to report: It rained on the farm!   Most of Tuesday we harvested in a steady drizzle that bordered on downpour at times.  The crew donned raincoats, rain pants, wellies, and hats, and STILL managed to get soggy socks and underwear-- hallelujah!  I've never been so happy to be so soggy. We got under 0.5" but that was enough to moisten the soil to the point where the low-pressure drip irrigation can finally keep up-- drip irrigation is wonderful for minimizing evaporative loss and foliar fungal disease, directing water at the plant root zones, and for ease of use, BUT by design it delivers less water at once than an overhead system.  Drip systems work great when there is already some soil moisture present; this year's incredible drought left many of our plants growing in dusty bricks instead of moist soil, and our well and irrigation system has not been able to keep up.  So we're going to keep irrigating, now that a base level of moisture has been restored, in order to keep it up for the rest of the season. Please DO keep those rain dances coming, though!

In Your Share This Week

Arugula- it's back!  This nutty, slightly spicy leafy baby green is super versatile- we like to use it as salad when it's so tender, but you can also quickly steam or saute it to enjoy with pasta or grain (cooking cuts what little spice is there, if your palate is on the mild side).   I recently ordered arugula salad at a great TC restaurant and was disappointed that it was basically micro-greens-- elegant looking, yet next to no substance on the fork or flavor on the palate. I prefer to know I've got food on my fork when enjoying a salad, so we let our arugula grow larger than that. We hope you like the more substantial leaf size-- it's still "baby," as this is the first cutting from these plants, so it's tender and mild.  What's YOUR favorite size of salad green? psst....have you tried arugula pesto? If you like arugula, you may love it. Just sub arugula for basil. yum.

Sweet onions: the first sweet onions are in! These are mainly a variety called Walla Walla, and they are smaller than any Walla Walla I've ever grown-- the drought hit them pretty hard. However, the sweet flavor is delicious as always.  Sweet onions keep best in the refrigerator due to their high water content, though there's no need to refrigerate if you use them within the week.

Basil- it's pesto time! See below for our favorite pesto recipe, OR enjoy basil fresh with sliced or chopped tomatoes, pasta, on bruschetta, tossed with a marinated green bean-and-summer squash salad, sky's the limit really. IMPORTANT: Basil does NOT like temps lower than 50 degrees F, which means do NOT refrigerate, or the leaves will turn brown and mushy.  Treat it like a cut flower for max shelf life: re-trim the ends of the stems, place upright in water in a small jar or vase on your counter top.  Try to keep the leaves out of water; they'll last longer dry. Trim leaves/stems as you need them for garnish OR toss the whole darn thing into the blender/cuisinart for pesto (yes, even stems, unless they're woody).

Summer Squash/Zukes OR Cucumbers- your choice.  The summer squash and zucchini have been bonzo the last couple of weeks; cucumbers- not so much.  You may see pattypans ("spaceship" squash), crooknecks, green or gold zucchini, pale green cousa "stuffing" squash, or classic green slicing cucumbers, little yellow cukes, green or white pickling cukes. All cukes are interchangeable with each other; all summer squash/zukes are interchangeable-- personal preference for shape and color is the major difference.  We'll try to make sure everyone gets plenty of both over the course of the season.  The current planting of squash is still going strong, and the later planting is coming on. There will probably be a little lull between the two waves of squash/cukes, but I think tomatoes, eggplant and peppers will fill that in nicely. See below for marinated squash and green bean salad recipe.

Tomatoes-- all I can say is "thank goodness for plastic!"  Seriously-- there's some irony there, but if we didn't have a hoophouse, you'd have next to no tomatoes yet this year! Almost every cherry tomato and all the slicing tomatoes we've had this year have come from the hoophouse.  The late spring and cool summer temps are the opposite conditions of what tomatoes like.  Inside the hoophouse, tomatoes got planted earlier and have a warmer environment, so they've been very productive (though we're just starting to see the tidal wave we normally see 2-3 weeks earlier in the year).  Outdoor tomatoes are just hanging out, being green-- we'll feel lucky if we get two months of harvest from them this summer/fall.  We planted enough paste tomatoes to offer canning/preserving shares (1 lug paste tomatoes for $35), but until we get a heat wave, all canning/preserving orders are on hold til further notice. I'm getting itchy to can and roast and freeze, too!

Beans- so many varieties!  You may see classic green beans, purple beans (warning: they turn green when cooked, so serve raw for max purpleness), green pole beans (a variety called Fortex, which grow extremely long and convoluted and are fun to pick and to eat), or yellow pole beans (a variety called Gold of Bacau, my favorite bean- it grows big, long, and flat, a "romano" style that is fantastic when it gets longer and bigger- not starchy or tough like other big beans).  We tend to eat beans raw, with or without hummous or other dip, but of course you can steam, saute, or grill them, too.  The long beans are fantastic laid crosswise on the grill, brushed with olive oil, and just lightly cooked. yum.

Turnips- either small white Hakureis or red Scarlet Queens.  The summer turnips are finally sizing up! These two varieties are both so mild and tender that they're best enjoyed raw.  Hakureis are even milder and more tender than Scarlets; we usually eat them out of hand, like little apples, though slicing and salting first is even more delicious.  Turnips are also wonderful cooked, of course-- my fave preparation is cut into bite sized pieces, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet and roast at 400 F for 20-40 min (depending on size of chunks) til edges are brown and caramelized and centers are soft. Enjoy.

Beet greens-- the first "beets" of the season, finally!!!!! A few shares might be lucky enough to get actual beets on the greens, but most folks will get the thinnings this week, which are intended to be used for greens.  Beet greens are totally interchangeable with Swiss chard in recipes -- they're actually the same species; just different varieties! My fave is a simple saute with onions or garlic, olive oil, toasted walnuts, a generous amount of balsamic vinegar, and a little heavy cream and chunked goat or feta cheese stirred in at the last minute. Try a pinch of ground nutmeg for fun.


1. Flower shares: we did NOT harvest flowers Tuesday due to the rain (water spots on petals reduces flower quality; I'd rather people get high quality flowers!).  Tuesday flower shares can pick up Sat at market, and/or doubles next week Tuesday.

2. Wednesday Little Fleet pickup will be unstaffed today; please take the box with your name on it and leave last week's box in a tidy stack in the corner. thank you!

Meet Your Farmers:

This week's featured farmers: Jae Gerhart (aka Jaebird) and Christina Barkel (aka Tina Sparkles)

This is Jae’s first season at Birch Point Farm.  After completing the Student Organic Farmer Training Program at MSU in 2010, she worked as the Production Manager of Sunseed Farm in Ann Arbor and piloted “The Goat Project,” a small goat-share CSA.  Jae is super stoked to be up in the Leelanau County area growing vegetables.  When she’s not farming she can be found swimming, biking (on her brand new Bianchi road bike!), or dancing.  Fun fact: Jae can walk on her hands for an unrealistic amount of time.  She LOVES ranch dressing and really really really loves dancing. 
Inline image 1
Farmer Jae with Allu

Christina grew up in Metro Detroit and has called Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ferndale home. She attended the University of Michigan, where she studied Environmental Justice. After college, Christina worked her first farm job at Frog Holler Farm in Brooklyn, Michigan, where she learned the fine art of salad making, carrot weeding and wheel-hoeing, among other glamorous skills. She next moved to Ypsilanti to work for Growing Hope, an urban farm and non-profit dedicated to healthy food access. Along the way Christina has also gained experience doing farm-to-school work, outdoor advocacy and nutrition education. A new resident to Traverse City, Christina hopes to call the area home for many years in the future. Christina is excited to be part of the Birch Point crew this year - she loves the physical and mental challenge of farming but is really in it for the food and the community. 
Farmer Christina at market


Birch Point Pesto
2 c. basil- include stems if they're tender and not woody
1/2 c. nuts- either toasted pine nuts or walnuts or sunflower seeds, or any combo of any of those
2 fat garlic cloves, peeled
big pinch salt
1/2 c grated parmesan (optional-- can also be added just before serving)
1/2 c olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
pinch black pepper

Toss it all in the cuisinart and buzz til it's a consistency you like.  I tend to leave it slightly chunky so tiny pieces of nuts and leaves are still identifiable, but creamy is equally wonderful.  If using a blender, you might need to stop and push everything back down into the blades once or twice, and/or add more liquid (olive oil or lemon juice). If freezing for future use, I usually leave out the cheese, since frozen cheese can make the texture weird.  Tip: try substituting arugula, parsley, dill, or cilantro for the basil-- equally delicious and versatile!

Marinated Summer Squash and Green Bean Salad
1 pint worth of mixed summer squashes/zucchini, sliced super thin-- if you have a mandoline, that's ideal. If not, just get your sharpest knife and your razor-sharp eyeballs and slice squash super thin, lengthwise.
2 small sweet onions, sliced crosswise into thin rings
1/2 quart green (or purple or yellow or a mix) beans, stems removed and "frenched" (if you have a bean frencher- yes, it's a thing) or cut lengthwise into skinny shards. Don't sweat this step too much; just slice them into something pretty and edible rather than entire pods.
1/2 c. chopped or chiffonaded fresh herbs-- our faves are basil, dill, mint, or anise hyssop, but any fresh herb you've got on hand will be delicious
1 c. apple cider OR white wine OR rice vinegar
1/2 c. olive oil
generous pinch salt and pepper

Mix oil and vinegar, s/p, onions, and fresh herbs in the bottom of a mixing bowl.  Add squash and beans, toss to coat evenly.  Let marinate in the fridge 15-20 min or longer.  Toss again before serving.

Birch Point Tuesday Vegetable Soup-- Tuesday was the first day that felt like soup weather in a long time! So this is what we cobbled together for lunch.

2 med summer squash, cubed into bite sized pieces
2 med potaoes, cubed into bite sized pieces
3 med sweet onions, coarsely chopped
1 c frozen corn from last summer
1 c cooked dried beans (or one can beans of your choice)
2 tsp celery seed
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
4 Tbsp butter
1 very generous sploosh olive oil
1 qt. canned tomato juice from last summer
1 pint canned tomato sauce from last summer
2 c. water
1 Tbsp "Better than Bouillon" veggie bouillon-in-a-jar

Heat olive oil and butter til butter melts. Saute onions, celery seed, salt and pepper til onions are browned. Meanwhile in large pot, heat tomato juice and sauce, add chopped potatoes, beans, and frozen corn.  Add browned onions to soup, use remaining fat in pan to saute summer squash til browned.  Add to soup, scraping every last drop of oil/butter and celery seed/pepper into the soup.
Follow bouillon directions (add to hot water, then add that to soup, stir well). Top with fresh minced onion, fresh diced herbs, sour cream and/or grated cheese (optional).

Christina and Brenin on our sailing outing

Monday, August 4, 2014

Birch Point CSA News Week 7: Still no rain :( Veggies still growing :)

What's in Your Share This Week

Lettuce: Most of you will be getting the wonderful red and green butterhead variety

called Skyphos. Not only is it one of our favorites for looks and taste, it has been

handling the warm, dry conditions remarkably well. Some people may get crisp green romaine or green butterhead.

Cherry Toms: Thank goodness these summer delights like these conditions. The

Sungolds are really producing and the other cherries are starting to ripen as well.

Salad mix: Still going strong but there may be a lull for a couple weeks as the next

crop grows out.

Rutabaga greens: Kind of a new crop for us, but a fun surprise. They are very

similar to turnip greens but with a little more substance. They are great prepared

the same way as any braising green.

Summer Squash: So many great kinds of squash this time of year and not your

grandma’s baseball bats either (though we’ll have those for you zucchini bread

lovers). We harvest squash and zukes when they are small and tender. Many of you

may be familiar with the Pattypan type shaped like a flying saucer, but for those of

you uninitiated, this is another type of summer squash. The name comes from the

French word for a kind of baking pan or patisson.

Peppers OR Eggplant: These crops don’t mind the dryness so much, but they really

want heat, which it seems we’re finally getting after so many chilly nights. There

is a mix of eggplant varieties this season including the standard black elongated

type. Don’t be intimidated by any green ones you might see. This is a variety called

Applegreen and it’s one of my favorites. I was actually quoted in the Fedco seed

catalogue this year singing its praises. I think it holds its texture really well, which is

nice if you don’t like your eggplant mushy. I’ve been sautéing it by itself lately to put

on sandwiches. You may get a smattering of green or colored bell peppers, Feherezon paprika peppers in yellow-green stage (shaped like a frying pepper, mostly sweet with a touch of heat sometimes), and/or Hungarian Hot Wax-- long, lime green, sweet-hot.

Beans: Both our bush beans and pole beans are producing now. I like all kinds

of fresh beans, but am especially fond of the flat poded Romano type. They get

nice and big, which makes them fast and easy to pick, but have a nice juicy crunch.

Everyone will have a chance this type, but we also have green, yellow and purple

podded round beans.

Herbs, Dill, Parsley or Cilantro

Mini Cabbage: Either compact green heads (Early Jersey OR Gonzales) or tiny reds. These little guys are a baby variety called Red Express that has been

grown for European markets for a while now. It can be prepared any way you

would cook cabbage, but these might be fun cut in half and either roasted in the

oven or grilled. Have fun!

In some boxes depending on the day of pickup:

Slicing Tomatoes: Yay! Tomatoes are in. These are mainly from the hoop house,

but the flavor has been really great. The field tomatoes are starting to produce as

well. Those who don’t get slicers this week will get more cherries.

Cucumbers: We’re starting to get more cukes, but aren’t at the green avalanche

stage. Hopefully we’ll get there soon. Rain wouldn’t hurt.


1. A-Z Cookbooks are in, come and get your copies! $15 each.

2. We are putting out a request for plastic grocery bags- if you have a stash of clean plastic handle bags, we are accepting donations to use at farmers' market AND if folks forget their bag/cooler when picking up CSA shares Tuesday at the farm.

3. We are missing a good number of CSA boxes, take a look around to see if you've squirreled one (or more!) away.  Each TC share (Sat, Mon, and Wed. pickups) are allocated two boxes for the season-- please remember to bring back the previous week's empty box when you pick up the full one!  Thanks.

Field Notes

First off we want to thank all of you for your support in our decision to suspend the

CSA boxes for a week. We received so many kind words of hope and encouragement

from many of you as we struggle through this drought. The diversity and quantity

in the boxes this week are fruits of that rest time. Unfortunately there is no real end

in sight and it has become a real 24-hour a day job to keep the irrigation going. We

got our hopes up a couple days ago when the forecast was predicting a long period

of 80% precipitation this weekend, but that has dwindled to a few hours at 30% or

less. Not very encouraging. At this point all we can do is keep on keeping on. Lots

of new crops have been planted and seeded and are surviving the harsh conditions.

Hopefully they’ll get a good soaker one of these days soon. On a bright note, the land

we are farming south of town (in Grawn) has been receiving more moisture (also a little bit

of hail) and are looking very healthy. There are also little things to be grateful for

in the midst of a huge challenge. Last night I went out late to change the irrigation

zones and while I was listening to make sure the drip lines were filling properly, I

got to watch the deep orange slice of the moon sink towards the hills and listen to

the sounds of the frogs, insects and coyotes. It was so beautiful I forgot about all the

worries and consternation over the lack of water.

Our dear visitors Holly and Kelsey have headed out on the next leg of their journey

to the sorrow of everyone on the farm. They brought so much fun and hard work

to the farm. They also got the farm crew out for a fun social event that we’ve been

hoping to do all summer. As part of their traditional half-birthday celebration we

went sailing on the bay. It wasn’t much of a windy day but a good time was had by

all as we tried to stay out of the way of all the fancy racing boats.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Birch Point CSA Week 6 News: Garlic Out! Fall Brassicas In (hopefully)!

Greetings farm friends! Welcome aboard, Heart of Summer members.  Please see Field Notes below for  this week's farm news.

In Your Share This Week:

Lettuce- Either romaine, butterhead, or green or red leaf.  Despite the last few days of heat, lettuce is still loving life and looking great in the field. We'll continue to have lettuce all summer provided we get some much-needed rain to re-soak the soils, to help keep lettuce happy (not a dry- or heat-loving plant).

Kohlrabi- I know we've sent you home with a lot of kohlrabi lately-- it just happened to thrive this spring/early summer, so we hope you love it as much as we do.  If you get a backlog, remember kohlrabi stores really well in the fridge if you remove the leaves and keep it in an airtight container (e.g. a sealed plastic bag or tupperware). And the leaves can be used just like kale- saute, steam, in soup, in omelets, etc.

Herbs- cilantro, parsley, OR basil (just the very beginning of basil; much more is on the horizon!). Top any dish with fresh minced herbs for more flavor and style.

Garlic- more early small bulbs-- store in fridge to maintain juiciness, or cut stems off and allow to dry at room temp to cure for later use. Come to the farm TUESDAY during CSA pickup to help pull garlic! See Announcements below for details.

Baby Salad Mix- it's back!  We took a little break when the big lettuces were threatening to overwhelm the CSA, but we should be back to an every-week or every-other-week baby salad rotation.  Luckily baby salad mix is planted in one of the gardens that is easy to keep watered, so it's doing great. We'll keep you posted.

And the fun part: We can't tell you what else exactly will be in your share, because every day (Sat-Mon-Tues-Wed) will be a little different! Due to the drought (see Field Notes, below) and late spring, summer crops are maturing later and less consistently than we'd like.  That means we're getting our very first harvests of beans, cherry tomatoes, summer squash/zucchini, peppers, cabbage, etc, but in sporadic quantities every day/week.  So you'll get a nice mix of some combo of those things this week and next! Thanks for your patience while we wait for the rain to help size up and mature all those crops in the field that are just hanging out, being small for now.  I think it's the quiet before the storm, so don't worry, there will be food and in greater quantities; if it'll just RAIN already!


1. Garlic Harvest has been moved UP to this Tuesday, July 22.  Due to the drought, garlic is ready to be out of the field and into the barn.  Sorry for the short notice, but if you'd like to join us, come to the back field during CSA pickup (4-7 pm-- we'll likely be done well before 7, so arrive by 6 at the latest if you want to get in on the garlic harvest). Wear clothes that can get dirty, gloves, and a hat.  There is a chance of rain (fingers crossed!), so bring rain gear to stay dry. There will NOT be a potluck following this garlic harvest, contrary to earlier announcement, but we will have a mid-summer celebration, independent of garlic, just as soon as we get some serious rain (something worth celebrating!!!).

2. Asparagus to Zucchini cookbooks have not yet arrived- it may be next week instead of this.  There are still books available (we ordered a case of 20 but only had orders for 12, so there is still time to get in on that). Books are $15 each.

Field Notes

      The good news: Hoophouse-grown cherry tomatoes and field-grown green BEANS are just starting to mature; either this or next week, members can expect the first tender, snappy green (and/or purple) beans and a small taste of cherry tomatoes in your shares. (Check out the current issue of Edible Grande Traverse for a nice article about green beans, written by our friend Nic Theisen, in which he admonishes the reader to dress nicely and stand tall when preparing green beans! ) The bad news: still no rain :(  This is one of the most extreme, if short-term, droughts we've experienced on the farm. Over the past month or more, every rain event that has hit our neighbors 20 or 30 (not to mention 300) miles from here has skipped us.  Last week's much-anticipated storm appeared as a bare sprinkle.  Tomorrow night's likelihood of precipitation has dropped from 92% to 62% and still dropping. The garden beds that have been harvested already and mowed down (e.g. spring broccoli, early lettuce, turnips, radishes) are too dry for the tiller to dig in.  We need to be able to till to re-prep beds to replant, whether to another crop or to cover crop.  Drip irrigation isn't cutting it, since some of the beds have dried out so completely and require a good soaking rain to rehydrate enough to be workable.  So the trays of transplants that are ready to go in the ground are waiting. Patient, but needing to get in the ground!
      Spirits are sagging a little bit at the dusty soils and slowed plant growth. We're running irrigation almost 24 hours a day, but since we're still using a domestic (house) well to supply the farm, we're limited in the volume of water we can use at one time.  The current big project is, of course, a new well (if cleaning/flushing/checking the pump for problems doesn't help).  That's been on the horizon for a while now, but this year's reduced flow (even less than past years, indicating a clogged filter, faulty pump, or -worst case scenario- depleted aquifer) combined with the drought has pushed the well to the head of the list. We'll keep you posted on developments (results of cleaning filter and checking pump, as well as a timeline and cost estimate from the well drillers).  Meanwhile, thanks for all the feedback and enthusiasm about the first third of the season, and thanks for joining us for what's turned out (so far)  to be this dry, dry season.
     More good news: a giant load of compost was delivered last week! We buy the majority of our compost from Morgan Composting (an aged compost made from dairy cow manure and bedding, known as "Dairy Doo").  I'd called them to arrange a later-summer delivery, and Diane at Morgan happened to mention that Four Seasons Nursery (a few miles from here) was getting a load delivered the very next day, and that if we had our load delivered tomorrow, we could split the delivery fee with the nursery-- good timing!  So we have an even bigger load of compost ready for the fields, which will increase the moisture-holding capacity, the cation exchange capacity (ability to make nutrients available to plants), the overall fertility (nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous and micronutrients), and friability (texture) of soil. Like any soil amendment, compost and all its living components (fungi, bacteria, micro- and macro-invertebrates) will really be effective and literally "come to life" when we get rain, and the critters can go to work. Yet another reason to do any rain dance of your choice when you get a minute!
      And last but not least, we've been the lucky hosts of two different amazing groups of people: one is the MSU Student Organic Farm Organic Farmer Training Program students, who are currently base camped at the farm while they tour several area farms as part of their program-- a yearly tradition we started six or seven years ago.  It's always fun to host this year's crop of students, hear what they're learning, catch up with old friends (staff and faculty who accompany them). The other group is Brenin's old college friends!  Genevieve, Holly, and Kelsey all arrived last week, pitched tents and immediately pitched in on weeding, harvesting, and making us lunch.  Holly and Kelsey are on a coast-to-coast road trip, visiting friends and farms, talking to folks about farmland, farm financing, farm business management, you name it. Genevieve took off to visit more friends and family before making her way back home to Chiapas, Mexico.  Holly and Kelsey are still here for a few more days and still helping out greatly-- if you see them at CSA pickup or at garlic harvest, be sure to say hello.

Holly and Kelsey, superstar volunteers:


Kohlrabi Slaw- serves 2, approx.

2 med kohlrabi, peeled and grated OR cut into matchsticks (slightly nicer texture but slightly more involved)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 generous handful cilantro OR parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp mayo OR dijon mustard (or both-- your choice)
Juice of one small lime (optimal) OR 1-2 Tbsp verjus or cider vinegar (also good but there's really nothing quite like lime juice. Sad that there's a world lime shortage)
dash salt and pepper
optional: handful chopped olives and/or brined capers, dash red pepper flakes if you like a little spice

Mix everything together well, let marinate 15-20 min or longer in fridge. Serve chilled.  This is especially delicious on tacos and grilled things!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Birch Point CSA News Week 5: Try New Things, Garlic and Cookbooks, Share the Benefit; Share the Risk

In Your Share This Week
Kohlrabi-- more crisp, bulbous stems! The most common feedback we get about kohlrabi is in two categories: a)what IS that thing? what do I DO with it?  and b) Wow! I tried it; I loved it!  Never have I had a kohlrabi newbie come back with a negative report-- it may be unknown to some people, but it's consistently love at first bite. However, I've decided from reading popular food/farm blogs and articles that kohlrabi really takes an unfair beating at the hands of certain writers (e.g. http://www.buzzfeed.com/rachelysanders/confusing-scary-csa-vegetables-recipes --a good article full of delicious-sounding recipes, but a bit kohlrabi-phobic if you ask me).  What do YOU think of this spaceship-shaped vegetable?

Fresh Garlic!  The first, small bulbs out of the field.  We'll be trickling in garlic over the next week or two, then we'll hold our big garlic harvest party; stay tuned for the date and time! Store fresh garlic in the fridge for best quality-- it's so juicy at this stage that it can be susceptible to mold at room temp.  Also, USE the tops-- the stems and leaves are GREAT in soups/stocks.  After you remove the bulb to use, plan to make soup, and just stick the whole stalk in your soup pot til it cooks completely through, then remove to the compost pile. The flavor will then be in your soup. While the bulb wrappers are still fresh and juicy (rather than papery, as later-season, cured garlic will be), you can use them in soup stock the same as the stalks, just for flavor. If you can't figure out what to do with fresh garlic, make a stir-fry out of greens, chop several cloves finely, add to greens, toss with lemon juice and/or vinegar, enjoy.  And/or get your hands on a copy of Asparagus to Zucchini (see Announcements, below).

Swiss chard OR Kale- your choice of two mainstays.  If you ever are at a loss for how to use kale or chard, I've got two words for you: 1. eggs  2. massage.  Eggs for omelets, scrambles, frittatas, or even egg salad w/chopped greens.  Massage coarsely chopped leafy greens by hand in a bowl, with some coarse salt, until they appear cooked-- basically this breaks the cell walls, like the heat of cooking does, without destroying enzymes or nutrients in the leaves (the argument against cooking posed by raw-foodies everywhere).  Enjoy well-massaged greens with an acidic condiment of your choice, like lemon juice, vinegar, or tomatoes (soon to be in season!), to make the calcium and iron in greens even easier for your body to absorb.

Lettuces- all kinds!  The late, wet spring meant head lettuces (like butterhead, romaine, and leaf lettuces) got off to a GREAT start and are still going strong (now that the heat wave has passed).  We also have a ton of baby leaf salad greens in the field, but those hold a little better in the field than "big" lettuce. And when everything is ready to to harvest at once, we have to triage who goes and who stays in the ground another week.  So we're sharing the bounty of big lettuce with you right now; expect to see a return to baby salad mix soon!  This week you may see les Oreilles du Diable ("devil's ears"), green leaf, red leaf, butterhead, or romaine in your share.  It's still salad season (see "Field Notes" below), though we're verging on grilling season, so I hope you're enjoying lots of big, crisp lettuce salads, as well as lettuce on sandwiches, in spring rolls, as lettuce wraps, etc.  There's really not much you can't do with lettuce.  Romaine tends to store better than more delicate-leaved varieties, so if you need to prioritize, use the romaine last.

Herbs- your choice of cilantro OR parsley

Grab bag surprise-- You may also get one or more of the following (different by pickup day): Bok Choi, Broccoli, Scallions, the first baby zucchini or summer squash, the first hot peppers, or surprise veggie.  These things are just starting to come on in small quantities (zukes and peppers) or just finishing their last wave for spring (choi and broccoli), so we still wanted members to have them even though everyone's share will be slightly different as a result!

1. Asparagus to Zucchini cookbooks will be available next week.  It's a cookbook generated by and for CSA members and farmers' market shoppers, organized by vegetable instead of type of dish.  Each section has nutrition and storage info for each veggie, as well as several simple recipes.  It makes a great gift for anyone just getting into local, seasonal eating, as well as serving as a survival guide for some new CSA members!  $15 per book. We're ordering a case of 20 unless we hear otherwise. Email birchpointcsa@gmail.com ASAP to reserve a copy. Pay when you pick up your books.

2. Heart of Summer shares start NEXT WEEK. For Saturday folks that's the 19th. Monday the 21st, Tues the 22nd, or Wed the 23rd.  Heart of Summer shares run six weeks, and pickup time/location is exactly the same as full-season shares.  More Heart of Summer shares ARE still available if you know folks who'd like to join-- please share the invitation!

3. Garlic Harvest Party is coming up soon!  We'll gauge the timing based on weather and maturity of garlic, but it will be in the next two weeks.  Keep your eyes peeled for date and time--it's a great work party followed by our first CSA potluck of the season.

Field Notes
     It's DRY here.  Despite several small rain events, the cumulative rainfall has dropped ... er... precipitously below that of the beginning of the season.  This week's challenge is getting irrigation to sections of the fields that previously had none. We're setting up new drip systems, running sprinklers constantly, getting mulch hay and straw delivered, and looking forward to Tuesday's predicted storm (fingers crossed!).  The dry soils have slowed production in some areas, threatened survival in others, and caused farmers to shake fists at skies and sing our friend Chris Dorman's "Wandering Wanda" song to the skies.
     We've had several visits from old friends recently, and anticipate even more in the next week! Farm season is of course also vacation season. Since you live here, you're probably familiar with the phenomenon of friends and relatives on vacation who come to visit and want YOU to be on vacation as well.  We work all summer, but feel extremely fortunate to have a lifestyle that allows for visitors, flexibility, and even fun rolled into the work day-- it's incredibly gratifying to be able to catch up with visitors over farm lunch, weeding carrots together, or other tasks that are part of our day but still enjoyable to visitors, allowing us to be productive and still reconnect with dear friends. Often we just need to crank through a day's work, but when it is possible to relax, weed, plant, or water and chat at the same time, we're thankful.
     Crops looking great: beets, kale, beans, onions, summer squash, peppers, potatoes, leeks, tomatoes, eggplants, rutabagas, turnips, lettuces lettuces lettuces, parsnips, celeriac, basil, dill, and more. Crops in need of love: carrots need some serious moisture beyond irrigation, and more weeding. I think our first carrots will be even later than the late spring was already going to make them-- but we will have lots when they're finally mature! Cabbage needs irrigation and fertility.  Early cabbages were planted in the back field, with the least organic matter (OM) of any soil on the farm (there's lots of variability from garden to garden here). They got fertilized, but the low OM combined with low rainfall makes for some slow growth-- my hope is a good infusion of fish emulsion combined with tomorrow's rainfall will push them over their hesitation, and we'll have gorgeous cabbage soon. Following cabbage: a heavy application of compost before replanting those areas to crops or cover crops.  Crop failures: no new bad news to report! hooray. We'll see how the season progresses ;)
     This is what the "share the benefits; share the risk" mantra of CSA is about-- we grow a diversity of good food, and you can be assured of getting a good quantity of a good mix of fresh, delicious items.  Every year is different, so we never know exactly which crop are going to be amazing and which will be lacking.  So you agree to take on part of the risk of not knowing, and also end up benefitting from those that do well.  We're benefitting from lettuce right now, taking a hit on peas.  We'll benefit from hoophouse tomatoes (soon!!!) and hope that the predicted cool temps don't set back our field-grown tomatoes and other heat-loving crops too much. You and we took a risk by growing at two different locations this year (here at Birch Point and also at Brenin's family land in Grawn, where he's been farming the past four seasons), and we're benefitting from the heavy clay soil down there-- it retains moisture much better than the sandier soils here, meaning less rainfall is less of a problem down in Grawn, which is good since we're there only once a week. The list goes on-- whenever you're curious about how your food is grown, please ask when we see you at CSA pickup.  Thank you so much for sharing this farming season with us, financially, socially, and culinarily!

Michelle's All Time Favorite Greens (Kale, Chard, Collards, Beet Greens, etc- use what you've got)
1 bunch hearty greens of your choice
1 onion or several scallions
a few cloves garlic or more if you're a garlic fanatic, or a handful of scapes if you have them
a generous handful or two of chopped, toasted nuts (I like walnuts, but pecans, pine nuts, or sunflower seeds are also good)
a generous handful or two of dried (or fresh) cherries, raisins, or currants (or OLIVES to take it in a different direction!)
olive oil
balsamic vinegar OR lemon juice
salt and pepper

Chop and saute, in olive oil over medium heat, onions with leafy green STEMS- having separated the stems from leaves, cook them first so they have a chance to tenderize equally with the quicker-cooking leaves.  Add chopped or chiffonaded greens, garlic, and cherries, saute til tender but still bright green and vibrant. Remove from heat. Toss in toasted nuts and vinegar/lemon, salt and pepper, serve with rice, pasta, other grains, anything you like! You can use this formula for any leafy greens:

Leafy greens
+ allium (onion/garlic family representative)
+ acid (e.g. lemon or vinegar)
+ fat (e.g. oil)
+ extra yummy bits (e.g. cherries, nuts, olives, use your imagination)
Dinner, or at least a good part of it!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

First Birch Point Blog/Newsletter of 2014- welcome/welcome back!

Welcome to our blog!  This is where CSA members and farm friends will find weekly lists of CSA share items, announcements (e.g. flats of organic strawberries available to order!), invitations to events, and news from the farm.
CSA MEMBERS: This is our FIRST line of communication with you, so please check the blog every week to stay current on farm happenings! You'll need to know things like which dates our market and CSA pickup locations change for Cherry Festival, when the opportunity arises to order optional extras like flats of organic strawberries from Ware Farm, if we need your help planting, weeding, or attending a party.  Here is where you'll find that info, so please do check weekly.

Blogs ARE our e-newsletter, and they happen in four parts:

1. What's In Your Share This Week
2. Announcements (things like invites to events, deadlines for ordering optional extras, etc)
3. Field Notes/Farm and Crop Updates
4. Recipes--suggestions for using new, unusual, and/or abundant items

We'll also occasionally include a "Meet Your Farmer" column to introduce the crew and superstar volunteers!  Want to contribute an article or recipe to our blog/newsletter? Please email it to birchpointcsa@gmail.com.

Here goes!

What's In Your Share This Week: Week 3
Kale- big kale, not baby!  Either Red Russian (purple stems, buttery and flat but toothy leaves), Winterbor (classic green curly kale), Dino (dark green, long, thin and slightly crinkly leaves), or Rainbow Dino (similar but usually with purple stems). We are rich in kale this spring/early summer, so expect to see more of this amazingly versatile and nutrition-packed veggie in shares. What to do with kale? More like what NOT to do with kale!  Chop fresh into a slaw, steam or saute with onions and garlic, chop and toss into any soup or stew, blend with your favorite smoothie or veggie juice, scramble with eggs, make kale chips, dehydrate into kale powder...... the list goes on. What's YOUR favorite way to enjoy kale?
Asian greens- either Senposai (resembles delicate collard greens) or bok choi-- try stirfried or fresh as slaw. When faced with a new Asian green, my go-to approach is a simple stirfry with onion and/or garlic, fresh ginger, red pepper flakes (or fresh hot chiles if they are in season), finished with a dressing of toasted sesame oil, tamari or soy sauce, and rice vinegar, and tossed with sesame seeds and/or toasted sunflower seeds. Add fried bits of protein of your choice, serve with rice or noodles, and voila! (remember the voila- very important)
Baby Salad mix- People asked for more of this last year, and we listened! Please let us know how the quantity is working out for you this year. 
Lettuce heads- either red leaf, green butterhead, red butterhead, or romaine.
Baby Turnips-- either Hakurei (white) or Scarlet Queen (pink)-just like last week, these are the "thinnings" from our early turnip bed, so expect to see larger versions of the same over the next few weeks. These are so mild you can eat them raw!  Slice or grate onto salad, slice onto sandwiches, eat whole like a plum, roast, fry or anything you'd do to a bigger turnip. AND use the greens-- toss in with your braising mix, scramble with eggs, chop finely into your miso soup...whatever you like. It's hard to go wrong with turnips.
Garlic Scapes-- can anyone get tired of garlic? I think not. Use scapes exactly like you use fresh garlic-- they ARE garlic!  These are the flowering stalks of the garlic plant, and we pick them for two reasons: 1. they are delicious, and 2. removing them directs more of the plant's growth into making a bigger bulb instead of a flower.  They'll keep for weeks in your fridge in a sealed bag, so don't stress if you get a backlog.  Try garlic scape pesto (below in Recipe section).
As always, perhaps a surprise or something I'm forgetting here.... ;)

1. Certified organic STRAWBERRIES available by the flat from Ware Farm!  $42 per flat (8 quarts). Ware Farm normally sells them for $46 per flat (or $6.50 per quart) at market, so it's a special CSA member price. Available for pickup at TUESDAY CSA at the farm, Saturday or Wednesday farmers' markets. I don't know if we can get delivery for Mondays (still waiting to hear back from the Wares), but Monday people are certainly welcome to order and pick up berries another day. How to order: EMAIL birchpointcsa@gmail.com with "strawberries" in the subject line BEFORE MONDAY. We'll be placing orders ON Monday for Tues and Wed pick up. Let us know how many flats you need and which day/location you'll pick up. Pay at time of pick up; make checks out to Birch Point Farm; we'll write one check to the Ware Farm for everything.  Also available: individual quarts ($6) if you need less than a flat. 

2. Bread, Coffee, Flower, and Heart-of-Summer shares still available; spread the word among friends!

Field Notes/Farm and Crop Updates
       The fields are nearly full!  It was a late, wet spring, as you may remember, which for us meant some fields were too wet to till and plant until just a couple weeks ago. We're finally about caught up with planting, though later than we'd like on some things, and now WEEDING is the thing taking all our attention!  Weeds respond as well or better than crops to warm weather and moisture and they are certainly robust already.  Looking GREAT so far: beans, kale, turnips, garlic,  strawberries, broccoli, cabbage, summer squash, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, sunflowers, lettuce, Asian greens.  Need work/will be awesome soon: potatoes (need bug pickers! and mulch), onions (recently liberated from weeds; they will now proceed to grow like mad), carrots and parsnips (in need of liberation from weeds), tomatoes- need trellising but looking good for being a little floppy! Of concern/unsatisfying: peas! sad to say, but the spring floods washed out most of our pea crop.  Only one of 7 rows survived intact, so we'll probably only have a mouthful of peas this year :(  More updates soon.

Garlic Scape Pesto
     1 handful garlic scapes, chopped coarsley
     1 Tbsp lemon juice
     4-6 Tbsp olive oil
     1/2 c. toasted pinenuts or walnuts (I sometimes sub toasted sunflower seeds- delicious!)
     several dashes salt and pepper

Blend or food-process everything til smooth or chunky, as you like it. Refrigerate for a few weeks or freeze for a year-- this keeps wonderfully and goes well on EVERYTHING!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

CSA member survey- reply and be entered to win a free Thanksgiving share!

Hello farm friends!  I can't believe how fast the past few weeks have gone- CSA feels like a long time ago already--- hopefully not so long that you've forgotten all the ideas and feedback you had for us at the end of the season!
Below is the link to the member feedback survey.  While we appreciate any and all feedback all the time (CSA members, investors, market customers, nosy neighbors), this survey is specific to CSA, and the drawing for the free Thanksgiving share is for CSA members only.  If you win the drawing, you can pick up your Thanksgiving share Sat. November 23 at our stall at the indoor market in Bldg 50 (Sat from 10 am to 2 pm).
Deadline for survey responses to be entered in the drawing: Wed. Nov. 20
Deadline for survey responses (not entered in the drawing): Dec. 31

Deadline for feedback, input, ideas, concerns, questions: never!

Survey link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/6BFPSJT

Thank you SO much for joining us this year.  It felt like a great and productive season; I look forward to hearing YOUR perspective!