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Middle Way Farm CSA - Week 7
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Harvest Season


Its amazing the difference a few weeks can make. I went from wondering if the soil would ever dry out to seeing plants wilt and contemplating irrigation. I spent this weekend visiting friends and family in Wisconsin and have been struck by how dry their conditions are as well, especially after going through a similar round of torrential downpours earlier in the summer. They also have sandier soil in southern and central Wisconsin (hence the lateness of this newsletter), which means that they are more quickly affected by dry weather. We're lucky to have more clay in our soil, which consists of negatively charged particles that hold on tightly to both nutrients and water, retaining it in the soil longer during dry weather. The pattern in the last 5 years has been early summer monsoon and late summer to fall droughts, so I would not be surprised if we move more into a drought mode for the rest of the summer. Having enough water is the biggest limiting factor for vegetable production, which is why irrigation is so important. I've noticed that in very short time frame with cucumbers. The cucumber harvest last week, which consisted of the cucumbers that matured on the tail end of the June rains, was as abundant as I have ever experienced, with multiple large cucumbers per plant. This week's harvest was a different story. The plants were wilted and the cucumbers that were ready were more sparse and smaller. Considering that cucumbers are over 90% water, its easy to see why they thrive with abundant soil moisture and suffer even during brief dry spells. 

We are on the cusp of tomato, pepper and eggplant season. I picked a few eggplant and tomatoes last week and both look very good. Barring weather extremes, it should be a good season for tomatoes. Tomatoes require frequent harvesting (multiple times per week) in order to keep fruit from overripening on the vine, so it consumes quite a bit of time late July through late September or so. Potatoes will now be a staple in the share for the rest of the summer, as will the zucchini and cucumbers as long as they hold out against disease and the onslaught of cucumber beetles and squash bugs. Onions are nearing maturity and will consist of large, fresh onions for the next few weeks until the final harvest in August, after which they will be dried, storage onions. I started garlic harvest this week and so far much of it looks good, if not a little past due for harvesting. I was deceived into thinking the garlic needed more time when it did dry down as it normally does in late June and early July, but I believe this was due to the rainy weather and that it did not indicate delayed maturity. Normally I would be finishing garlic harvest around now, but I am just getting started. After harvest, garlic is hung or laid out to dry in the barn. Once it is fully dry (the outer skins have turned papery), the garlic bulb can be cut from the stalk, the outer, dirty paper wrapper is removed, and the roots trimmed. Until then, the garlic will be considered fresh and not cured for storage (onions go through a very similar process). 

Final fall plantings will occur over the next month, with some limited plantings of cold hardy vegetables in the field and greenhouse continuing into September. Many gardeners plant their gardens in the spring and that's it, but there is a whole season of gardening that is often missed in the fall. Carrots, beets, turnips, radishes, spinach, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, and kohlrabi (to name a few) can all be planted in Juiy and August (depending on the specific variety) for harvest in September, October, and beyond. I actually think that many brassicas (broccoli family plants like cabbage, broccoli, and kohlrabi) do better in Iowa in the fall, when they are able to mature in cool weather rather than during the heat of early summer. As this planting tapers off and the height of weed proliferation in early summer passes, the focus of the farm shifts decisively to harvest in the late summer and fall. Harvest season is a time of real abundance and I hope you will take full advantage of what the farm and season has to offer. I will continue to offer bulk discounts and preservation recommendations as particular crops reach their peak harvest. Preserving this time of year means enjoying a bit of summer during the long winter. There are few things I enjoy more than zucchini fritters or zucchini soup on a cold, dark night in January. 

Thursday farmers market stand from July 17. 

Weekly Notices:

  •  Bulk orders available for turnips, kohlrabi, and zucchini. Kohlrabi is almost all harvested and I'll be going through the rest of what is stored over the next few weeks.
  • Remember to let me know if you will not be ordering during a particular week or will be on vacation. Advance notice is appreciated. You can do this by putting a hold on your account at middlewayfarm.csasignup.com or by sending me a quick e-mail so I can put on a hold for you. The hold feature is helpful because it automatically drops the names of shareholders who are on vacation hold when I'm printing labels for the boxes. 
  • A number of you have asked about the delivery charge. Currently it is not included in your balance on the Small Farm Central account. I will be adding it to your account at the end of the season before I do the final billing after deliveries have concluded. 
  • Another note about your balances on Small Farm Central: if your balance is lower than you expect based on the payments you have made, please ignore it. You can continue to make orders even if your balance becomes negative. I have a record of everyone's payments and will be able to produce an accurate account, but I my not have entered all of your payments as credit into your Small Farm Central account. Please e-mail me if you have questions on this issue or your current balance. I'm happy to take mid-season payments to "top up" your account, or I can bill for everything at the end of the season. 
Images from the Dane County Farmers Market in downtown Madison, Wisconsin. You can see where my interest was while walking around market (vendor displays!). Its the biggest producer-only farmers market in the United States, stretching around 4-5 blocks surrounding the Wisconsin state capitol building (which is stunning inside, by the way). Wisconsin has such a vibrant local foods scene, I'm envious whenever I visit. 

Notes on This Week's Share 

Chinese cabbage makes a final appearance in the share with cabbages from the 2nd planting. You can compare them alongside the cabbage offered this week, which may include red or green (possibly a savoy thrown in) . 

Softneck garlic is one of the two major strains of garlic, the other being hardneck or stiffneck garlic. As their name implies, softneck garlics have a softer, pliable neck above the bulb (which allows them to be braided), while hardnecks have a stiff, woody stem. Hardnecks tend to mature a week or two earlier than softneck varieties but do not store as well long term (one of the reasons why softnecks are the only type of garlic found in grocery stores). There are many other differences too. Hardnecks produce scapes; softnecks do not. Instead of scapes, softnecks produce a tightly cluster inner whorl of cloves in addition to the larger outer row of cloves. Or they sometimes produce what seems like an aborted seed head as a gall-like bulge in the neck of the softneck. The oddity was explained to me by another grower as a trait of softnecks being a more highly "refined" or domesticated garlic that had been selected to not produce the flowering scape, but even so it still tries to produce a seed head, which often ends up somewhere in the middle of the stem instead of as a full fledged flower on top. 

Red Russian kale is an heirloom like lacinato kale, but from a different region of Europe, with its origin as a distinct variety predating 1885. Like lacinato, it is tender and flavorful. The leaves are large, variably shaped, and oak-like (like the tree or lettuce), with a green red tinge and purple-red stem. Like all kales, it sweetens significantly after a frost in the fall, but is a great all season kale. 

As their name implies, Candy onions are milder and sweeter than a typical yellow storage variety (less tear inducing) and are known in particular for their jumbo size. While my onions this year are larger than in prior years, I don't think they have achieved the jumbo proportions that they are truly capable of.  I'm calling them bunch onions, since they will be bunched and twist tied for convenience of harvest, but the green tops will not be in good condition for use as a green onion. 

Due to the hot weather and a limited supply of berries at Keller Berry Farm, the fruit share this week is TBA! Possibilities include black raspberries, gooseberries, and currants. 

Start of buckwheat germinating in the alley I seeded (mentioned in last week's newsletter). On the right are bush beans and on the left is a single unplanted bed that will be planted this week. 
CSA Availability For Delivery on Wed, July 2

Orders should be placed at middlewayfarm.csasignup.com by Tuesday at 6 am. Go to the website and click Member Log-in. If you have any trouble logging in, use the E-mail Verification tool to receive a link to access the store. You can change your password to whatever you want and use your e-mail and password to log in for future orders.Please e-mail me at middlewayfarmer@gmail.com if you have any problems with access or ordering. 

Standard shares will receive one unit of everything listed under "Standard" automatically. No need to order. If you would like additional standard items (not all standard items will be available for extra ordering), extra items, or plant starts, you will need to order them separately. Whatever you order on the website will be delivered IN ADDITION to your standard share. 

Custom shares need to place an order each week in order to receive delivery ($10/week minimum, no upper threshold). If orders are not received by early Tuesday morning you may not receive your exact order. Some items are more limited than others in terms of availability. 

Fruit shares are pre-determined each week and are only available to those who signed up for the fruit share. They are not available for weekly ordering. 

Storage Tips: Everything in this week's share should be kept in sealed plastic bags in the refrigerator for best quality and storage life except garlic & zucchini. Fresh garlic can be stored on the counter, but DO NOT put it in a sealed container. It is moist and will mold. Zucchini should be stored on the counter and used within a few days. Smaller zucchini in particular decompose quicker than larger, thicker skinned zucchini. They can be refrigerated if needed to keep them fresh a few days longer. Carrots should be stored separately from green tops. Use green tops within a few days or discard. 
Standard
  1. Green Beans - ~1 lb (depending on harvest) ($4.00/pound)
  2. Cabbage - 1 head ($3.00/head)
  3. Chinese Cabbage -  1 head ($2.50/head or 3 heads for $6)
  4. Green-top Carrots - 1 bunch ($2.50/bunch)
  5. Cucumber - 2-3 cukes (depending on harvest) ($1/cuke)
  6. Fresh Softneck Garlic - 1 bulb ($1.00/bulb or 3 for $2.50)
  7. Red Russian Kale - 1 bunch ($2/bunch or 3 for $5) 
  8. Candy Onions - 1 bunch ($2/bunch or 3 for $5)
  9. New Potatoes - 1.5 pounds ($2.50/lb) 
  10. Zucchini - 3-5 squash, green & yellow ($1/squash or 3 for $2.50) (see BULK for more)

Bulk
  1. Kohlrabi - 5 pounds= 5-10 bulbs ($4), 10 pounds = 10-20 bulbs ($7)
  2. Turnips, Spring - 5 pounds ($6.50), 10 pounds ($10)
  3. Zucchini - 10 zucchini ($6.50), 20 zucchini ($10.50) (see BULK for more)
 
Extra
  1. Beets - 1 pound, no tops ($2.50/pound) 
  2. Kale - 1 bunch ($2/bunch or 3 for $5) - Choose Winterbor (green, curly), Redbor (red, curly), Lacinato (heirloom green flat leaf) or Red Russian (heirloom red flat leaf)
  3. Kohlrabi - Purple or green bulbs ($1/bulb or 3 for $2.50) (see BULK for more)
  4. Parsley (choose flat leaf or curly leaf) - 1 bunch ($2/bunch) 
  5. Turnips, Spring - 1 pound, no tops, red & white skin ($2/lb or 3 lb for $5) (See BULK for more)

Coming Up
Cherry tomatoes
Eggplant
More Broccoli

Fruit Share
TBA - black raspberries, gooseberries, or currants
When I'm just going about the mid-morning routine harvesting and I stop to see photograph a scene like this, I feel very lucky to be outside so often and to get to directly experience the beauty and splendor of summer, weather, and nature through my work. Bush beans in the center, carrots on the left, and beets on the right. 
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