Middle Way Farm CSA - Thanksgiving Share - Nov. 2014 
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2014 Thanksgiving Share Newsletter
Caption: Garlic field after mulching and then a day later after the snow. 

Pick-up Information (Please Read!)

Pick-up of shares will be tomorrow (Friday) from 4-6 pm at the farm, 3633 Hwy 146. If you cannot make that time or have any trouble finding the pick-up location, call me - 641 821 0753.  

Take Hwy 146 north out of Grinnell. About a mile north of intersection with Route 6, you will reach edge of town (16th Ave). Farmstead is located 2/3 mile north of 16th Ave, the second farmstead on the right (look for blue barn if its still light out). Turn right into the first driveway with the “Grin City Collective” sign next to it. Drive straight towards the blue barn. Follow driveway as it curves between blue barn and red metal building, where you will see the "Middle Way Farm" sign. Pick-up will be in the loading dock behind the large garage doors to your left (I will have the outside light on and a smaller "Middle Way Farm" sign out). Park by the dumpster or greenhouse. Come in through the door to the left of the garage door. Careful of ice on the concrete pad by the door - I'll be doing some washing early in the day and will do my best to avoid creating ice. 

Pick-up Procedure:
Shares will be pre-packed in wax boxes to facilitate faster pick-up, but you will need to bring your own bags or containers at pick-up time (I have bags and cardboard boxes as back-up), since I want to keep the wax boxes at the farm. Produce should be stored in proper conditions at home as soon as possible (see STORAGE TIPS later in this newsletter).

I can take cash (I will have ample change) or check. Please make checks out to "Middle Way Farm". I will also have a sale table with extra items that you can purchase in addition to your pre-ordered share. 

Regular Season CSA shareholders: You can choose to pay for just your Thanksgiving Share or pay for both the Thanksgiving Share and the balance of your CSA share from this summer. Otherwise payment for the summer share will be due by Dec. 15. Please see separate e-mails sent tonight with your total CSA balance. 

Winter on the Farm 

Winter came hard and fast this year, didn't it! The whiplash was made more intense by the incredibly mild and warm fall we were having up to that point. The last few days before the sudden change in weather were a scramble on the farm to finish fall activities that normally can be done up to Thanksgiving - composting and tilling the field, mulching garlic with straw, and harvesting all of the remaining crops in the field. I'm fortunate to have a large walk-in cooler this year that allowed me to take all of the remaining field crops (brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, spinach, thyme, sage, and spinach) and put them in inside before temperatures plummeted. That's why the share could include those crops even though by Wednesday last week they would have been frozen solid without a thaw since. Because they were harvested in cool weather and immediately placed in a very cold cooler (set at 34 degrees, colder than your home refrigerator), crops that normally have a shorter shelf life like spinach and broccoli will in fact stay good for several weeks. The rest of the produce in your share consists of storage crops which I harvested in September and October and immediately put into cold storage without washing. Produce stores better if it is not washed; I don't clean it until I know I'm going to sell it. Storage crops will last well into the winter and next spring, sometimes even overlapping with the next season's crop! See my storage tips below. 

Winter is a maligned season for many but I try to see the virtue in it. Many people ask me what I do during the winter. I'm tempted to say what my housemate Clay told me years ago. When I studied abroad in London, I lived with Clay, a young Australian ex-pat, who did gardening for wealthy London clients. He would take the winters off. When I asked him what he did in his time off, he said "Sit on the couch, drink beer, and watch snooker" (popular English pool game). But its not true for me! While winter is a nice change of pace from the hectic growing season, its still busy with non-growing activities like billing, bookkeeping, record collection and analysis, supply purchases, and other office work and planning. I'm a one man band, so I tend not to do much of that work during the growing season. I also catch up on sleep, catch up with farmer friends at winter conferences and meetings, spend more time at home in the mornings, spend more time in the kitchen cooking, and generally enjoy a more leisurely pace.

Winter is also a necessary chance of pace for the soil and plant life on the farm. Winter arrests pest and disease cycles that run throughout the year in tropical climates. Farmers will talk about how a particularly cold winter (like what we had last year) will sometimes result in reduced pests the following year. I'd like to think the sudden freeze this month may have done the same. The freezing and thawing action of winter is also extremely important, as it loosens compaction in the soil, which does not happen in places they do not get cold winters. Its the same action that causes paved roads to buckle and crack and the same reason I have to mulch the garlic, to protect it from this freeze/thaw cycle. The ground being frozen 6 months out of the year also protects it from run-off and gives it a chance to rest. At the same time, I've learned from Elaine Ingham of the Rodale Institute that in a biologically active soil, the most active time for decomposition of surface residue such as plant stalks takes place over the winter, under a blanket of snow!

There are myriad benefits to this rest time for the farm and the farmer. So as much as we might idealize warm, tropical locations for their climate, their soils are often poor, pest and weed pressure is high, and their agricultural productivity lower because of it. And their farmers don't get any time off! We're luck to have this rest time in our temperature climate. From a farmer's perspective, winter is the necessary corollary to summer. Without death, we couldn't have life. 

Thanksgiving is more so than any other holiday centered on food, and I love that those traditional Thanksgiving foods have continued to reflect seasonality and place even as our food system became almost completely disconnected from the seasons and regional culture. Even as the windchill drops below zero and the ground is frozen with a blanket of snow, it is truly a time of local food abundance. Here's to enjoying food with company and realizing that it is good place that we live, and as good a time as any to enjoy it!

Your farmer,

A look at the cooler after everything had been harvested before the real cold hit. The brussels sprouts are in a pile under the towels, which are soaked in water to keep them from drying out. You'll notice other produce is in sealed plastic bags for the same reason. 
Storage Tips for Produce, Plants, & Turkey
Apples - Store in the crisper drawer in the fridge in a sealed plastic bag (not with other produce). If storing on counter, use within a week or so. Will store several months in fridge (Honeycrisp is storage variety). Gives off gases that can ripen other produce. 
Acorn Squash - Store at room temperature on counter or in cool, dry space. Use within a few weeks. 
Beets - S
tore in the crisper drawer in the fridge in a sealed plastic bag. Will store several months.
Broccoli - Store in the crisper drawer in the fridge in a sealed plastic bag. Use or freeze within a week to 10 days. 
Brussels Sprouts - Store in the crisper drawer in the fridge in a sealed plastic bag. Use or freeze within a week to 10 days. 
Butternut Squash -  Store at room temperature on counter or in cool, dry space. Will store for several months. Check for wrinkling of skin or bad spots; if found use quickly. 
Cabbage - Store in the crisper drawer in the fridge in a sealed plastic bag. Will store several months. Peel off outer layers if they go bad. 
Carrots - Store in the crisper drawer in the fridge in a sealed plastic bag. Will store several months.
Kale - Store in the crisper drawer in the fridge in a sealed plastic bag. Use or freeze within a week to 10 days. 
Onions - Store at room temperature on counter. Will store for several months. If start to sprout or soften, use quickly. 
Potatoes - Can store in room temperature loose or in mesh bag. For better storage, keep in refrigerator in sealed plastic bag in crisper drawer. Can store several months. 
Spinach - S
tore in the crisper drawer in the fridge in a sealed plastic bag. Use or freeze within a week to 10 days. 
Sweet Potatoes - Store on counter at room temperature, always above 50 degrees. Never refrigerate (will lose flavor and texture). Can store several months. Check for spotting and shriveling of skin, if found use quickly. 
Sage & Thyme - S
tore in the crisper drawer in the fridge in a sealed plastic bag. Use fresh within a few weeks or leave out on the counter at room temperature to dry. 

Turkey - Requires at least one day of defrosting in fridge for every 4 pounds of weight. Can speed up defrost by putting in cold water bath. Store for up to a week after defrost, before cooking. Keep frozen for up to 6 months. 

Aloe Vera - Prefers indirect sunlight (not direct exposure, can sunburn), regular watering (let soil dry out completely between waterings). 
Parsley plant - Put in sunniest spot possible, not too cold. Water at least weekly, whenever soil dries. Use leaves as needed, will grow a little over the winter. 
Before the cold hit, I planted the beginning of a row of paw paw trees, a native Iowa fruit tree that bears tropical fruit tasting like banana custard (really!). 
Extras for Sale

I will have the following items for sale tomorrow if you would like to add them to your share at pick-up: 
  • Acorn Squash - from Berry Patch Farm
  • Aloe Vera Plants 
  • Beets - Red & Heirloom
  • Green Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Kale - Bunches
  • Baby Kale - Late addition to Thanksgiving Share options last week
  • Yellow Onions - Certified organic from Iowa Amish growers
  • Flat-leaf Parsley Plants
  • Potatoes - Kennebec, Adirondak Red, Red Norland
  • Spinach - Full-Size
  • Sage & Thyme - Great for stuffing in turkey when roasting
  • Sweet Potatoes
A section of the field after spreading a layer of compost on top. This was followed by a disk implement behind the tractor, which shallowly incorporates the compost into the soil. Compost provides a big boost of organic matter and beneficial soil microbes, in addition to major nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium and micro-nutrients like sulfur, calcium, and magnesium, all needed for healthy plant growth. 

Recipe & Preparation Ideas

Apples - Honeycrisps are one of the best eating apples out there. Best enjoyed eaten fresh...or stuff a few in your turkey!
Acorn Squash - Perfect size squash for halving, stuffing and baking!
Beets - My favorite way to prepare them - shredded and sauted in a generous amount of butter until they are wonderfully sweet. 

Broccoli - Roast it, trust me! Afterward, toss in lemon juice, lemon zest, parmesan cheese, and bread crumbs. 
Brussels Sprouts -  Like broccoli, best flavor when roasted. I finish with balsamic vinegar and soy sauce. 
Butternut Squash - One of my favorite recipes for both butternuts and kale. 
Cabbage -  Our go to recipe. I also love to make sauekraut!
Carrots - Wonderfully simple, filling, vegetarian lentil dish with carrots prominently featured. 
Kale - Simple - sauted in olive oil and finished with balsamic vinegar and soy sauce. 
Onions - You know what to do!
Potatoes - The secret to good roasted potatoes - put them in the oven whole until almost cooked, then slice and finish in a pan on the stove in hot oil. 
Spinach - 
 The winter variation on summer's basil pesto. 
Sweet Potatoes - Mashed or shredded 
Sage & Thyme - Perfect as stuffing for your turkey before roasting, or chopped up and added to roasted root dishes. 

Turkey - I HIGHLY recommend dry brining your turkey. I now do it for all poultry before I cook it. It has the same effect as a wet brine but its easier and less messy!  It increases the flavor and moistness of the meat a great deal. 

Thanksgiving Share Recipe Pick

This recipe comes highly recommended via shareholder Suzanne Castello and is originally from an article in the Des Moines Register. Its the perfect fall soup and perfect for this CSA share, which includes most of the ingredients! I also included this recipe in the final week of the regular CSA share in mid-October. 

Squash Apple Bisque

3 tablespoons butter
5 cups butternut squash, cubed
1 1/4 cup onions, chopped
1/2 cup carrot, chopped
1/2 cup celery (or celery root), chopped
1 small apple, chopped or 1 1/4 cup
1/2 teaspoon all spice (freshly ground is best)
3 1/2 c vegetable or low sodium chicken broth
1 cup apple cider
1/2 cup whipping cream
Fresh parsley & thinly sliced apples for garnish

In a large stock pot, melt butter over medium heat and add all vegetables. Saute for 10 minutes until onions are soft. Add apples and allspice, then broth and cider. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium low and simmer covered for 30 minutes or until all vegetables are soft. Puree soup in batches in a blender or use an immersion blender to puree it in the pot. If using a blender, take out the plastic insert in the top to allow steam from the hot soup to escape as you are blending. Place a towel over the top to prevent the soup from splashing out. Return pureed soup to pot, add cream, and thin with broth or apple cider vinegar as desired. Season with salt and pepper (other possibilities for spices like nutmeg). Serve in bowls and garnish with drizzled cream, thinly sliced apples, and parsley.  
While most of the outdoor work is done for the season, I'll be outside periodically this winter cutting down and trimming trees, moving brush, hauling and splitting wood, dumping compost, and cleaning and organizing the barn. I'll get to choose the days I'm outside in the winter, though, unlike last week when I was forced to bundle up for freezing, cloudy weather and 20-30 mile per hour winds on Tuesday to finish spreading compost! 
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