Middle Way Farm 2015 CSA - Week 12
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What's in the Share - Week 12 (even)

For Delivery Wednesday, August 19

Standard Share
Also available for custom order unless otherwise noted
Cilantro - 1 bunch - $2/bunch 
Cucumber - 3 cukes - $1.50 each or 3 for $4
Garlic, Cured - 1 head - $1.50/head or 3 for $4.00

Onions, White - 1 pound - $2.50/pound
Pepper, Green - 3 peppers - $1.50 each or 3 for $4
Pepper, Hot - 1 pepper - $.50 each or 3 for $1
Tomatoes, Sungold Cherry - 1/2 pint - $2 per 1/2 pint (Limited quantity available)
Tomatoes, Slicing - 1-2 tomatoes - $2 per custom order 
 (Limited quantity available)
Tomatoes, Paste - 1-2 romas or 1/2 pint of juliets (mini-romas) - $2 per custom order (Limited quantity available)
Watermelon, Red or Yellow Flesh - 1-2 melons (depending on size) - $6/melon order (1 melon order per custom share only)
Zucchini - 3 zukes - $1 each or 3 for $2.50

Available for Custom Order
Basil, Purple and Green - $2.50/bunch or 2 for $4
Beets - $3.50/1.5 lb bag or 3 lb for $6
Carrots - $3.50/1.5 lb bag or 2 bags for $6
Collard Greens - 1 bunch - $2.50 or 2 for $4
Eggplant - $1.50 each
Kale, Winterbor (green curly) - $2/bunch or 3 for $5
New Potatoes, Red Gold - 1 lb - $3.50/2 lb bag or 2 for $6
Parsley - 1 bunch - $2/bunch or 3 for $5
Sunflowers - 3 stem bunch - $4
Zucchini, Baking - $1.50/large zucchini or 3 for $4
Available for Bulk Order 
Basil - 4 oz. - $6.00 ; 8 oz. - $10.00
Beets - 6 lb - $10.00
Beets, Small Pickling - 3 lb - $6.00
Carrots - 6 lb - $10.00
Garlic (smaller heads) - 1 lb - $7.50

Berry Patch Farm Fruit Share
1 pint of red raspberries or few pounds of apples

Every other week share -  EVEN Number Week

Sandy Hill Farm Egg Share

Every other week share - EVEN 
Number Week

Plant Starts Available for Custom Order

All plants are $2 each or 3 for $5

Perennial Herbs 
Rosemary - tender perennial
Garden Sorrel - early season, perennial lemony green
Winter Savory - perennial version of summary savory

Flat leaf - Italian type

Aloe Vera - $9
Medium size clay pot & plant

To Till or Not To Till

Anyone who has a garden or grew up with one is probably familiar with a machine called a rototiller. Rototillers range in size from the wheel-less Mantis models and 20" wide garden tillers to 20 foot wide tractor mounted models requiring 150 horsepower tractors to run. When we head into our gardens and fields in the spring, the rototiller is the go-to implement for turning the bare winter ground into a fluffy spring planting surface. Anytime the ground is compact and has weeds and plant residue on the surface, the rototiller gives us the ability to transform that soil in one pass into a prepared seed bed. It simplifies and speeds up the process of preparing soil for planting, ripping up and burying weeds and residue, pulverizing the soil, loosening it to receive plants and seeds, and smoothing it out uniformly. Its ease and thoroughness is seductive. 

There are some big and widely recognized problems with rototilling, though. Good soil has structure. You can think of it like a house. A house is made up of materials like wood, brick, and metal, but they need to be put together by living intervention, otherwise its just a pile of material. Bacteria, fungi, and other microbiology create structure within the soil and its mineral elements of clay, silt and sand, allowing air, water, nutrients, and plant roots to move freely through. Larger organisms like soil dwelling insects and earthworms are also part of keeping the soil well-structured. A rototiller is like a wrecking ball; it pulverizes the soil structure, turning it into a pile of rubble. Water, air, and nutrients can't move through it as easily, nor can plant roots.  Rototilling gives the temporary illusion of creating spongy, wonderfully loose, worked up soil, that is soil with good structure. But the truth is that its IMPOSSIBLE to create soil structure through tillage. I learned this very unequivocally from Elaine Ingham of the Rodale Institute in a composting workshop I took in 2013. Soil structure can only be created through biology as described above. What tillage does instead is destroy soil structure, bring weed seed to surface to germinate, chop up and propagate weeds like thistle and quack grass, and leaves the soil bare and vulnerable to erosion by wind and water. 

But rototillers are cheap, widely available, easy to use, and they work, or at least they give immediate, workable results.  Many vegetable growers over-rely on rototilling and I would count myself as one of them. During the course of a growing season, in addition to spring tillage, we may till soil two or more times as we put in additional summer and fall crops, destroy weedy areas, turn in cover crops, and prepare soil for cover crops. When I started managing my own farm, I had read about the dangers of over-tilling and that rototillers would damage the soil, but I didn't see a viable alternative, so I put my blinders on an forged ahead. Its easy to do that when the consequences are hypothetical and immediate results are needed. I told myself that I would offset the damage of rototilling by building the organic matter in the soil. Rototilling is typically seen this way, as a necessary and ultimately indispensible evil. Its only been through three years of experience that I've seen the consequence of repeated rototilling AND gained enough perspective to be able to evaluate the alternatives to rototilling that are out there. 

No-till agriculture is one alternative. Conventional no-till, that is agriculture that uses herbicides to replace tillage, was introduced to Iowa row crops starting in the 70's and is widespread practice now. When you see fields of corn or bean stubble in the fall, winter, and early spring, you are probably seeing a no-till field. The farmer plants their next season crop directly into the residues of last year's crop without turning the soil over. Conventional no-till has certainly helped reduce soil erosion but is not without its own drawbacks. Organic no-till is a more recent practice pioneered by the Rodale Institute. It involves growing a very dense cover crop such as winter rye and then using a specialized implement called a roller crimper (which looks like a hollow steamroller drum) to roll down and kill the cover crop at its flowering stage in early summer. The dead cover crop acts like a layer of straw mulch on the surface of the soil, excluding weeds. The crop can then be transplanted or direct seeded into the cover crop residue.  

Unfortunately, despite its promise, organic no-till doesn't fit most of the crops in my operation all that well, and it requires specialized tools that I'm not ready to commit to buying. So I'm moving ahead with some new techniques on the farm that while not "no-till," will reduce and hopefully mostly eliminate the use of the rototiller in favor of less invasive and destructive soil working tools. I am beginning to learn new techniques for working the soil that allow me to create seed bed for new crops without resorting to the rototiller. They are a little more time consuming and more work on my end, but I'm very satisfied to be able to manage the fields without resorting to the rototiller. On a garden scale, I think there are many opportunities to eliminate rototilling and really almost any kind of soil working altogether. The rototiller certainly has its place on the farm, but its not as the universal implement that it is today. 
Place Your Custom Share Order!

What's New in the Share

Cilantro - Love or hate it; that seems to be the way people go with cilantro. if you hate it, there's nothing I can say to change your mind. If you love it, you know that this herb sets off a dish like nothing else. Tortilla soup, pico de gallo, salsa, and many other dishes go from good to absolutely great with the addition of cilantro. Cilantro is featured in the Recipe of the Week, pico de gallo. 

Hot Pepper - I don't typically put these in the standard share, since there's always a portion of people that don't care for spicy food. However, since it was the perfect week for pico de gallo (cilantro, garlic, white onion, tomato, pepper...), I decided to put them in just this once. Remember to remove the seeds from the peppers, since the seeds contain an even higher concentration of capsaicin, the compound in hot peppers that produces the sensation of heat, than the flesh.  

Watermelon - There are three signs to tell if a watermelon is ripe - a tiny tendril near the stem dies and shrivels, a yellow ground spot develops where the watermelon is sitting on the ground, and the watermelon makes a thud sound (rather than a high ringing sound) when tapped by a finger. If all these signs coincide, its time to pick the watermelon! These watermelons are NOT seedless. Few people I'm sure will take my advice, but I've taken to chewing and eating the seeds of watermelons rather than spitting them out. I figure its just some extra fat and protein to go along with the sugar in the watermelon flesh! Store these in the fridge and use within a week. If cut, store in a tupperware container. 


This was a favorite recipe at Grinnell Heritage Farm, where I picked it up. Pico de gallo, a fresh tomato salsa, literally means "beak of the rooster". I suppose this name is more or less accurate depending on how much hot pepper you add! Omit the hot pepper altogether if you don't want any spice and feel free to adjust the amounts of the other ingredients based on preference. 

Pico de Gallo 


Combine all ingredients and eat with tortilla chips or as a topping for burritos and tacos. Refrigerate leftovers. Tastes better after flavors have melded for a day or so in the fridge. 

1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 white onion, diced
1 or more hot peppers, seeds removed and diced
3-4 tomatoes, diced
1 or more garlic cloves, pressed
Juice of one lemon
Salt to taste 

What's on the Horizon...What's on the Way Out

The white onions are finally cured (you can store them on the counter) but we'll be transitioning to mild sweet Candy onions for the next few weeks, as I'm getting to the end of the white onions! Once the Candy onions run out, we'll move onto to yellow storage onions

I'm saving a whole row of peppers for turning color (red, orange or yellow), and a few plants have already started producing red fruit. For now, we'll have green peppers, but look forward to some nice red peppers in a few weeks!
Tomatoes have FINALLY begun to ripen in droves. What a relief! They should be abundant for several more weeks, as there is quite a bit of green tomatoes on the vine, as long as relatively warm temperatures hold out. However, as I get a feel for how much I can harvest each week, it will take me a bit to understand what amounts I can offer in the shares, so bear with me!

Based on the amount of fruit in the field, I'm saying there will be watermelons ready for next week as well. Unfortunately I think there won't be enough melons to offer in the share :( . They did not fare well against the cucumber beetle. On the bright side, while harvesting watermelon, I saw some of the largest winter squash I've every grown, so hear's hoping for a great squash harvest in a few weeks!

Edamame (fresh soybeans) will likely be in the share next week and possibly a week or two after that. The plants are HUGE and have lots of pods on them, but I'm going to wait another week to see if the soybeans in the pods fill out a little bit more before harvesting. 
I enjoyed a visit last Sunday from a group of farmer friends. We visit each other's farms monthly on a Sunday, doing a bit of work and then having a potluck. My friend Jordan Clasen of Grade A Gardens in Des Moines showed me his pro technique for braiding garlic. He's put over 50 heads in one braid before and is submitting braids to the Iowa State Fair again this year. 
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