Welcome Spring!

wagon.jpgI detect just a hint of green to the grassy areas around the houses and in the pasture surrounding the pond. The weather has continued to seesaw but surely we are finally done with Winter. Now we’re making tracks to get everything in order before the warm weather gets here and our work days get exponentially longer. We’re spending a lot of time these days in the greenhouses! The small greenhouse that is attached to the barn is overflowing, and we have begun to expand operations to the big plastic house that is just behind the barn.

Getting water to the greenhouses for our new seedlings is always a chore in the beginning of the season.  We start planting things when the temps are still freezing and the water to the barn is still shut off to avoid frozen pipes. I’ve carried more than my share of buckets of water to the greenhouse (and to the chickens) this year! Now that it has warmed up a bit, we have redirected the downspout back into the big green tank at the corner of the barn so that we can catch the runoff from the barn roof. This tank of water is great for watering all our little seedlings and sure beats hauling buckets! When we are convinced that Spring is really here, we can open up all our water lines again. Yet another reason for a Springtime happy dance!

The apple orchard is all pruned and most of the brush has been moved to the area that will be this year’s end of CSA season bonfire. Lots of snowy, windy days have been spent on that hill! Next we will move on to pruning the peach orchard, blackberries and red raspberries. It is a bit of a sprint to finish these tasks in time to begin the field work. We hope to have not too many rainy days that might delay our progress!

It is good to feel the ever warming sun and we are all so grateful to put a long hard Winter behind us! Welcome sweet Spring, welcome!
— Farmer Karen

Snow, snow and more snow!

Farmer Karen’s Winter Update

It isshovel finally melting! I am so weary of the endless hours of snow plowing, snow shoveling and staying up snowy nights to monitor the heaters in the greenhouses to melt the snow off the plastic structures. I have spent too many nights where I’ve strapped on a pair of snow shoes to plod out to the houses to make sure everything is okay. I sure don’t want to wake up some morning to find our greenhouses crushed under the weight of wet heavy snow!

I know everyone is looking forward to seeing the ground again—we are all dreaming of Spring. Paging through seed catalogs has helped keep our spirits up.

Here at the farm we’re deep into planning and prepping for the upcoming growing year. Kate has selected many fun new vegetables and flowers for us to grow and enjoy this year. I must admit I am especially looking forward to the smell of the greenhouse full of plants, sunshine and warmth!

See you soon!
Farmer Karen

We have our first 50 members!

Something to celebrate in this cold, we have our first 50 members! Thank you so much for supporting your local farmers! In the next few days, we will be drawing the name of one lucky member to receive a new Magic Bullet Blender!cold chickens

 

 

There is still time to enter drawing for a Magic Bullet Blender!

Think of all the great things you can make with your Vollmecke CSA share and this Magic Bullet blender! There is still (a little) time to get in on the drawing–the first 50 folks to sign up for a 2014 CSA share will have their name placed in a hat to win this great prize.  (Sorry workshare members you aren’t eligible for the drawing–you will have to settle for enjoying some smoothies at the farm).

magic bullet

 

Welcome to the New Year!

Farming is probably the last thing on anyone’s mind right now. However, we really are hard at work getting ready for the 2014 season—signup begins January 10! At the end of the 2013 season, we sent out a survey to our members. Based on the responses, we have made a few changes, which you can read about below. Here is a great recipe from the Splendid Table for this time of year. It will definitely be on the menu at my house this week:

For the first time, we are offering a new smaller share size—the Mini Share! This share will have 4–5 items (our regular share has 8–12) in it.  It is designed for either a single person, a couple who doesn’t cook too much, but would still like access to fresh, local food, or a family that just wants to see what CSA is all about!

What exactly is a “unit” or “item”?

An item, or a “unit,” will fluctuate over the course of the season—depending on harvests, weather, etc., but basically, it is a grouping of a produce item; or you could think of it as a unit of measure. For instance, when tomatoes are first starting out, a tomato “unit” could be just one tomato. Once they get rolling, a unit could then be a quart of tomatoes. Sometimes a unit will be just one piece of produce, such as a watermelon. It all depends on the particular fruit or vegetable.

Why is understanding what a unit is important?

Since we now have multiple sizes and pickup option, when you come to the farm on pickup day, you will need to know what goes in your share. We will have more signs telling everyone what their share is composed of. They might look something like this:

Potatoes
WS & BWS = 1 qt
MS = 1 pt

This would translate to: Weekly Share (WS) and Bi-Weekly Share (BWS) get 1 quart of potatoes, and Mini Share (MS) gets 1 pint.

This is a work in progress! We may need to play around a bit with the signs to make sure we are all on the same page. Rest assured, we will make sure everyone gets their proper share. We are always around during pickup times and will be sure to answer any questions you might have.

What else are we changing?

We have added a new way to pay online for your membership. It is a new system called Dwolla, and it operates just like an e-check.  You can either go through the signup process with Dwolla (similar to signing up with PayPal) or checkout using Dwolla as a guest member. We like Dwolla, because unlike PayPal and other credit card options, the fees are actually very reasonable—$0.25 per transaction. That’s it. With online credit card payments, we pay a per transaction fee, AND a percentage of the amount purchased. Which really does add up over time. This means that your dollars actually go to supporting us, as opposed to VISA…. So this is a nice option for those larger transactions, such as membership payments.

We also are in the process of finding a credit card system that we can have available in the barn so you can use your debit card or credit card for retail purposes too.

Anything else?

In addition to all the vegetable staples, we are looking at some fun new things, such as purple carrots, and maybe even artichokes! We will keep you posted on that. We would also like to offer expanded Pick Your Own flowers this year. You will still be able to pick larger amounts of flowers for a fee. If you have a special event, such as a party or a wedding, you will be able to get all of your flowers fresh and locally!

 

Another recipe for butternut squash, and 1 for tomatillos!

On Friday during pickup, I felt bad for one of our butternut squashes. No one was picking it. Maybe it was because of its size and people were intimidated. I don’t know, but I felt bad, and decided I would choose it and bring it home it so it could fulfill its destiny as a squash.big squash  This photo doesn’t do it justice–that cutting board is at least 15″ wide.

Anyway, I know about roasting, but wanted to do something a little different. Then I remembered a recipe I had found in Martha Stewart’s Every Day Food a few years ago. Perfect! First you roast the squash with some garlic, EVOO, and sage, and then you puree it with half-and-half to make a delicious pasta sauce. AND, with the size of this thing, I would certainly have enough sauce leftover to freeze and serve later in the season. Click here for printable version.

chopped squash

Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce

Serves 8
This recipe makes about 4 cups of sauce; enough for 3 lbs of ravioli, or 1.5 lbs of short pasta. For 4 servings, use half the sauce (about 2 cups). Freeze the rest for later (see below)

  • 1 medium (1.5 lb) butternut squash
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • ½ TB dried rubbed sage (or 1 TB fresh, minced sage)
  • Course salt and ground pepper to taste
  • 5 garlic cloves, peel on
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • Pasta (such as cheese ravioli, or any short pasta) for serving

Preheat oven to 375°. Using a large sharp knife, trim ends then halve squash crosswise to separate the bulb from the neck. Peel with a vegetable peeler. Cut both pieces in half lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop out seeds. Discard.

Cut squash into 2-inch chunks; transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Toss with oil and sage; season generously with salt and pepper. Scatter garlic around squash. Roast until squash is very tender, about 40 minutes, tossing once halfway through. Remove and discard skin from garlic.

Transfer squash and garlic to a food processor or blender; purée. With motor running, add half-and-half through the feed tube; process until smooth. Add 1 to 2 cups water; continue to process until smooth, adding water to thin if necessary. Season again with salt and pepper, to taste.

Cook pasta according to directions. Reserve 1 cup pasta water; drain pasta and return to pot. Pour sauce over pasta, toss to coat. Add pasta water to thin sauce if necessary.

To Freeze: Cool sauce to room temperature. Transfer to airtight containers, leaving 1 inch of space. Freeze up to 3 months. When ready to use, place plastic containers upside down under hot tap water to help release frozen blocks of sauce. Place blocks in large saucepan; cover and reheat over medium low, adding water to thin if necessary.

I am sure for that some of you the “tomatillo season” may have dragged on just a little too long…I mean salsa verde is delicious, but really, how much can one family eat? I am sorry it took me so long to try this recipe, because now that tomatillos are officially gone, I have found another great way to use them. Or, like me, maybe you have few still tucked away in your fridge…just waiting… . If so, you are in luck. This is delicious and hearty and EASY. It could be eaten as a stew, as a dip, or as I served it—as slightly messy tacos. Give it a shot, it may change the way you look at tomatillos! Click here for printable version.

Tomatillo Chicken

Serves 8
Serve hot with tortilla chips, guacamole or avocado slices. Also makes a great filling for tacos. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream.

  • 6 free-range skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 – 3 dried hot peppers (to taste)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 – 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 lb. whole tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Sour cream for garnish

In a large Dutch oven bring chicken, broth, onion, peppers, garlic, and bay leaf to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool 15 minutes. Remove chicken from pot and set aside to cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, add tomatillos to the pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil uncovered for 10 minutes, or until soft. With a slotted spoon, transfer tomatillos, peppers, and garlic to a blender; add cilantro and purée.

Pour the mixture back into the stock and mix will. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pull chicken breasts apart into large chunks and add back into tomatillo mixture. Simmer until slightly thick, about 10 minutes.