Welcome!

14Welcome to our farm’s blog and website! Oakhill Organics is a family-run farm located on Grand Island. We grow everything we sell right here on our farm, and everything that we grow is sold directly to customers here in Yamhill County! We sell primarily through our unique 45-week long Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, which offers customizable share sizes and contents. You can find out more information about what and how we grow by following the links above; or, scroll down to read our latest farm news on our blog!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

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September’s final days

A BIG winter squash awaiting imminent harvest!

A BIG winter squash awaiting imminent harvest!

Oh September. How is it possible that this month is already almost over? And, yet, here we are so smack in the thick of early fall and all of its particular tendencies. The golden light of late afternoon and early evening. Longer nights. Yellow jackets on the hunt (several people, including me, got stung today on a hiking trip!). Winter squash to harvest and move to storage. Trees turning yellow and orange.

It all feels so beguiling. And so very fleeting. These shoulder seasons of fall (and spring) just seem to move. From one day to the next, changes in our landscape are so visible and everything feels like it is busy winding up. I feel some level of urgency in the world, beyond just the aggression of those pesky yellow jackets. Canada geese are flying in large numbers, with a clear destination in mind. It’s just time. It’s time to finish up before (eventually) those first frosts and muddy days arrive.

In preparation for the winter squash harvests, Casey cleaned out our “squash room” in the pole barn. It has been used at times as a shop as well as for squash storage, and it was time to return it to just squash. It’s simpler that way. Where the shop will go is still somewhat up in the air, as it has been for about, oh … ten years now. Maybe that’s the thing we’ll figure out in 2017, how and where to keep our random tools, most of which we rarely use in place anyway (our real “shop” is always out in the fields, but we still have to store tools somewhere in the interim!). The biggest challenge with storing random objects and materials is, as always, mice and other rodents, who seem to find their way into most spaces as they look for nesting spots (the squash room is 99% sealed from rodents, which is why we were temporarily using it for two purposes!).

We’ll figure this out eventually. It’s more of a winter project really, and I suppose that one could surmise that establishing our perfect “shop” hasn’t been a priority for this last decade, so what’s another year or two really? Farming and living on land like this has instilled in me a deeper level of patience; a greater understanding of how somethings really just take time. Especially big projects, like farming and managing land. Each year, we really do figure out another piece of how to manage this big puzzle more effectively. Next year that will be true too.

And tonight, I’m trying to ignore the ache on the back of my head (from the sting) and looking out at the golden evening light and anticipating a dinner of fall flavors (roast beef with cabbage and spaghetti squash). It’s funny how sometimes deep relaxation can co-exist with deep urgency — it feels like this season brings both so strongly, co-existing in a vibrant paradox of experiences.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

P.S. I owe you all a follow up on last week’s newsletter about Grand Island and gravel quarries, but I am honestly still sorting out some of the information and am not ready to post something coherent! Soon!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Grapes
  • Apples
  • Bartlett pears — Did you know that European-style pears (such as these) do not ripen properly if let to ripen on the tree? Instead, we farmers pick them when they are mature, but not yet ripe (you can tell because they are full sized and come off easily). We hold them in cold storage until it is time to give them out, and they will ripen (i.e. soften and sweeten) slightly in that situation, but really we have to pull them to room temperature to finish the job. Casey has been letting these pears ripen a bit before giving out, but you might still want to make sure yours are ready before eating. Put them on a not-too-warm spot on your kitchen counter and check them every day to see if they are ready. They should give under your knife with no resistance (like butter!), and then they are ready to slice and eat. A perfectly ripe pear is so totally worth the wait.
  • Spaghetti squash — Dottie is such a quintessential little kid who can’t properly pronounce this word. Right now around our house, this is “scuh-betti” squash. But she’s working on it. How to cook: we slice this lengthwise and then scoop out the seeds and pulp. Then we place it cut side up on a baking pan and pour olive oil and lots of salt over the top. Bake at 375° until it is tender through. When finished cooking, you should be able to take a fork and “scrape” out the “spaghetti”-like strands of cooked flesh onto your plate. It makes a fantastic base for all kinds of stews or sauces. We love “scuh-betti” squash!
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet peppers
  • Kohlrabi
  • Chard
  • Beets
  • Red potatoes
  • Zucchini

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm:

  • Beef cuts — The last beef from our farm for the foreseeable future! Steaks are $14/lb; ground beef is $10/lb; organs and bones are $6/lb.
  • Lamb — Also the last lamb from our farm for the foreseeable future! Chops are $14/lb; roasts are $12/lb; ground lamb is $10/lb; organs and bones are $6/lb.
  • Eggs — $6/dozen
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Here we go again

Blast from the past -- a sign from 2010 ...

Blast from the past — a sign from 2010 …

Recognize this sign? Longtime farm friends and politically aware locals will remember the genesis of these signs back in 2010. For a while, they were prolific around these parts, as Grand Island residents and farmers, nearby neighbors, and friends gathered together to respond to a rock company’s proposal to put a gravel quarry on the south end of the island.

That was a wild time, let me tell you. And, in many ways, a wonderful time of community organizing. We got to know many neighbors who we’d barely met in our previous four years of living and farming here. We met weekly to organize our ideas and understand what the implications of this quarry would be for the island — and how we could potentially mitigate damages or even find a way to stop it from happening.

Long story made short — back in 2011, Yamhill County approved the zone change on the proposal parcel, changing it “forever” from agricultural zoning to mineral extraction zoning. The intervening years have been quiet. The rock company has been working on the next steps apparently — many more permits are needed before starting up the operation of a gravel quarry!

During this quiet period, we’ve enjoyed spending our time and energy on other projects, but it looks like the time has come to return our attention to what’s happening (or potentially happening) at the south end of Grand Island.

And, now, I apologize because really this will be a “teaser” post about this topic. My time for a newsletter is limited this week because I am meeting tonight with other island residents and friends to assess what actually is going on right now with the quarry. The News-Register published a great, in-depth article about the history of the quarry situation and its current status for those of you who want to get caught up. And, I will write more at length next week when I have a better idea of the situation myself.

Perhaps one of the most surprising things about falling SO deeply in love with a place is realizing that my love — like all loves — makes me feel so vulnerable to possible pain or hurt or disappointment. The longer we live on Grand Island, the more rooted we feel here. We grow in our love of the wildlife that lives on the edges. We grow in our appreciation for the very vibrant farming businesses that employ so many people here.

We’re still figuring out exactly what “protect” means at this point in Grand Island’s situation, but our heart is even deeper in love with the island than when those signs were painted five years ago. And, so, we persist in our attention at the very least.

More next week! I promise! For now, enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Final CSA payment due this week! If you haven’t already paid the remainder of your CSA balance, this is the week to do so! You can bring cash or check to pick-up or mail us a check to: Oakhill Organics, P.O. Box 1698, McMinnville OR 97128. Please let me know if you have any questions about your account or balance due. Thank you!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Pears
  • Chehalis apples
  • Grapes
  • Delicata winter squash — Tomorrow is the Fall equinox! I remember the equinox of 2010 so well — of seeing the sun set exactly behind me to the west as we drove home from a quarry meeting with neighbors. This year, we will observe it by picking up meat from the butchering and saying hello to all our CSA members at pick-up! BUT! We will also celebrate by sharing with you some of the first winter squash of the season … the beloved Delicata squash! These are a perennial favorite of the CSA. They are so simple to prepare in many ways. Our favorite is to make “rings” by slicing the squash width-wise. I use a butter knife to scoop out the seeds and then roast the rings on a baking sheet with lots of butter at 375° until the delicata is crispy outside and soft inside. Yum. In general, you can eat the skin on this squash, which makes it easy to prepare lots of ways!
  • Cauliflower & cabbage
  • Tomatoes — “Juliet” plum cherry tomatoes & slicer tomatoes both
  • Sweet peppers
  • Chard
  • Zucchini
  • Beets
  • Red potatoes
  • Garlic

~ ~ ~

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm:

  • Beef cuts — The last beef from our farm for the foreseeable future! Steaks are $14/lb; roasts are $12/lb; ground beef is $10/lb; organs and bones are $6/lb.
  • Lamb — Also the last lamb from our farm for the foreseeable future! Chops are $14/lb; roasts are $12/lb; ground lamb is $10/lb; organs and bones are $6/lb.
  • Eggs — $6/dozen
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Milestones & passages

A ceremonial burning of a loan schedule ...

A ceremonial burning of a loan schedule …

As I mentioned at in last week’s newsletter, this month marks a big milestone for us: it’s been ten years since we bought the land where we live and farm.

Folks, ten years feels like a long, long time. A decade! Since Casey and I are only in our mid-30s, decades feel like a new way to measure time in our adult life.

So much has changed since we bought this land. Our farm is now such a lively, interesting place, but in 2006 we purchased 17.5 acres of bare farmland without any improvements. The only items of note breaking up the expanse of field were a few very ancient trees at the old homesite (where there was no home, but where we built one the next winter). Casey and I remember standing in our big open field and pondering all that could happen there. We even remarked many times, “We have no idea what this farm will look like in ten years.” No, we really didn’t. There are buildings, orchards, greenhouses, and fields that have grown so many crops to feed our community. What a decade it has been — so full and rich with good work, creativity, friendship, and growth.

But, even just our acquisition of this land was a journey in its right. Back in 2006, we were even younger … 24 and 26, freshly out of graduate school, with no credit of any kind and no significant business history. We were not in a good position to qualify for a loan at all, let along for bare farmland, which banks only lend on in particular circumstances (to our credit, a few years later, in 2011, we did obtain a bank loan on the piece of land next door based on our farm’s financial records! But that’s a different story …).

Casey and Jonny building stuff on our first rented land in 2006 ... ten years ago!

A photo from the farm archives: Casey and our college friend Jonny building stuff on our first rented land in 2006 … ten years ago!

So, how could we buy this land we had fallen in love with? With the help of friends and family. My parents helped with some of it, and a friend from college surprised us by offering to loan us the rest that we needed. What a friend! And, so, we took that very big plunge … going from credit and debt-free 20-somethings to mortgage and land-owning budding farmers. It was a big leap. It felt big at the time, and perspective has only heightened our awareness of how much we were taking on in terms of responsibilities.

But, it worked. We’ve never ever regretted investing ourselves in this place and work so early on in our life. We built our house, had children here, hosted countless gatherings of friends … That investment was big, but it was SO worth it.

And, since then, we’ve paid our monthly payments. And months added up to years, and years added up to a decade, and as of this month, we have made our last payment back to Jonny, our college friend. He visited this last weekend so that we could celebrate the occasion together (it also served as a perfect excuse to visit for the first time in several years). We took him out to a delicious dinner at Thistle, hiked around the island, and mutually pondered the passage of time. On Sunday before he drove back up to Seattle, we printed out the loan amortization schedule we made ten years ago, and we burned it!

Paying off this one big loan feels profoundly significant. We still have two others to work on over the next some odd number of years, but we finished one. The completion feels amazing. We also enjoy again contemplating our gratitude for the gift of this land. It’s a happy decade anniversary all around.

In different but related news, we observed another kind of passage on Monday as we sent our last cow and five sheep to the butcher. These were our very last four-legged animals on the farm. The only animals we have left to tend are our laying hens, and they are scheduled to go to the butcher on the final week of the CSA (for stewing hens).

We’ve had livestock on the farm for five years now — just about half of our farm experience! I already wrote a newsletter a few months ago about the decision to move on from livestock (for now, at least), so I don’t need to revisit those reasons again now. But this week that plan became more real, and we are again profoundly aware of this passage. In this case, saying good-bye to a part of our farm that was both rich and rewarding as well as intensely stressful and heavy (at times). But we look forward to the new opportunities the change opens up for us as a family this winter and as a farm into the future.

So, it was a double-whammy here on the farm of emotional milestones and passages! In so many ways, it feels like our farm is at a turning point. Which of course, we really always have been. Ten years ago, we stood in our big field pondered what a decade would hold. In the intervening years, there have been times when I thought the mystery had been solved — that we had figured out what our farm and life would look like forever and ever. But, lo and behold, each year brings new changes, losses, surprises, and gifts, and the landscape continues to change, just as we do too.

Perhaps even more so than that first fall here on the land, I again have that sense of open wonder about the future. Except now I feel less urgency about figuring it out. I feel more comfortable and at ease with the inevitable unknowability of the future. I feel more at ease with just knowing who we are and what we are doing today. Our children are growing so fast, and perhaps some of my changed perspective is just that parental impulse to want to slow down time and cherish every single moment we have as a family now. Either way, the next decade looks as foggy as ever, and yet I feel excited about the gifts I know lie ahead, whatever they are. The gifts of growth on the farm, in our family, and in our relationships beyond. We are grateful.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Final CSA payment due by September 22! I emailed everyone updated account statements this last week. Please let me know if you have any questions about the amount due. You can bring us a check or cash to pick-up, or mail a check to us: Oakhill Organics, P.O. Box 1698, McMinnville OR 97128.

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Grapes — More Concord grapes! Contain seeds!
  • Plums
  • Chehalis apples
  • Salad mix
  • Juliet tomatoes — These little plum roma tomatoes are some of our all-time favorite. They are a true all-purpose tomato — flavorful enough for eating fresh on salads, but they also make delicious (sweet) sauce and dry up beautifully.
  • Heirloom tomatoes
  • Sweet peppers
  • Collard greens
  • Beets w/greens — The greens on these beets are enormous so we are considering them one of our “cooking green” options this week (the beets are beautiful too). Did you know that beets and chard are actually the same species of plant? They were just selected for different purposes in the garden and kitchen. But you can use beet greens as you would use chard in any recipe with delicious results.
  • Carrots
  • Nicola potatoes — These are one of our new favorite potatoes in recent years. They have smooth yellow flesh like a German butterball, but the skin is not “russetted.” Delicious for roasting.
  • Zucchini

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm: More beef and lamb are coming soon! In the meantime, we want to clean out our freezer, so come on down for our:

  • Odds & Ends sale! — All remaining pork, beef, and lamb organs/bones/fat are ON SALE for $2/lb! We have lots of beef bones especially — stock up for making stock for the coming cold season!
  • Eggs — $6/dozen
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Late summer’s timeless moments

The children run through a freshly worked field.

The children run through a freshly worked field.

In the past week, I’ve had several moments when I realize that — for a moment — I have no idea what season we are in. These moments were jarring but also oddly blissful. In the absence of a clear moment in time, they felt timeless. Eternal, in a way.

But I think the cause behind my moments of confusion is more practical and down-to-earth. The weather we’ve been experiencing in the last week has been mild and doesn’t immediately tell me anything specific about the season. It could be summer (as it is), fall, a warm winter day, or spring.

Of course, we’re very much in late summer mode out here. Casey has begun working up some of the earlier summer crops that are done and have gone to weeds (making for fun dirt runways for the kids — see photo above!). He spends an hour in most days picking fruit, which is now maturing in what Wendell Berry describes as a “tide” of abundance. He’s already brought in Gator-load after Gator-load of apples and pears to store in our cooler, with more to come.

And next on the harvest schedule will be the potatoes, followed by storage cabbages. We are in harvest mode, looking ahead to the colder months ahead (but not too eager for them yet! There is much to do before then!).

I imagine that for our members, this week probably felt like the first real week of fall, with so many households returning to school year schedules of classes. Historically, the first week of the school year is the best attended week of the CSA season, because almost everyone is in town and establishing new rhythms.

We hope that everyone who is connected to the world of school has had a fabulous first week back! And, enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

P.S. We’re celebrating a rather exciting anniversary this month — it’s been 10 years since we bought our land! We have some special plans in that regard for this weekend, and we will share more stories about that occasion next week!

~ ~ ~

Final CSA payment due September 22! I’ll be emailing personal CSA statements and reminders shortly, but I wanted to remind everyone that the final payment is due soon! Please pay any remaining balance by September 22. Let us know if you have any questions about your account balance!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Grapes
  • Plums
  • Apples
  • Salad mix
  • Red sweet peppers — We wait all year for these, the last ripening summer fruits. Because they do ripen so late, to us they are really a fall fruit, and we will be harvesting them well into October and possibly November. They are delicious in so many applications: chopped and added raw to a salad. Chopped and sauteed with greens (and/or zucchini). This time of year, we tend to add them liberally to everything we cook, rejoicing in the subtle sweet flavor and beautiful color they add to dishes.
  • Green peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Zucchini

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm:

  • Eggs — $6/dozen
  • Lamb — Chops are $14/lb; roasts are $10/lb; ground lamb is $10/lb; and organs/bones are $6/lb.
  • Beef stock bones — $6/lb.
  • Pork organs, fat & bones — $4/lb
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Learning stuff

We started school this week! One of our first projects was decoupaging the kids' new nature notebooks for the year.

We started school this week! One of our first projects was decoupaging the kids’ new nature notebooks for the year.

The big news on the farm this week was the start of our school year! We started a week earlier than the other schools in our area, because we were ready, and I don’t want to rush through our plans this year. No need to if we have plenty of time over the whole year!

First day photo!

First day photo!

Rusty is in first grade this fall, and Dottie is a preschooler. As far as Casey and I are concerned, our whole life is an education in practical living and immersion in nature. But academic-type learning is important to us too (we do both hold graduate degrees, after all! And we are grateful for those educational experiences we had!). So, the kids and I have a morning rhythm now that includes the basic things like handwriting practice, math, reading aloud very good books, phonic practice, Spanish, music/singing, craft projects, and games (not necessarily all of those in one day!). In addition, for “science,” we are continuing to do nature study, with these fall’s topic being birds. That’s an easy sell in our household, since Rusty has been truly “geeking out” on birds for several weeks now after stumbling across a few very cool books at the library (including one that plays bird songs!).

But this morning, we skipped our usual morning routine because we had some last minute visitors from Washington State University. Amanda and Joseph are traveling up the west coast this summer, visiting organic farms to collect data from the fields. They are studying bird and beetle populations, surveying them to track their populations in the fields and look at other possible relationships between the fields and these animals as well (for example, how a diverse messy farmscape might possibly increase beetle populations which in turn may provide beneficial predation of pest species in crops). We had heard about their work on friend’s farms, and we were super excited that they decided to add Oakhill Organics to the project.

They arrived last night to set up “mist nets” to catch birds and traps in our fall brassicas to catch ground beetles. Very early this morning, they came back out to actually open the nets and check out our local bird and beetle populations.

Dottie, Rusty and I helped Amanda set up nets all over the farm, including between rows of trees in our home orchard.

Dottie, Rusty and I helped Amanda set up nets all over the farm, including between rows of trees in our home orchard.

We set up another net between the kids' garden and the north end of our field.

We set up another net between the kids’ garden and the north end of our field.

Unfortunately the misty rain this morning required that the netting process be cut short, but even in the very first few minutes of having them open, Amanda and Joseph caught many birds — enough to spend the morning processing them. Mostly, there were White Crowned Sparrows but we also saw a Scrub Jay, Common Yellow Throat, and Savannah Sparrow. We’ll receive a more official report eventually sharing with us the numbers.

Needless to say, their presence consumed all the kids’ attention for the morning. And Amanda and Joseph were so warm and welcoming of us, happily allowing us to tag along on all the work and watch as they took samples from the birds and measured them before releasing them back outside. Dottie even got to help release the birds.

Dottie helps to release a _____ back outside after the measuring and sampling process.

Dottie helped release birds back outside after the measuring and sampling process.

So, our bird study took on a very different, delightful and unexpected twist today. Casey and I have a feeling that the kids will be processing the wonders of this visit for a long time. And, now that we’re part of the project, we get to host the scientists again in future years as they continue to survey the same farms!

If you’re wondering, we did manage to somehow fit in our normal Wednesday work today too. After he too had some time to “geek out” on the science stuff this morning and doing a large unexpected harvest for a local customer (who had a true “produce emergency”!), Casey harvested for the CSA. The kids and I enjoyed our final weekly river date with friends too. And, we managed to sneak in some of that book learnin’ stuff in the afternoon (with the kids in pajamas, because after spending most of the morning outside, it really was a pajama kind of afternoon).

Also, it’s hard to even remember since the intervening days have been so full and eventful, but last Friday was our Ratatouille Rendezvous farm event! Thank you to everyone who came and helped make it into a truly lovely evening of delicious shared food and fellowship. I really can’t imagine a more lovely (if a bit hot) evening. Our next farm event is coming up toward the end of October. On Sunday, October 23 we’ll host our annual Pumpkin Patch Open House from 2-4 pm! Put it on your calendar now!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Jonagold apples — A new type of apple this week! These are great for eating fresh and cooking with. An all around great apple.
  • Brooks plums
  • Concord grapes
  • Lettuce — Your choice between head lettuce OR salad mix
  • Heirloom tomatoes — We have lots this week!
  • Red peppers
  • Green peppers — Lots of green peppers this week too!
  • Eggplant
  • Chard
  • Collard greens
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • German Butterball potatoes
  • Garlic

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm:

  • Eggs — $6/dozen
  • Lamb — Chops are $14/lb; roasts are $10/lb; ground lamb is $10/lb; and organs/bones are $6/lb.
  • Beef stock bones — $6/lb.
  • Pork organs, fat & bones — $4/lb
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Late summer pause

Sunflower = the symbol of late summer!

Sunflower = the symbol of late summer!

I had a very unfamiliar experience this week. During my normal Monday afternoon office work session, I … finished my ‘to do’ list. And dealt with all the papers on my desk. I … finished.

How often in our adult lives do we get this sensation anymore? Of actual completion. I remember loving that feeling as a student of finishing a quarter and taking a clean break before the next term began. Rarely do we ever have quite that same level of “doneness” anymore, except perhaps the awesome feeling of wrapping up the CSA season. That feels good, but it’s a once a year deal.

Anyhow, I’m not really done right now. I was just done on Monday. Which is still rare. I usually have work that has to necessarily carry over to later work sessions. But I think this is part of where Casey and I are in the seasonal cycle of the year and also where we are at this season in life.

As far as the yearly cycle, one could say that we are in the midst of a big in-breath as we prepare for big fall harvests. Aside from the fruit, we’re not really in the midst of these big projects yet. But most of the planting and much of the weeding for the year is done. So, we breathe in and prepare ourselves.

I also don’t have any big pressing farm paperwork projects — late August is a relative lull, as I’m not thinking about taxes or CSA sign-ups or such. I’ve been keeping up with the monthly bookkeeping, so it’s a time to just keep going: paying the bills that come in and processing payments.

And, on the homefront, the kids and my summer schedule is winding down. I’ve already finished planning our homeschooling year, which starts next Monday. Since planning is done but school is yet to begin, I once again have a moment to pause and breathe in deeply.

Those things all give us a moment of pause, but I also think that things are happening in our life too that are changing (slowly) how “caught up” we feel.

I will tell you these things: starting a farm, building a house, and then starting a family are all very good ways to feel not caught up for quite a while. Basic maintenance of a life (housekeeping, farm maintenance, etc.) can feel very very very hard in these seasons of life. I’m sure that many of you have experienced similar periods in your own life — perhaps for you it was graduate school, or the birth of your own children, or moving to a new location. With so many of these kinds of life events stacked on top of each other in the last ten years, things that might feel basic in another season of life have felt next to impossible.

And, of course, on some level, the desire to “catch up” is perhaps misguided, since life is a journey after all. But, I do think that some seasons of life allow for more catching up, and I want to very cautiously note that perhaps we are in one of those seasons now. A season when both the farm and the children will easily allow Casey and me to spend a few hours cleaning on a Saturday morning without it feeling like a huge sacrifice or hardship (that sounds dramatic, but really try cleaning a bathroom with a baby and a toddler around, and you’ll know that it’s really not an over-statement at all).

Daily life out here no longer feels like “triage,” which is how we used to describe it. There have been times when it felt like we had so many things to do — things that were all past being urgent — and we just had to choose which tasks, knowing that we’d never get them all done and that some would inevitably just get dropped. In some seasons, that meant the house would get dirty while the fields were (at least partially) weeded. Or, the children would be rocked to sleep but the dishes piled up in the sink. Or, the fall crops were planted but the summer weeds weren’t worked in before going to seed.

Some of this is life, of course. A full life will always require prioritizing. But this process feels different now. It no longer feels like we’re just running around putting out fires. It no longer feels like our children and the fields and the house are all screaming urgent needs at us. For the most part, we are able to anticipate and meet needs earlier in all those arenas, before there is “screaming” (literal or just figurative). We will enjoy this slightly calmer season while it lasts.

And, perhaps some of this is late August talking. Perhaps it’s me enjoying this in-breath before the next cycle of our life starts — when we start hauling potatoes and carrots and covering the table with math and Spanish books. That’s ok too. I will enjoy this moment while it is here, because this moment is the only moment we have right now.

May you too find some peace in these final weeks of summer. Savor the warmth and the music of crickets at dusk and the wonderful, abundant foods from the field. Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Ratatouille Rendezvous is this Friday! ~ Join us on the farm for a late summer feast at 6 pm, Friday, August 26 ~ We are making a big batch of summer stew and will provide bread and goat cheese as well. Please RSVP if you plan to join us! Bring a big bowl & spoons/forks for your family, along with a side dish to share (salad, side dish, bread, dessert, etc.).

Directions to the farm: Take HWY-18 to Dayton. Drive south through Dayton and stay on Wallace Rd/HWY-221 for about seven miles. Turn LEFT onto Grand Island Rd. After the bridge, turn RIGHT onto SE Upper Island Rd. Our driveway is the first on your left. Our house is the 2-story brown one toward the back right. If you have questions, you can call: 503-474-7661

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Grapes — Concords! The ultimate grape flavor! Contain seeds.
  • Chehalis apples
  • Brooks plums
  • Tomatoes — Both cherry tomatoes & big beautiful heirloom tomatoes
  • Green peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Cucumbers
  • Green beans
  • Salad mix — Just in time for another round of big late summer heat. Make yourself a great big salad for dinner and beat the heat in your kitchen!
  • Basil
  • Rainbow chard
  • Zucchini
  • Potatoes

~ ~ ~

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm:

  • Eggs — $6/dozen
  • Lamb — Chops are $14/lb; roasts are $10/lb; ground lamb is $10/lb; and organs/bones are $6/lb. Get it while it lasts!
  • Beef cuts — Roasting type meats are $10/lb, and steaks are $14/lb. Organs and bones are $6/lb.
  • Beef stew meat — $10/lb
  • Pork organs, fat & bones — $4/lb
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

Fruit!!!!

The kids celebrating the beginning of the apple harvest!

The kids celebrating the beginning of the apple harvest!

I’ve had this experience several times this summer, when I consider the abundant display of produce at our CSA pick-up and then I consider the relatively small acreage we have planted to vegetables this year, and I wonder: where does it all come from? Really, there seems to be some disconnect between what I see in the fields and what I see at pick-up. How does that magic happen?

It is magic (really, it is!), but perhaps not as mysterious as it seems to me at moments. The answer to this conundrum is that a big chunk of the produce on display doesn’t come from our fields … it is coming from our orchards.

There’s a Chinese proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was ten years ago. The second best time is now.” Amen.

We planted our first orchard seven and a half years ago, and the next one the following year. Each year, we’ve watched the trees grow and tended them and pruned them and mowed around them and watered them. Trees grow, which is a kind of magic, but it’s something we’ve observed and helped along with our farmer ways.

And, now, we’re rejoicing in the big returns on that earlier investment. Even though we have been present for all the work of helping these trees grow, it still feels miraculous to drive our gator out to the fields full of empty bins and then fill those bins with fruit from the trees. Really, it’s just amazing. Food grows on trees. Why does that feel more magical than planting a lettuce seed and cutting salad four weeks later? I’m not sure, but perhaps it’s because of the lapses in our attention on the fruit trees. Since they don’t need to be planted every year, nor watered as regularly, their harvests feel like gifts and less obviously the product of any of our work. And, well, fruit is really delicious (hey, so is salad, but we’re less likely to just pick lettuce to eat in the field, whereas an apple straight from the tree is a great treat).

Oh, I shouldn’t compare. It all feels magical really: apples, salads, all of it. Plants are amazing. We’re over a decade into this farming gig, and it still feels profound every day. I don’t think I will ever tire of the miracle of putting a tiny seed into soil and watching it grow into a large, nutritious and beautiful plant (say a giant Marina di Chioggia winter squash or a plentiful tomato vine).

Summer really is starting to wind down. We’re facing a late summer heat wave this weekend, but it feels less daunting knowing that the days are shorter than in June, and it’s likely the nights will cool off. Folks will be heading back to school shortly. We start our own homeschool routine the last week in August, and we are excited to open all our new books and learn new things together. We’re also keeping our fall schedule relatively wide open so as to allow plenty of time for all the fall harvests coming up. Much food will go into our coolers and storage room between now and the end of the CSA season — most of it to share with you in the next CSA season!

To help us celebrate the abundance of summer, we invite CSA members and friends to join us on the farm at 6 pm next Friday, August 26 for our Ratatouille Rendezvous. We will make a big pot of ratatouille (summer stew with tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, onions, and garlic). You bring a big bowl, spoons (and fork), and a side dish to share (salad, bread, side dish, dessert). Nothing tastes better in late August than ratatouille, and we’re sure you’ll agree.

Since we’ll be cooking food, we ask that you let us know if you plan to join us. We’ll have an RSVP clipboard out at pick-up, or you can email us to let us know how many people to expect. Directions to the farm are below.

In the meantime, we’ll keep bringing in more of the year’s abundant fruits and vegetables at an astonishing rate. This season is such a full on experience of nature’s plenty. It is a joy to be living so immersed in the August experience!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Ratatouille Rendezvous ~ 6 pm, Friday, August 26 ~ Please RSVP if you plan to join us! Bring a big bowl & spoons/forks for your family, along with a side dish to share (salad, side dish, bread, dessert, etc.).

Directions to the farm: Take HWY-18 to Dayton. Drive south through Dayton and stay on Wallace Rd/HWY-221 for about seven miles. Turn LEFT onto Grand Island Rd. After the bridge, turn RIGHT onto SE Upper Island Rd. Our driveway is the first on your left. Our house is the 2-story brown one toward the back right. If you have questions, you can call: 503-474-7661

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Grapes — These grapes are one to two months early, depending on what you consider “normal” (it’s honestly hard to remember “normal” or “average” seasons anymore!). These are Concord grapes, which have the ultimate grape flavor. They are also from very old vines. Old timers on the island told us that the original cuttings came across the country on the Oregon trail. Because they are an old type, they contain seeds. Which we don’t mind at all, seeing as how delicious the grapes are. But children should be warned. You can just chew or swallow the seeds if you like, or spit them out!
  • Plums — Lots of kinds to choose from this week: Italian, Brooks, and Imperial Epineuse!
  • Chehalis apples
  • Asian pears
  • Tomatoes
  • Green peppers
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Purple potatoes! — The hardest thing about harvesting purple potatoes is that they look a lot like … rocks. When in the soil anyway. When prepped in the kitchen, they glow like purple-blue gems. The children have been loving home-made purple french fries (which we make by peeling and cutting potatoes into strips and then roasting in the oven with lots of butter so they get crispy).
  • Beets
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • Garlic

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm:

  • Eggs — $6/dozen
  • Lamb! — The lamb is in! Chops are $14/lb; roasts are $10/lb; ground lamb is $10/lb; and organs/bones are $6/lb. Get it while it lasts!
  • Beef cuts — Roasting type meats are $10/lb, and steaks are $14/lb. Organs and bones are $6/lb.
  • Ground beef — The best ever — $10/lb
  • Beef stew meat — $10/lb
  • Pork organs, fat & bones — $4/lb
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

August is fair season

Just another beautiful August farm scene -- late summer summer squash and lettuce.

Just another beautiful August farm scene — late summer winter squash and lettuce (to be harvested soonish!)

When I reflect on this last week, pretty much one event comes to mind: the Yamhill County Fair! Our family has participated in this local event for the last three years. I don’t think I realized ahead of time just how much of a time commitment it would be (and I’m sure the animal entries require even more time!), but it’s become a wonderful part of our summer schedule of activities.

Dottie with her blue ribbon basil

Dottie with her blue ribbon basil

This year, Rusty entered some of his artwork and both children entered items from their garden. Have I mentioned yet in a newsletter how much ownership they have taken over their garden this year? Casey and I still help out with the heavier work of weeding and things, but they were completely in charge of planting — both deciding what and when to plant and doing the actual work. Rusty planted zucchini, sweet corn, cosmos, cabbage, beans, sunflowers, potatoes, calendula flowers, peppers, tomatoes, sweet onions, basil, and a Rhododendron (I tried to convince him that evergreen flower bushes belong in garden beds, not in vegetable gardens, but he would have none of that). Dottie planted sweet pea flowers, tomatoes, sweet corn, basil, fennel, zucchini, cosmos, celery root, and peppers. I’m sure I’m forgetting things!

What fun it was last Tuesday morning to visit their garden and decide which items would be fair worthy. Dottie entered enough vegetables and herbs that she won the “sweepstakes” award, meaning that she entered the most items in that category!

Locals will know that our fair is pretty small. In some ways, I think it’s amazing that we still have a fair at all, when bigger and fancier fairs have been abandoned as old fashioned and money drains in other counties. But our little fair persists, in spite of the relatively small space it takes up (in town, no less! Which feels unique!) and the relatively small number of entries.

Rusty with his blue ribbon waterfall painting

Rusty with his blue ribbon waterfall painting

But the smallness of it has endeared it to me over the years. When the kids enter anything at all, they bump up the display on fair day significantly, and of course they end up winning quite a lot of ribbons for lack of competition. They enjoy the affirmation of the ribbons, and it’s a fun way for our homeschooling family to organize some of our endeavors and “present” them formally to the world. I think this is an important skill to have — to be able to put together a “finished” product for presentation (not to mention the necessary skills of jumping through hoops and filling out paperwork — both of which also occur with fair participation!).

And, the smallness of the fair also means that we can pretty much “do” the entire fair in the morning. We can check out our entries (to see what ribbons have been won!), look at our friends’ entries, see all the animals in the barns, watch the horse events in the arena, and ride a ride or two — all before lunch! This year, I especially appreciate the novelty of enjoying 75° weather on our fair morning. What a wonderful change from the normal hot, hot, hot temperatures we endure! (Last year, the temperature topped 100° on our fair day!)

Now that the fair is behind us, it feels like summer is quickly coming to the beginning of its end. How quickly will the weeks pass before school begins again? So quickly, I am sure. Earlier this week, the unseasonably cool temperatures gave us a foretaste of the fall to come, and it was quite lovely but also too soon! We have more summer to savor! We have crops for fall that still need to grow and mature! August is here, and we are relishing it!

And, summer is so very present in this week’s share too. There are so many good summer fruits to choose from. Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Asian pears — Already? Oh man, these are early Asian pears! As with everything on the trees this year … it’s been a bizarre summer with unseasonably mild weather and yet early perennial crops! If you are not yet familiar with Asian pears, they could be described as a cross between an apple and a pear. That’s not really botanically accurate, but it describes the eating experience well. They are eaten firm, like an apple, but they are much juicier and have a flavor akin to a European pear. So, you don’t need to wait for these to ripen (as you might a firm European pear) — they are ready to eat, even though they are firm and crisp still.
  • Imperial Epineuse plums — This is the earliest of our “prune” type plums. It is a European plum and is “freestone” (meaning that the pit comes out easily from the flesh). They are of course wonderful for making dried prunes, but they’re also delicious for eating fresh. I think our family is quite possibly consuming a few too many plums every day as they are hard to resist!
  • Chehalis apples
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Slicer tomatoes
  • Green peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Cucumbers
  • Kale
  • Zucchini
  • German butterball potatoes — We’ve been enjoying how tender the skin is on this variety of potatoes. They’re great for roasting or baking whole with the skin still on. We hosted two different groups of people for dinner this week (a gathering of Yamhill County farmers on Monday night and families from our church tonight), and both nights we filled a pan with potatoes and roasted it. Great, delicious food to feed a crowd!
  • Garlic

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm:

  • Eggs — $6/dozen
  • Lamb! — The lamb is in! Chops are $14/lb; roasts are $10/lb; ground lamb is $10/lb; and organs/bones are $6/lb. Get it while it lasts!
  • Goat — Goat chops are $14/lb. Organs and bones are $6/lb.
  • Beef cuts — Roasting type meats are $10/lb, and steaks are $14/lb. Organs and bones are $6/lb.
  • Ground beef — The best ever — $10/lb
  • Beef stew meat — $10/lb
  • Pork organs, fat & bones — $4/lb
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

From flower to fruit

The first of the "prune" type plums will be ready to pick for next week's CSA!

The first of the “prune” type plums will be ready to pick for next week’s CSA!

On Monday, we passed another “cross quarter day” in the calendar — Lammas, the halfway point in the summer season. As with all of the four seasons in the year, the first and second halves bring with them distinctive experiences. The first half of summer follows the spring trend of abundant green growth but with the addition of all the earliest fruits in the orchards and on our summer annual plants.

But the second half of summer, from now until the equinox, turns the world’s focus even more to fruiting and maturation. It is in these next few months that we will pick bins and bins of fruit, much of it to store for eating during the following fall and winter. Even sitting here in our house, I can see the large red apples ripening in our home orchard, weighing down branches.

Late summer's golden hue has taken hold in the ashes.

Late summer’s golden hue has taken hold in the ashes.

The colors of the season shift too. Just this last week, we all noticed and commented on the beginning of the color change in the ash trees. They always begin to turn golden and yellow mid-summer, slowly taking on an autumnal hue and then finally dropping their leaves in fall itself. Since one side of our farm is a waterway treed primarily with ashes, our visual landscape changes significantly when they start this slow late summer turning. When you add the dormant grasses at the edges of all our fields, the picture glows golden yellow-brown under the summer sun. Green has given way to brown. But a most vibrant brown — the brown of work well done. These early turning plants have clearly already done their work for the year — the ash trees long ago flowered and have matured their little inconspicuous fruits, and their water supply in the creek is mostly dried up. So, they begin to rest now.

Our rest is still many months out! Which is fine with us, because we love this time of year. It’s hard to imagine a better place to be than an abundant farm in August (especially when just a five minute drive to the river). When we’re not harvesting, we’ve been happily tending to our wild edges — mowing in the orchards, weeding, and mowing, and weeding. But, this time of year, those tasks feel less “Sisyphean” than they do in May or June, because really the rate of vegetative growth has slowed (as has the water supply for parts of the farm that we don’t irrigate actively). So, if we mow an edge of the farm now, it will likely stay tame(ish) through the end of the season. The work thus feels very satisfying!

As does the eating of all the good food. When the children ask for a snack, how wonderful to set out a bowl of plums or slice one of the earliest apples. Simple, delicious, foods to feed body and soul.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Plums — More of our juicy Asian plums. Soon the “prune” types will arrive!
  • Chehalis apples
  • Green beans
  • Green peppers — Once upon a time, we learned that green peppers are unripe red peppers. And, then, for a while we were very confused about why anyone would want to eat an unripe food and we poo poo’ed green peppers as being inferior. Then, after a few more years of cooking and eating, we decided that green peppers are wonderful. When they are in their “green” state, they are an entirely novel food, one that can be appreciated for its sake rather than just as the warm-up to a ripe pepper. We love to put green peppers in lots of dishes. I usually dice them and sauté them with onions or garlic and then add zucchini and/or kale (and lots of butter, of course, because y’all know that I love. the. butter.) and cook until it is all tender and delicious. That’s a staple dish around here in the summer.
  • Tomatoes — I feel like I really don’t need to ever talk about tomatoes. Because, well, tomatoes feel the love. And they’re so easy! It’s true! We eat tomatoes daily this time of year, and we rarely cook them. Instead, we simply slice them and enjoy. Casey loves a few slices with his breakfast of eggs and cooked greens. My favorite thing is to spread plain goat cheese on half of a roll and then put a slice of tomato on top. I think that is one of the quintessential summer foods for me. Especially when eaten by the river. Which I did today for lunch.
  • Cucumbers
  • Basil
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Zucchini
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Potatoes
  • Torpedo onions
  • Garlic

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm:

  • Eggs — $6/dozen
  • Goat — Goat chops are $14/lb. Organs and bones are $6/lb.
  • Beef cuts — Roasting type meats are $10/lb, and steaks are $14/lb. Organs and bones are $6/lb.
  • Ground beef — The best ever — $10/lb
  • Beef stew meat — $10/lb
  • Pork organs, fat & bones — $4/lb
  • Coming soon: more lamb!
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | Leave a comment

The elements

First photo of today: a nice farm-y image of the growing fall brassica field, a greenhouse, and our mobile chicken coop (in the background).

First photo of today: a nice farm-y image of the growing fall brassica field, a greenhouse, and our mobile chicken coop (in the background).

I feel like the seasons at the peaks of the year (high summer and deep winter) are some of the most elemental. In deepest winter, the elements visit us daily in the form of regular fires in the stove, blustery days, endless rain, and mud on our boots. In the peak of summer, we find ourselves in daily kneeling contact with the earth, afternoon often brings dynamic breezes across the fields, and we immerse ourselves in that beautiful cool flowing water of the river as often as possible (as well as spend countless hours moving irrigation pipe across the fields!). Fire, usually, comes in the form of the SUN and its vibrant heat.

But, this last week, air and fire visited our farm in unexpected forms. You may remember that on Wednesday, I wrote a newsletter extolling the mild (so far) summer. Of course, no surprise, the next day brought warmer temperatures to the valley, and everyone at pick-up suggested that I somehow jinxed us all (what power this newsletter would have if that were true!). But that brief heat wasn’t to last, and as part of the subsequent shift back to milder weather, the afternoon turned quite blustery. Windy even. Hot and windy. Before too long, we heard sirens and saw many firetrucks racing down 2nd St (Facebook told me it was likely to a brush fire in the county). Interesting, I thought.

As I drove home myself later, I was struck by just how windy it had become. Many hazelnut orchards on my drive had recently been cleared and mowed, and the dust blowing across the roads was incredible — like a desert storm.

Then, as I drove on to the island, and toward our intersection, I saw several emergency vehicles parked on Grand Island Rd, just down the road from our house. Next to my parents’ field and the land we own across the creek.

I drove down cautiously to see if I could learn what was happening. A neighbor told me that a tree in the creek had fallen in the wind and snapped a power line in two, leaving two live wires on the ground on either side of the creek — one in my parents’ field and one in the field we own but rent out. Between the wind, the electricity, and the dry brush, fires started quickly. Thankfully our neighbor saw it happen and called the fire department immediately. Both fires were put out before any damage was done to property or to crops, and no people were injured. Hoorah for fast first responders! We are so grateful for our volunteer Dayton firefighters!

Casey took a photo of the burned area this weekend:

The long white pole building in the background of this photo belongs to my parents.

The long white pole building in the background of this photo belongs to my parents.

Again, we are so grateful that our neighbors near and far were able to quickly end this story in a positive way. Fire, like all the elements, can be very scary when out of control! And last year’s wildfires in the region (including the one that burned around Holden Village) instilled in us great respect for how Small Things can grow into Big Things.

But, Casey also found himself a little fascinated by the question of what our field would be like if the fire had spread. Because we live in a region that was shaped by fire — both by regular wildfires that would clean out the undergrowth in our forests but also here in the valley, where people would intentionally burn fields regularly in order to maintain cultivated fields of camas for fall harvest. We live in an era when intentional fire setting feels so very irresponsible, but it used to be part of the routine of living here. Our imaginations often wander to those previous times and those previous occupants — what this landscape looked like to them, how it felt to live here.

Thankfully, the rest of our week was less eventful, although still very elemental. Plants are growing like crazy in these fields of ours, especially in the slightly warmer temperatures that have arrived. We’ll see what August brings us next.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables: So many summer flavors this week!

  • Chehalis apples
  • Plums — Yellow plums are available again, along with a new red plum that is meatier than those that have come before. Today I ate four yellow plums in a row as I sat by the river. The juice ran down my chin and my arms, and I didn’t even care because I knew I was about to jump back into the water anyway. Summer is good.
  • Green beans
  • Tomatoes – cherry, roma, slicers oh my!
  • Eggplant — The first of the year!
  • Cucumbers
  • Green peppers
  • Basil
  • Beets
  • Kale — Our new planting of kale is coming on!
  • Chard
  • Zucchini
  • Green onions
  • Garlic

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm:

  • Eggs — $6/dozen
  • Goat — Goat chops are $14/lb. Organs and bones are $6/lb.
  • Beef cuts — Roasting type meats are $10/lb, and steaks are $14/lb. Organs and bones are $6/lb.
  • Ground beef — The best ever — $10/lb
  • Beef stew meat — $10/lb
  • Pork organs, fat & bones — $4/lb
Posted in Weekly CSA Newsletters | 1 Comment