Did you get to come to our Open House?

I hope you did.

I hope you got to walk the fields and orchards with Karen and see where your food is going to grow. I hope you hung out in the barn and tasted and re-tasted all the unique and seasonal and delicious snacks that were there. I hope you met people. I hope you met the workers and other CSA members and the animals. I hope you made cool prints on magic paper from leaves and flowers pulled from the ground around us.

Open House 2016And I hope it made you happy.

I hope it made you grateful to be connected to such a feel-good community. I hope it made you see what kinds of people and food and happiness are a part of Vollmecke Orchards. And I hope it made you want to be part of this CSA forever!

The thing that happens at the Open House is that all of the great aspects of the farm are on display. Admittedly, sometimes when I come to pick up my share during the season, I treat it like a quick trip to the store; I run into the shed, grab what I came to get, and run out towards my next errand. I don’t always have the time to chat with the members, to talk to Karen about the food she grew for me, to go see what other products she has in the barn. But the Open House reminds me of the whole picture of the CSA. The big, colorful, meaningful, feel-good picture. So I hope you were there. I hope you saw everything and signed up to be a member. It was a great, great day.

It’s almost time!!

seedlings

Lettuce

Fiddle HeadsrhubarbThe season of farm fresh food is getting closer and closer, I can feel it in the air. Really, it’s the air that tips me off. My morning runs are starting to have the companionship of the barely rising sun. The air is crisp in the morning and warm by noon.  I can smell the best air smells of the whole year: the fresh cut grass, the blossoming trees, bushes, and flowers. I can smell the mulch and compost that’s helping it all along. The air says “The earth is growing things!! Take a deep breath and take notice!”

The farm is about five miles from my house. Not close enough to smell it but close enough to tell myself that it’s basically my backyard garden. So at this stage of the season I’m mostly dreaming and hoping about all that it will be this year. Ohhhhh I am hoping it is going to be a great peach year — I know Jeff is tending to the orchards, keeping them protected from the bugs that are always scheming. Karen has nearly perfected the covering the greens technique that has made spinach and bok choy and lettuce so beautiful and delicious. I can see in my minds eye all the baby growths in the greenhouse that will be transplanted soon. I hope there are summer squash really early and stay really late because I love them in pretty much everything.

I’m ready for salads. I’m ready for real spinach in my eggs in the morning instead of grocery store spinach. I’m ready to hang out in the barn and visit the chickens and make impulse buys of bread and cheese. I’m ready to plan my menus from the Farm’s emails and all that they promise. I’m ready to be at the farm and smell all the air that is there and full of life and energy and growth and love.

Let’s talk about eggs for a second, can we?

My kids and the Red Girls and Roosty. The highlight of the farm to them!

My kids and the Red Girls and Roosty. The highlight of the farm to them!

So as I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been a part of the Vollmecke farm family for 7 years now. There has definitely been a learning curve along the way. How to store things, how to cook things, how to identify things once I put them in an unlabeled plastic bag in my crisper drawer. I’ve figured a lot out. I’ll probably share a lot about these learning experiences on this blog over the next little while. But I am embarrassed to say that I have learned one of the simplest and most valuable lessons just this season. This is what I now know that I feel strongly you must understand ASAP:

Like everything else at the farm, Happy Hen Eggs taste better than grocery store eggs.

That’s all. Breaking news, I know.

Would you like to know how I figured it out? I start eating a lot of eggs. Like, every morning. With the yolks. This was a revolutionary thing in my life that really doesn’t matter to you except it means I started caring how good my eggs tasted. And THEN, there was the nationwide “egg crisis” (I will save you from a tangent about my feelings on national food crises–that’s for a different blog with a different purpose) that made me start paying attention to how much I spend on eggs and the quality of those eggs.

All these things together meant that for the first time ever, I starting buying eggs at the farm. And this is what I immediately found out: THEY ARE SO GOOD. They have deep yellow yolks that are like liquid gold when you break them open into your sautéed veggies and sweet potatoes. They are so full of flavor and health. And I’m not going to lie…I love the brown ones with speckles. They are so cute! Did you know that the brown eggs come from the brownish-reddish chickens (“the Red Girls”) and the white eggs come from the white chickens (you guessed it, “The White Girls”)??

The other thing I love about the Happy Hen Eggs? That I can go and visit the glamour girls themselves and see the scraps they’re pecking on. I’ve been there on many mornings when Farmer Karen has taken melons or greens or tomatoes to feed those sweet chickens. I can go and see them hopping in and out of their little house whenever they damn well please. And my kids LOVE going to visit the ladies. And we can all see how happy they are when we stop by. Except when Rowdy Roosty Rooster is getting into their business. You can tell they’re each hoping he chooses someone else to dance with 😉

Winter orders are starting soon. Do yourself a flavor favor and get some eggs. And then make yourself a hash of potatoes and veggies, toss in some greens, and add an egg on top. Forget wheaties; this is my champion breakfast.

Farewell Summer, Hello Autumn

Guest post from Work Share member Kris. We love the enthusiasm she brings to the farm as well as her endless interest in “playing” with her food!

SFC_potatoes_sweet_labeledAs we say farewell to Summer favorites like corn, peppers, and tomatoes, we welcome warm and hearty vegetables into our share. Crops that have been growing strong all Summer long are now producing hefty fruits of their (our) labor! Winter squash, sweet potatoes, beets, parsnips, carrots, celeriac, and of course, dark leafy greens, are all making their way into the Autumn harvest and your shares. As sunlight diminishes and the air cools, we begin to desire something more satisfying than a light salad in our tummies. This is where our Autumn harvest comes in.SFC_parsnips_labeled
SFC_kale_lacinato_labeledMy favorite thing about the Autumn harvest is that many of these crops mingle well together. I encourage readers to get away from strictly following recipes, and instead experiment with your ingredients in basic cooking. For instance, try:
  • roasting your root vegetables with the winter squashes with a few garlic cloves thrown in
  • throwing everything into a crock pot to make a hearty stew.
  • wilting your leafy greens in a skillet then stirring them into spaghetti sauce or a frittata.
  • sauteing a medley of greens and squash, mix in your favorite dried fruits and nuts (walnuts, cranberries and winter squash are always good together!), and throw it all over some rice.
The possibilities are endless, and trying different combinations will keep your taste buds intrigued. Get out of your comfort zone and play with your food!
To help you along in your cooking adventures, here are some tips to make things easier:
  • Roasting: Chop up your vegetables into similar sizes. Use a flat cookie sheet with a lip (to give your vegetables onto more surface area). Roast at a fairly high temperature, around 400. Use a good high-temperature oil (extra virgin olive oil or grape seed oil). Go crazy with spices! Also, I like to add some Balsamic vinegar and/or honey, depending on the vegetables being roasted.
  • Squash: Sometimes winter squash can be a real bear when you want to make dinner quickly. You can get around this by cutting your squash in half (or quarters, depending on the size), scooping out the seeds and putting it in a microwave safe casserole dish with a little bit of water at the bottom (you want the skin side DOWN in the water). Cover with a piece of parchment paper, and cook on high for approximately 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of the squash. This speeds things along nicely when you are incorporating squash into a dish, but I wouldn’t recommend eating it straight from the microwave. You can then mash it, or fork out spaghetti squash noodles, or mix it into a warm salad. Another possibility is quickly sauteing it in some oil or butter; that will add nice texture and dimension to your squash. SFC_squash_spaghetti_labeled
  • Soups/Stews: I highly recommend a crock pot for soups and stews. There is nothing like throwing all of your ingredients into a crock pot in the morning, and then coming home from work to a fully cooked dinner. Again I would suggest chopping your vegetables into similar sizes. Don’t be shy with herbs and spices. Experiment with liquid bases–broth, water, wine, tomato sauce, vinegar, or juices, and be sure to try different combinations of each! Don’t leave out pureed soups, they can be wonderfully filling, yet exceptionally healthy if you use thickeners like beans or starches. Also, soups freeze well, so don’t be afraid to make a big batch. You’ll thank yourself later this winter!
  • Warm salads/sides: Start with a base: rice, noodles, quinoa, barley, hearty grains, or potatoes. Add vegetables: roasted, sauteed, wilted, or steamed. Pick a protein: meats, beans, nuts, seeds. Sprinkle in accents; dried fruits, herbs, spices, oils, vinegars, condiments, or sauces. Throw it all together and enjoy!
SFC_spinach_leaves_labeledSo welcome fall with open arms (and empty stomachs!);it is not the end of the growing season, but the beginning of a new harvest! Have fun, and good luck on your food journey!

Hail Storm Missed the Farm…Whew

We saw the ominous dark storm clouds looming off to the North last Thursday evening, hours after we finished planting 100s of cucumber and squash seedlings. The weather seemed unstable and we had an eye to the sky. We watched as the wind picked up and the clouds released some rain over us, but thankfully no hail.

We later heard Chester Springs, Exton and West Chester all suffered a considerable amount of damage due to a heavy hail storm. This is every farmer’s worst nightmare, and one we were very thankful to avoid! Hail can absolutely devastate vegetable plantings and fruit trees alike. We have a lot of seedlings in the ground and plenty more lined up on the transplant wagon. All is okay for now, and we will certainly be keeping our fingers crossed in the coming days and weeks that these crazy storms continue to avoid us!

How Has Weather Affected the Farm?

… and your food?

Like many folks in the Northeast, we got walloped by a huge ice storm early in February, and like many, we lost a lot of trees. A number of our elderly peach trees broke under the weight of the ice, but it was the white pines bordering the neighborhood to the East that took the biggest hit. Two large evergreens in front of our tenant houses also were badly damaged and will need to be removed. To date, we have spent several weeks cleaning up all the damage, with many limbs still stacked in big piles awaiting chipping. All of this needs to be cleaned up before the grass grows too high, making the job even tougher. This has given us a lot of added work to do in our already busy Springtime rush. I know many people in our area are experiencing the same thing–we just might have more than the average homeowner.

All the snow we had this Winter also kept us from getting to some of the outdoor projects we had planned on tackling in our “off season”. It did not, however, keep us from pruning the apple orchard–this was just a lot more effort, having to hike through the snow to get there!

The cold temperatures and Winter snow blanket have led to a delayed Spring this year–which appears to be two to three weeks behind what we think of as “normal” in our area.  In addition to the lateness of the season, we had almost 6 inches of rain that saturated already wet soil. Some plantings were washed out by this rain, and will have to be sown again. We have thousands of seedlings that have been transplanted to the fields between rain storms. The greenhouses are still stuffed full of plants waiting their turn to head out into the great outdoors. We are really hoping that this week will be sunny, and that the fields will dry enough to do the many essential early season farm tasks that will set the stage for the next wave of planting. Come on sunshine!

Because Mother Nature has been a little rough on us these past few months, we have decided to move the start date of the CSA season back a week, to the second week of June. This will allow our crops to mature just a little more before we start sending them out to you and your families. We are disappointed, as we expect some of you to be as well, however, we think the wait will be worth it once we are rewarded with the beautiful, delicious, fresh produce of Spring.