Happy CSA Day!

FBP5Yes. Turns out we have our own day now – Happy CSA Sign Up Day!

“In 2015, Small Farm Central released the 2014 CSA Farming Annual Report, which gathered data from more than 250 CSA farmers and almost 53,000 memberships. Among other interesting facts, the report showed that the most popular day for CSA Signups in 2014 was Friday February 28. So in 2015, the first National CSA Signup Day was held on Saturday February 28. CSA farmers offered special CSA Signup Day discounts and promotions and enjoyed an influx of signups from members wanting to support local agriculture. This year, CSA Day is about more than getting lots of CSA signups; it’s a whole day dedicated to the celebration of community-supported agriculture.” – csasignupday.com

It’s resources like this that really make me feel like small, local agriculture really is making the strides I imagine it is. That this many folks are involved in creating such a push (including the social networking imagery and skills some of us don’t prioritize) for farmers and shareholders alike to check signing up off their to-do list.

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By the way – sign up here!

If you’ve been waiting – today’s the day! Sign up for our Crooked Row eats today!

This year is the again the year of veggies and eggs, but also bread from the Wayfare Baker in Allentown – a man who grinds his own flour just before he bakes! – coffee from our Bethlehem Food Co-Op friends at Monocacy Coffee Co., and, of course, kombucha from the one and only at Lehigh Valley Kombucha. Once you’ve signed up for your vegetables and egg shares, we’ll be passing along the details of these other phenomenal add-ons. Because collaboration is key, friends. In all life, but most definitely in food.

onion babies

And we are ready for you. The onions are already germinating in the hoophouse. The spring broccoli is right behind. We’re planting to the Stella Natura calendar this year, and I’m looking forward to understanding the Earth and its day-to-day interactions with lunar phases and other energetics in new and exciting ways.

calf and cat

I am making some guest appearances back at the old stomping grounds. Excelsior dairy has all the adorable animals you remember from a couple years back, and more. It’s been loving catching up with them, re-learning how to milk in their barn and work with their animals.

PASA 25 years

A few weeks back I made my way back to Penn State for the 25th annual PASA Conference – the place where small growers get to hang out and feel the love from friends they sometimes only catch up with once a year. It’s like a distant family reunion – one I am always so proud to be a part of year after year. I learned a lot, as usual, and ate some great food. And, for the first time since I started wandering the halls of the Penn Stater, I was able to introduce some of my oldest farm friends to my partner in crime, which felt really wonderful. And, at the Green Heron tool booth, I opened their catalog to find this little gem!

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We’re famous! 

We had an additional opportunity to visit with some farm friends and enjoy some wonderful food and beer at Curious Goods at the Bake Oven Inn in conjunction with Lehigh Valley Beer Week! Farm friends from around the area, including our fan favorites Stef from Valley Milkhouse  and Teena Bailey at Red Cat Farm, set up shop for several hours and talked to folks about our goods and seasonal offerings. Crooked Row herbs shared a space with LV Kombucha, and there was much rejoicing.

liz and gary booth red cat

In other news, my mom moseyed out to Kutztown this week and returned with supplies for two beehives. In two months we should be receiving a nuc, which is a family of bees that has been raised together on hive frames for one, and a package of bees to incorporate into the other. All this is riding on the heels of our bees in the tree, which is a feral honeybee colony (apparently a rare thing these days), that took up residence along our driveway and has been surviving the winter in that rugged tree. It was our catalyst to take these classes int he first place, and we’re looking forward to bringing some more pollinators into the mix.

We’ll come full circle on this one. Happy National CSA Sign Up Day! Hooray! And even if you aren’t looking into a Crooked Row share this season, know that I love you and am just happy you’re considering supporting some beautiful small ag on this lovely morning. There are lots of us out there looking for your support. Take your mind off the chill and daydream about some beautiful veggies.

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Hugs and Growing Holidays,

Liz

 

Home Again – The End of Travels, The Beginning of a Season

I arrived back to the States a week and a half ago, and already the trip is starting to take on this dreamlike quality.

I’ve told “The Travel” story about a dozen times already, and it is starting to pick up its own rhythm. But whenever I open the picture folders to send a couple off to some of the friends I’ve made or get some printed just to have, I remember more.

After Christmas, I traveled further inland with Josephine, my Dutch traveling compatriot, to La Fortuna. There we hiked the Cerro Chato, swam in a lake that was once a volcano with our new guy friends from the hostel, and spent an evening by candlelight at the locals’ hot springs.

From there I found myself back in Alajuela, the city outside of San Jose where the airport actually is. During this leg of the journey, from long bus to long bus, I was adopted by a lovely Tica woman who, on realizing I clearly had no idea what I was doing at the bus station, had her husband buy me a bus ticket, loaded me onto the bus with them, and fed me some of the lunch she had packed.

This happened a lot. I don’t know if it’s my constantly half-amused, half-puzzled facial expressions that do it, or just the locals’ general kindheartedness, but I was forever being rescued.

Thanks, Costa Rica. Like so many places with so many people, you are so good to me.

My taxi driver friend from the first day, Jose,  was there to greet me at the airport when I hopped off the bus, and he got me to a city hostel where I spent a couple days adventuring to outer towns (Poas was an accident when I was trying to find the Poas volcano, but it was a lovely little town I was happen to spend the day in), taking myself to see Star Wars, looking around at clothes and food and malls and parks, and spending a lovely evening with Jose and his family, drinking coffee and practicing Spanish and learning that all little kids all over the world love Frozen.

And then the cavalry arrived. Gary flew in and we proceeded to have a whole new dynamic in the adventure, one with four-wheel drive adventures around the Chirripo River at the foothills of the national park and into The Osa, the southernmost peninsula of the country that is mostly just accessible by boat.

We jumped off rocks into rivers, met local chocolateers and cheese makers and yoga instructors, hiked into the jungle for hours, meeting monkeys and agutis and all sorts of birds (and a couple biology classes from Penn State, small world), swam at gorgeous beaches up and down the Pacific Coast, camped in the car and sat around a beach fire outside a hippie hostel in Uvita, and read one of The World Made By Hand books and drank local kombucha at a vegan restaurant in Dominical.

I was starting to fray at the seams by this leg of the journey, exhausted from traveling and thinking about getting home, but it was a truly incredible time. I’ve never had such fun, or seen such beauty.

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And then, after hours of customs and an overnight escapade at the Atlanta airport, I was home.

Just in time for the start of season.

“In January?” you ask.

Yes. There is planning to be done, supplies to be ordered, and it’s CSA sign-up season! Three days after I got home I was sitting at the Bethlehem Food Co-Op’s general meeting, explaining my excitement about the forthcoming store to a room full of people and talking about my last four years with Crooked Row.

I’ve been updating flyers, planning for our new chickens, discussing coffee shares with the guys at Monacacy Coffee. A truck delivered minerals to our field and the PASA Conference is just a couple weeks ago, as is my brief return to dairy work. The truck needs a tune-up. Northampton Community College bought more teas for its campus Slow Market on Wednesdays, 10am-2pm. You should check it out.

Planning the season is such a vibrant use of the winter. Hibernating is too, and much warmer, and I highly recommend some of that. A lot of that. But as seed catalogs arrive and e-mails trickle in asking about CSA group buy-ins and new drop-off locations, I can’t help but hop up from the blankets feeling excited.

Looking for a vegetable adventure this year? Join the Crooked Row 2016 CSA. Vegetables, eggs, and some excellent coffee. Holler at me for details.

Oh, and Mom and I will be taking beekeeping classes through the Lehigh Valley Beekeeper’s Association. Who’s excited?!

Hugs, Frozen Kale and “She’s too tan for January,”
Liz

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Sunrise in the Rainforest – One Month Away

mountains2

When I was a kid, I got my hands on every fantasy book I could read. Magical forests, kingdoms and battles and landscapes unbeknownst to this reality. The battles were cool, but the woods were the wizards and creature lived – that was always the kicker.

I wanted to live in a hobbit hole since my first foray with Tolkien. I would sit in the pines behind my house and read for hours, then climb down covered in sap and needles. The books were where the magic lived.

Turns out, Tolkien and my team of beloved writers were maybe all dreaming of this country. I can’t account for the number of times my breath has been snatched away in the last few weeks by the scenery around me. The tears that have come to my eyes, and the wild rush in my stomach and throat and heart.

mountains3

Mountains

As if this magnificant beauty wasn’t enough, I am floored again and again by the beauty and joy of the humans who keep taking care of me.

On my last weekend at the farm, our neighbors and beloved friends took us up into the mountains to spend a weekend with a family on a coffee farm. I was bowled over by the land around us – the steep slopes and hills on which these people have shaped their homes and farms and lives, and the magnitude of happiness and love that just radiated from everyone around. The family we stayed with didn’t know anything about us, but they shuffled us into a bedroom, fed us amazing meals, let us play with their kids and dogs and, Sunday morning, took us with them on their family drive up to the top of the mountain. We stopped at the top to take pictures and pick and eat sweet limes, and on the way back down we stopped to pick fruit and vegetables the whole way down. We caught fish and they fried them for lunch, and one of the daughters cried when we left.

coffee mountain

me and the twins

We walked the hectres of coffee plants and picked some (very, very slowly). My farm and traveling companions, Kaddi and Stephi, two darling twins from Germany, took me to Jaco, adventured around the farm and sent me on my traveling way with hugs and prayers. I had such fun playing along as the third twin during our last days on the farm.

nelson and marlen

Nelson and Marlen, our neighbors at the farm, fed us some lovely dinners, took us to the beach and took us to see their coffee friends.  I already miss them.

monteverde walk

monteverde green

And now I am closing out my stay in Monteverde. Five days of cool weather, a world of rainforest green, and the sheer love of the Ficus trees in the woods behind the neighborhood. Since the second day here, when Jorge took me back up the hill for the first time, I felt what Tolkien must have felt when he created the Ent. A truly magical layer has formed over this trip, one of rainforest walks that make me want to lay down in the mossy green and sleep for hours – climbing into the sky in the skeleton of the Ficus Tree, the adrenaline of climbing a massive living ladder and standing at the top, feeling it sway in the breeze. I. Can’t. Even.

eden tree

Ficus

And, of course, more beautiful people. Everyone here is so welcoming, and so friendly, from our hostel boys to the other travelers. Everyone has helpful advice on good places to stay, where to eat, what to visit and when the buses are running. I almost missed my bus here, and when I dropped into the last seat, I found myself sitting with a young man/writer/rocket scientist from Noway who was well-versed in travel and human dynamics. His book is this year’s English best-seller in Norway.

NOrway

It’s an excellent book, even if you aren’t from Norway. I read it on the bus and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I had Christmas Eve dinner with the hostel boys, my new friend Josephine from Holland and some other roommates floating around. Pizza, ice cream, plantains. Christmas Day lunch was tamales and my sheer hunger joy at these delights. My new-adopted family has been such fun.

el tucan boys2

el tucan boys

I climbed the Ficus Trees with Ticos, Dutch and Israeli friends. I had a traditional Israeli dinner with a magnificent couple who asked if they could adopt me, along with the young man who invited me along in the first place. I sat at the table and let the Hebrew wash over me like music, as I find myself so often doing with the Spanish here.

Every experience is a treasure. Every hug and smile and shared adventure sings with its own clarity of purpose. I have a sign at home that says “The Whole World’s My Hometown,” and I couldn’t be happier to truly feel this way. Next up, La Fortuna and the Carribbean Coast.

orchids

Love, Ents and Ficus,

Liz

top of the ficus

 

Hola From The South!

Hey Team!

Soooooo I’m here! The Puntarenas Province in Costa Rica is absolutely beautiful right now as we head out of the rainy season. Flowers are blooming, everything is still lush, and we are still getting a little rain at night sometimes. Apparently in the next couple of months the vegetation starts to recede and dry out until the rainy season begins again.
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orchids
I’m staying with a work exchange program through St. Michael’s, which is somewhere between Parrita and Esterillos Este on the road maps, aka pretty tricky to find if you don’t know where you’re going. I’m living and working on a 217-acre (88 hectare) hacienda wayyyy up in the hills of this province. The owner has a lot of ideas and projects underway, from an eco-village and an aquaponics set-up with tillapia to some permanent growing structures for medicinal herbs and perennial edibles, grass-fed cattle and rotational chickens.
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My to-be home in the eco-village!

With the outset of each intern’s stay, Justin picks a section of the hacienda for us to work on. I’m here by myself for the month, so he gave me a garden section  on a hill between two smaller houses he built for the  eco-village. This week I’ve been digging bioswales, which are similar in structure to the raised beds at our place, but follow the contours of the hills to divert water from massive erosion points on the property during the rainy season.
swale 2
swale1
I planted my swales with papaya, moringa, guanabana, and other trees, as well as thyme, lemon balm, hibiscus, pineapples and all sorts of other plants and shrubs and trees. Justin’s been planting a lot of medicinal herbs and perennial trees all across this property in the last four years, and everywhere you walk you can find bananas and young papaya and almond trees, along with pineapples, cranberry hibiscus, lemongrass and, well, hundreds of other magical trees and bushes and plants. Everything is just SO GREEN.
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Baby papaya!

I wake up in the morning near sunrise and work for five hours before the heat of the day really sets in. Then it’s a two-hour lunch and siesta break, and then back to work for another couple hours. After work I usually hang out with Reily, Justin’s daughter, who is this adorable, energetic force who likes gum and rocks and swimming and making up adventure stories all night. Evenings are a lot of pool use until sunset when the mosquitoes come out and then board games with Reily and her grandparents until her dad scoops her for the night. He and his wife have a three-week old boy (congrats!) who is keeping them on their toes!
ornament

Reily decorates for Christmas!

There are ants everywhere here, and crazy spiders and centipedes and caterpillars, and all kinds of little to giant lizards, and  so many bees and wasps. I fished a scorpion out of the sink a couple days ago, but apparently these kind are only a little venomous and non-lethal. The birds look and sound beautiful, and the butterflies and dragonflies are spectacular. According to the Tree Surgeons North East, these monkeys and sloths and macaws pass through and are partial to certain trees in the forests here, but I haven’t seen any yet. Keeping my eyes open, though.
Now that the bioswales are initially set-up, I’m hoping to help clean up and fence in the garden spaces (the horses decided to eat up one of the nice garden spaces in the eco-village upon my arrival), reseed in the greenhouse and start new trees and plants in the nursery, build some more garden spaces and maybe even help with some mapping and planning. There is just so much going on here. The grocery store in Parrita would like to carry some goods from the property, so it would be cool to get a couple of projects queued up for them, too.
Mango season is in March, alas, but right now there are bananas coming on and papayas in full force. I’ve been making this hibiscus, lemongrass, lime and basil tea that’s been a tremendous hit with the family and may make an appearance at the market here before I go. Teamaker in two countries – I can’t really express how much that pleases me.
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Big papaya

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There are limes by the hundreds, and Justin’s parents (who’ve been totally awesome and have taken me on as a sort-of half grandkid),  make a fresh lime drink with cane sugar. The family here grows and eats a lot of turmeric for all its health benefits, as well as gotu-kola and other herbs.
gotu kola
There’s this beautiful yellow flowering shrub here called Saragundi, which cures everything from bug bites to varicose veins to chronic skin conditions.
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There’s a lot of rice and bean and meat here, but I’ve also been eating lots of fruit, eggs, Okinawa Spinach, purslane, long beans and other greens, and I’m feeling pretty healthy overall. Working vacations apparently lead to nice tans, and the hills here are wearing me out in good ways.
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This is a less populated area than some other parts of the country. Yesterday we traveled Esterillos Este for a chili-cookoff at a bar run by a couple of guys from Colorado. I spent most of my time wandering the almost-empty beach down there and swimming in the Pacific. The neighbors fish in the morning and sell ceviche in lime juice from the backs of their motorcycles in the afternoon. And Justin won the cook-off with his turmeric-based, organics-only chili! Successful day off.

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Sending you Hugs and Sun. Pura Vida!
Liz
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Season Endings, Cheese Making and the Upcoming Travel Adventure!

It’s raining today, and I know I have a pallet of cinder blocks in my truck bed that need to go into the greenhouse to expand the solar bunker for February’s early seedlings. I sat here and made a list of errands to run, spreadsheets to make, side projects to buy materials for. I am going to mail a package that has been hanging out in my truck for something like four weeks, waiting to get to a post office. Sorry, Kat and Will. I promise it’s coming.

Instead of doing these things, I stir my tea, slice myself a piece of yesterday-made feta cheese, and think about how to turn my brain down. I talked about this last year, too – teaching yourself how to slow down and detach because deserved rest is allowed and acceptable – and while the mental guilt still battles on in my silly brain every time I sleep in or spend an afternoon reading (even if it’s raining, even if it’s the off-season), I’m getting better at it. Marginally.

End of Season Share! Aka Shameless Plug

End of Season Share! Aka Shameless Plug

The season, as many of you know, is at an end for 2015. Though the season doesn’t truly ever end – field planning for 2016 has already commenced, seed catalogs are being perused, and folks are already signing up for next year’s CSA (WOOHOO!) – the fields are more or less in rest, save some kale and collards for Thanksgiving meals, and the chickens have been pared down for their move to the indoors for winter. Many went to some fabulous local homes to expand some homesteader flocks, and that makes me really happy.

During our last move of the chickens, all the cows decided to come lick Reuben's truck.

During our last move of the chickens, all the cows decided to come lick Reuben’s truck.

I took Mama Wags to Valley Milkhouse‘s beautiful Cheesemaking 101 class yesterday, and we had an awesome morning with Allison Czapp of Buy Fresh Buy Local as we listened to the always-stunning and articulate Stef Angstadt explain cheese production and its translation into a home cheese-making setting. Stef is a young cheesemaker in Oley Valley who has rocked Eastern PA with her dynamic personality and delicious cheese.

Stef and her enormous blue cheese inventory, being awesome.

Stef and her enormous blue cheese inventory, being awesome.

Hooping feta in the giant vat.

Hooping feta in the giant vat.

The cheese class folks give their own a try!

The cheese class folks give their own a try!

After several hours of setting, culturing, hooping, and flipping, along with a creamery tour and cheese tasting of Stef’s amazing eats, we wandered home with huge wedges of fresh feta and recipes, culture and rennet for our own future kitchen creamery escapades. As each group made our own wheel of feta, Stef and her assistant finished off their 25-gallon batch along with us as she explained the nuances of different cheese production, the steps and ingredients necessary for a perfect mold rind and subtle flavors, and her story of home cheese-maker-turned-creamery-extraordinaire.

Allison hoops!

Allison hoops!

Mom uses the sweet knife.

Mom uses the sweet knife.

:) Happiest cheesemaker.

🙂 Happiest cheesemaker.

I can’t wait for Liz and Mom kitchen projects, and judging by that look on her face yesterday, I think she may be in agreement. If you’re looking for an awesome class for you and a friend who likes to cook, homestead or just enjoys cheese and learning, I can’t recommend this class enough. Everyone seemed to have a wonderful time.

Having a part of pet insurance companies allows an individual to make treatment decisions for their pet based on what is best medically, rather than finances.

The shift into hibernation has afforded me some adventure time, too. My grandma and I watched the Muppets. Liz and Ann of Green Heron Tools cooked me a spectacular meal, followed by hours of spectacular conversation (and the opportunity to read Earth Dreams, written by Liz, which is pretty rad).

Home sweet Keith's

Home sweet Keith’s

I made my annual pilgrimage back to New York, to where it all began over in the Hudson Valley. Visiting Keith’s renews my spirit, and popping cloves with this year’s crew gave me hope of having my own happy, healthy, stable intern or three one day.

Kobe, still being adorable after all these years.

Kobe, still being adorable after all these years.

The man, the myth, the ultimate boss: Mr. Keith Stewart.

The man, the myth, the ultimate boss: Mr. Keith Stewart.

I spent an evening with my aunt and this little bundle of joy earlier this week.

The Return of the Kitten Monster.

The Return of the Kitten Monster.

I’ve been attending some workshops in the Lehigh Valley about all sorts of things, from a Reiki Attunement certification to the Laws of Attraction to, as you see, cheesemaking! I’m spending a couple hours a week helping the Lehigh County Farmland Preservation office with some office work and learning about the process of farm inspections and preserving practices. It’s all pretty cool stuff.

Plus, farm inspections usually include great animals, like this precious girl.

Plus, farm inspections usually include great animals, like this precious girl.

I’m also in the midst of a crash-course in carpentry as I help a dear friend finish off some work on her shed and house before the snow comes. Cedar shingles and insulation are my new best friends.

If only Carpenter Liz could translate straight lines...

If only Carpenter Liz could translate straight lines…

And I’m looking ahead to next season. It’s been such a satisfying and challenging season in a number of ways, and next year is only going to get better. So many of this year’s CSAers sent such beautiful photos and messages throughout the weeks and have already committed to 2016 (I even got some checks already, bless their hearts), and that’s a truly wonderful feeling. I’m feeling confident as a grower and ready to tighten up the fields for better production and streamline some processes for more veggies with less back-breaking labor and mind-numbing schedules. It’s totally possible, and I’m figuring out how.

This week I had a really great meeting with the administration of St. Luke’s CSA program, and we discussed a number of ways to make the 2016 season less stressful for the farmers and more valuable to the customers. I had a call yesterday from an interested potential 2016 member. And I’m looking for a Bethlehem drop-off location, especially since Bethlehem Food Co-Op members receive a 5% discount on share prices when they join! This is an organization I hope to become more involved with as their infrastructure grows, and I want you to be a part of it, too! The co-ops in Philly are so cool, and the thought of having one here, with shelves stocked by farmer friends, not to mention myself, is just so exciting.

Tea party, ahoy!

Tea party, ahoy!

The teas and herbs are moving into the spotlight for me, too. We are currently selling at Northampton Community College’s Wednesday market (10-2 at main campus!), and will have some herbs at the Easton Public Market when that location opens. I’ve been looking for places to give out sample packs around the county to interested stores and cafes, so if you have any ideas, let me know!

I few weeks ago a handful of friends and NCC Good Growers came out to help me dig some raised beds. Shovels flew and two enormous raised beds were formed, moving us ever closer to that permanent raised bed dream. And beautiful Lucia, neighbor intern and beloved soul sister of 2015, has finished her season with Willow Haven and returned home. Applications are open for new guitar-strumming, heart-warming neighbor gals – but know she’s always gonna be the favorite. Follow her family’s adventure as they create a tiny house community outside of Philly!

Lucia, the beloved, and Mislav, the first person to appreciate that my tea kettle whistles a perfect fifth.

Lucia, the beloved, and Mislav, the first person to appreciate that my tea kettle whistles a perfect fifth.

And the biggest news of all: I’m going on an adventure! I’ve talked about it for years and put it off for one reason or another. Too nervous of traveling, not enough funds, afraid to be away for such a long time. But a couple months ago I was surfing some listings through Workaway, a site that offers international work trade experiences, and found a listing for an eco-village on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. St. Michael‘s practices permaculture and sustainable techniques I’ve only ever read about, and their commitment to teaching their workers how to utilize these practices is inspiring. The space looks utterly breathtaking. The owner is incredibly perceptive and welcoming, and even took the time to read my blog before our initial interview. I think we understand each other in terms of mission and future goals at our respective properties. We aren’t necessarily able to grow the same things in our varying climates, but new experiential learning is half the fun!

Plus, the thought of spending any more time in a Pennsylvania winter makes me too tired to think.

I can’t even explain to you how stoked I am. Jess is even lending me a not-duct-taped-together laptop for the journey, so you can all read along with this leg of the Farmer Liz adventure. Stay tuned.

You know you want to...

You know you want to…

I’m about to update all these other blog pages, the ones about teas and herbs and available locations, and the 2016 CSA info. Now’s the time, friends, to step out of your comfort zone and share in a new food experience. Contact me for more info.

Yours in Kale, Love and Coastal Dreaming,
Liz

fall kitchen

Tomato Tarts and a Call For Shoveling!

Ahoy!

Today was my last delivery to St. Luke’s for the season. It feels crazy to think that the season is winding down, but here we are.

In that frantic race to the end, I forgot a very important e-mail: Meagan’s post about her delicious, beautiful tomato tarts! So if you salvaged your tomatoes before this past weekend’s frost, there is a phenomenal use for them at the end of this post.

In other news, WE ARE HAVING A SHOVELING PARTY! Who’s excited? Anyone?! Well, I am. Crooked Row and some delightful supporters from Northampton Community College, plus any of you folks who read this and are feeling motivated, are teaming up this Sunday to dig some permanent raised beds!

Help us save some microbiology from tractoring! Help us control weed pressure and grow higher yields in the forthcoming seasons! Come get dirty and eat some farm food with us! See below for details, and share with your team.

Remember, BYOS – Bring Your Own Shovel (if you can). And gloves, if you want to protect your hands!

Shovel Party

Contact me at liz.m.wagner@gmail.com if you have any questions, or want to get involved! I’m thinking pumpkin soup and frittata. Get excited.

And now, what you are waiting for – RECIPES!

Meagan’s Tomato Tart!

I have a confession: I’m a bit of a mess in the summer time. I get so wholly consumed with almost anything and everything. I make the best, most well-intentioned plans only to have them slip my mind and go unfulfilled. I did notice something recently about myself, though. Something I live for during the summertime, more than anything else: The moment I can turn on my oven without it adding to the deadening heat outside (which is also inside), to fill my home with the aromas of intense, flavorful foods without skirting away from actually having to eat hot food. In short, I live for the moment the seasons begin to change, especially the coming of fall. I love the colder nights during late summer, as well. I think it gives us a chance to relish in the flavors and aromas of summer– for instance, this tomato tart, my final ode to summer with a celebration of quite possibly one of the best parts of late summer and early fall: root vegetables. This is a traditional tomato pie, like the ones I grew up with in Tennessee, not an Italian-inspired tomato pie.I hope you enjoy it–I think its blend of nuts, root vegetables, and the last of summer’s tomatoes will be irresistible in the low 60s of September.

For the filling:
2 carrots, cleaned
2 cloves dry-roasted garlic
2 large starchy yellow potatoes (peeled)
½ cup walnuts or pecans, soaked for at least 3 hours
2 tsp salt
⅓ cup or more vegetable broth, for blending
1 tbsp olive oil Choose a low-sodium broth or make your own!
optional ¼ nutritional yeast

For the dough:
1 ½ cup all purpose flour
¼ +2tbsp olive oil
a big glass of iced water
1 tsp salt
optional: fresh herbs (recommended: sage, rosemary, thyme, or dill), no more than 2-3 tsp
You will also need 2 large, amazingly ripe tomatoes. Try to choose varieties with lots of flavors and colors!

Preheat oven to 350F
If making crust, sift the flour and salt into a bowl, make a well and drizzle in the oil and herbs. Mix until it looks sandy or clumpy.

Slowly add water and mix until it starts to ball up. This won’t be as delicate as a fruit pie dough, but don’t over-mix it!

Once it is balled up, turn out onto a floured surface and knead very gently until it looks cohesive. Cover, refrigerate and let rest about 10 mintutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling:

Chop potatoes and carrots into even pieces, place into a pot of water and boil until tender. Strain potatoes/carrots, then strain the nuts. Place everything in a blender and blend until creamy. Set aside.

Roll out dough to fit tart pan or pie dish. This should be enough for one crust. Cover the surface of the crust with a piece of wax paper and either beans or pie weights, and blind bake for about 10 minutes. If you’re using phyllo dough for this, you can skip ahead.

After the crust is ready, fill with the filling and top with large ⅓-½ inch pieces of tomatoes. Sprinkle with olive oil and salt if you wish, but that’s not necessary. You could alternatively crush up fresh nuts and place them between the filling and the tomatoes. Slightly press the tomatoes into the filling, bake until tomatoes are nice and roasted, about 25-35 minutes.

Allow to rest at least 30 minutes before eating.

If you would like to make a gluten free crust, I suggest mixing coconut flour, crushed walnuts or pecans, buckwheat or rice flour (1:1 with coconut flour), salt, and olive oil to make a cohesive crust similar to a graham cracker crust. I’ve not worked much with gluten free crusts, but I think these ingredients would make a great one!

Hugs and Kale,

Liz

When the Farm Girl Writes a Book

Solo Lady Farming Cover

This is one of those moments that just floors me.

Almost half a year ago my friend Gina and I were talking about writing, and I was expressing some frustration at wanting to write again, but not being sure what to write about. She recommended that I write about farming (and she has, for her efforts, been pushing me in this direction for well over a year now). I was hesitant – I’m not experienced enough,  I still don’t really know what I’m doing, there are a gazillion other farmers, solo ladies or otherwise, who should be writing this book instead of me.

I have become a master of excuses over time. I could go on like this for days.

But when I sat down at my computer and started to outline what such a guidebook would look like, everything started to flow. I was astounded. Even though most of me felt like I’ve been spearheading this big hoax where my world thinks I’ve gone on to run this badass farm, the small part of me that knows this is actually true reared up and took over. Things that have been floating around in my brain since 2012 made their way onto the pages, and suddenly I was spending my spring mornings up at 5am, typing away at the desk in Little House and still fielding that half-surprise that I had something to say.

One day, sometime in June, I finished. And then I hid it.

I was embarrassed, for all the aforementioned reasons. I was self conscious. Liz the writer girl in high school and Liz the journalism girl in college wasn’t Liz the farm girl as a pseudo-adult, right? That ship, which may have been sinking before it even set sail to begin with, was way out to sea. It was good to get this writing bug out of my system, but that was as far as it was worth taking it.

And so I went into the farm season, where everything is swallowed by the mad dash. There were a couple of moments where I mentioned writing a little field manual to some friends, a couple of e-mails shot off here and there, but that was all.

And then, sometime in the last month, I started to think that maybe this wasn’t all. That maybe, if someone out there was interested in starting a farm and had no idea where to begin, that this could help. Or, at the very least, they could learn from my haphazard experiences and see that you don’t have to have a totally orchestrated plan to jump into this and do well. It helps – I know a dozen farm friends off the top of my head who are more organized than I am, and who have beautiful, fruitful spreads that make me look a mess – but everyone’s path is their own, and yours can be as messy (or messier?) than mine. Certainly less messy, if you’re looking for less stress.

So I started to edit. I coerced my dear darling Liv Biagi, who was my editor co-pilot for our college paper back in the day, to give me a thorough look. I started to tell the people around me I was working on a book. I slapped together a cover. I held my breath, crossed my fingers, stopped trying to read it AGAIN for spelling errors and used the advice from my friend Kayla, an amazing woman from Francesca Lia Block‘s spring writing class, to publish it as an eBook.

So here it is. Solo Lady Farming: A Dozen Considerations for the Would-Be Farmer. Book One of the Solo Lady Series may be a little facetious, but I liked the top line saying that – and who knows? I have really cool solo lady friends who are designing and building their own houses and traveling for months in other countries. Maybe they’ll be the next to contribute to this collaboration of strong women doing cool things. I hope so. It feels right.

Back to being floored. I wrote a book!

It has taken me the better part of six months to stop feeling self conscious and a little embarrassed when I say that. Who am I to have written anything? A girl who started a farm, that’s who. In getting past the hangups of self worth, really feeling that has been a big step. One that I’m proud of. And one that leaves me reeling with gratitude for my CSAers,who believe in all of this enough to share their trust and financial resources with me each season, and for my family and friends who didn’t laugh when I said, “I’m writing a little manual for people who might want to do what I did,” and for everyone who reminds me when I’m floundering or down that I’m awesome. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Yours in Word Docs, Fall Chills and Field Planning,

Liz

A Better Kind of Cole Slaw – Guest Post by Sarah Merusi Danyau

This post has been hanging out in the queue for a few weeks now, and my negligent, distracted farm self has been failing to publish.

A special thanks, as always, to my food bloggers, and especially to Sarah, Nico, Joe, Alecia and all the other CSAers and Crooked Row friends who have continually sent me uplifting and empowering food notes while I run around panicking and praying for rain. I don’t know if you know how amazing you are, or how truly touched I am by all of your support and sentiment. Thank you, thank you. I’m off to weed and rain dance some more. On to the main event! – FL

Guest Post by Sarah Merusi Danyau

I recently received a large bunch of cabbage from Liz in the food share and cabbage can be overwhelming. I think back to the days where I hated anything to do with cabbage and now realize that was a crazy idea. Cabbage is awesome and so is cole-slaw when done right.

The first time I ever had incredible cole-slaw was in a tea-house in Nepal. Secluded in the Himalayas along a trail was this guest house called the High Plains Inn. It was owned by a Dutch mountaineer and his Nepali wife – they made all of their food from scratch. After trekking for weeks eating only Dal Bhat and other native Nepali foods, to see homemade cole slaw and freshly baked bread on a menu was mind-blowing and it tasted that way too. I have been meaning to recreate this recipe for years and as you can imagine, was all too excited to see cabbage arrive in my CSA.

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Hanging out in the Himalayan Tea House, waiting for cole slaw and espresso.

This is not your typical cole-slaw, but it’s delicious so give it a try!

Ingredients: ( *From Crooked Row Farm)
– *1 Head of Cabbage
– 2 Carrots
– 1 cup Mayonnaise
– 1 Tbs. Balsamic Vinegar
– 1 Pinch of Sea Salt
– *1/4 tsp. dried thyme
– *1 Garlic Scape
– *1 small onion (or 1/4 of a large onion)

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Instruction:

– Chop cabbage

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– Dice or Julienne Carrots (I prefer mine diced), Chop Onions, Garlic Scapes and mix

– In a separate bowl combine the mayonnaise, balsamic vinegar, thyme, and salt

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– Add liquid ingredients to the vegetables and mix

– Pair with Fresh Juice & Tequila and enjoy! ; )

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Savoring the Summer and Mixing Up The Toolbox

We made it through July!

The silence on the blog always indicates the summer heat, the running around like mad and the onset of some degree of panic. I’m happy to say that panic has been less than in previous years (which hopefully means it dissolves entirely at some point), but the weeds keep growing no matter how I feel and the plants still need their regular TLC.

heirlooms hex sign anise butterfly

Crooked Row has had an interesting little summer. Mama Wagner hasn’t been in the field in over a month due to that rolled ankle, though she’s graduated from her big foamy boot to compression socks and hiking boots. She’s been flustered at her lack of field time and her paced recovery, but we’re just happy she’s getting better each day.

In the mean time, I’ve had a revolving cast of characters stop in to help with various projects. My Tuesday market manager from Farm to City spent the day cleaning out beds, two friends I’ve known since pre-school have made semi-regular appearances to weed for a couple hours at a shot, some city friends have been regularly saving this blog with their amazing recipes and photos, and this delightful Kombucha brewer and farmer from Bethlehem has planted dozens of beets and winter squash in the field over the last few weeks, and along with piles of vegetable cooking, intense and sparkly conversations, assorted off-farm adventures and mutual admiration, he’s become a well-loved and much-appreciated presence in my world.

beets

My aunt and cousins, along with a new friend from a nearby work program, stopped  in for a day of garlic harvest. Things that would have taken me a couple of days were wrapped up in a morning, and the boxes and piles of garlic hanging in the back barn are one of the biggest victories of the summer.

garlic golf cart

Jess Wagner stepped in as MVP last week by delivering CSA shares to my Philly crowd! That saved trip allowed me some time to start some big fall prep. And I got to take her to meet the chickens and piglets at Willow Haven Farm, much to my delight.   eggs  jess

The puppies do what they can to assist, too. Arya has moved in as Mom’s sub, parking herself in the Bobcat and patrolling the fields for afternoons at a shot while I weed and harvest. She’s taken to pretty much every vegetable she’s tried, and can often be found hopping in and out of the hedgerows. teamwork2

arya

But there’s always room for adaption and change within a season, and this was a big one for me. I left the Rittenhouse Tuesday market a few weeks ago – I needed more time to not be rushing around the city so manically before and after that market delivering shares, and the extra time and space that afforded me allowed me to consider life without any markets. There’s some nerves associated with that – after all, I left Keith’s sure I wanted to be a city market farmer, and that’s mostly all I’ve known for the last two seasons, but with my growing CSA, the evolving herb business and my growing life, suddenly being closer to home feels like a priority. And, maybe even more importantly, it feels right.

market break

This week I said goodbye to my East Falls market – at least for a few weeks. I don’t have enough of a variety to support a market and my CSA right now – which may have been poor planning on my part, but really I feel is a solid sign that I’m growing in positive directions. Everyone involved has been supportive and empathetic to such growing pains for a new farmer, and I think come fall my return will be well-met once I’ve regrouped.

teassss

And this break will allow me to focus on some other avenues of the fields I’ve been thinking about. A local permaculturist came to the farm a few weeks ago and we walked around for an afternoon, thinking about some growing methods I could shift to over time that involve less human direction. Fruit and nut trees, meadows, perennials. I’ve also started to take a hard look at the dried tea blends and herbs, considering how big of a presence I want them to be in the farm, and I sat down with a packaging company out of Kutztown to talk about labels and branding. Ah!

sky

I’m trying to find that farm/life balance some seem to strive for and some seem to totally throw in the towel on once summer hits. It’s a lot of work during the season, sure, but don’t I get to read a book or take a nap once in a while? Do I get a day to travel? An afternoon to go to a meditation? I thought “no” for a few years – others farmers I know scoff at the idea of time off, and my ego seemed to thrive on feeling and looking exhausted every day – but that perspective is changing. I’m learning to work at an even pace and listen to an audio book in the field. I’m learning to walk away, even if just for an hour, when the brain fog sets in. And I’m learning to work smarter, not harder, though this is regularly a skill that takes me some time to absorb.

hen friends heirlooms golf cart garlic eggs clouds like crazy

The field is a beautiful space to learn, grow and share. I hope those of you that have eaten this food and seen the work know how loved you are for supporting this wild endeavor. And for those of you who can’t, or haven’t, know that the good vibes you send in my direction are always appreciated and taken in, and that I’m sending them right back out through the ground every day.

Here’s to August, and these cool mornings and evenings. Here’s to sun, rain and green.

-Liz

cloud window

July Updates and Kimchi Love

There it is again. That lull in the blog that signifies July has approached and arrived.

market stand market harvest

Our veggies are thriving (even the ones amidst the weeds), and our perennial herb beds are just so, so happy. It’s been so lovely to have such positive feedback from CSA returners and new folks. Lots of positive vibes, lots of indicators that each year is getting better as far as our organization and the growing as a whole. Super. Stoked.

But challenges arise, as they do. Last week Mama Wagner and I were picking berries and she rolled her ankle in a groundhog hole – hairline fracture, in a boot for six weeks. She is taking it like a champ and has become thoroughly adept at using a rolly chair to get around the house (how I wanted to have a photo here, but she adamantly refused), but without my full-time Greenhouse Visionary and Field Co-Pilot, it’s been hard to tackle the harvest and manage the weed pressure. But I’ve had some awesome friends and volunteers stop by over the last couple weeks to help out, and looks like some more are heading out. So thank you for the good energy and all the help, all of you.

There he is, ladies and gent. Mista LaVergne, farmhand, cook and poet extraordinaire.

There he is, ladies and gent. Mista LaVergne, farmhand, cook and poet extraordinaire.

Even before this added development, I was fortunate to snag some BoyHouse reunion time (circle back to the 2012 segment of this blog, for those of you unfamiliar with that name), and Matthew came up to stay for a couple nights and string tomatoes, weed, dig potatoes, pick for the CSA, cook delicious, amazing food and reminisce about Keith’s Farm. The feeling of having someone in the field who knows what they are doing to this extent was so…relieving. Reassuring. Exciting. For the first time in about ever, I started to consider what it might feel like to not be Solo Lady Farming on the regular.

The pallet garden at the Student Leadership Academy Charter School is growing like wild. We pulled out the bolted spinach and look forward to putting in some ground cherries and more unusual growers for the kids to return to.

SLACS

And I try out a little transition of my own. I’m trying to steer my weekday market toward the end goal, which is Crooked Row: CSA and Herb Farm. We’re bumping up the teas and herbs at Rittenhouse, and I’m hoping to have a little Herbology flyer to hand out for folks who don’t know exactly how to use fresh herbs.

herbs

Market Sign

In most exciting news, my friend and market regular Adam Zolkover (of the Twice Cooked blog, which I highly recommend), has created this really spectacular Scape-based Kimchi Recipe for you to check out. The scapes are big and just about finished, but this may inspire you to grab the last of the lot. It’s here below, and in our Crooked Recipes section!

Kimchi with Garlic Scapes – by Adam D. Zolkover

3 Small heads Napa Cabbage, cut into squares
1 bunch Garlic Scapes, washed and sliced
1 bunch Scallions, washed and chopped
1 inch Ginger, peeled
3 Cloves of Garlic, peeled
1/2 cup Korean Red Pepper Powder
1/2 cup Fish Sauce
1/4 cup Kosher Salt
2 tsp Granulated Sugar

Core the napa cabbage, cut it into squares, and then wash thoroughly.  It tends to collect a fair amount of dirt, and you don’t necessarily want that in your ferment.

To a large bowl, add the cabbage and the salt.  Toss, and then leave it for 1-2 hours.  Over that time, you’ll see that the cabbage gives up a fair amount of water and begins to wilt.  You want this.  It will keep the kimchi crunchy later.

While the cabbage is wilting, add the ginger and garlic to a food processor and chop finely.  Then add the pepper powder, fish sauce and ganulated sugar and blend the whole thing into a paste.

When the cabbage is done, rince off all the salt and add it to a large bowl with the scapes and the scallions.  Add the spice paste and mix the whole thing well, making sure that the vegetables are all thoroughy covered.

Carefully pack the mixture into clean glass jars, cover them loosely (I like plastic tops, screwed on half way), and allow the kimchi to ferment in relative darkness for four to five days (until it has soured to your taste) and then move to the refrigerator.  This recipe should make 1-2 quarts.

When loading the jars, I would recommend packing them tightly but not all the way to the top.  Tight packing will prevent mold, and leaving some headroom will prevent spillage as the kimchi ferments.  I would also recommend stirring and compacting your kimchi at least once a day.

It looks like this recipe calls for an awful lot of pepper powder, but it’s not actually that hot.  I would strongly recommend not reducing it.

scapes kimchi adam

And there you have it, folks! One of the rarely-sighted July updates! I’ll try for more soon, but no promises.

Hugs and Rainy Harvests,

Liz

matthew takes my picture