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Sunday, July 26, 2009


...last week of the CSA; we're down to okra, squash, and one more watermelon for everyone. Yeah, hot peppers, but how many of our members want more of THAT? (answer: not many). Week 6, everybody got rosemary jelly as a 'supplement' to their market basket. Week 7, everybody got a jar of Hot Sweet Garlic Pickles AND a container of Dill Dip (very popular!). So, Week 8, Will makes pepper jelly and I decided that everyone would get a loaf of herb bread! Sounds good in theory, I suppose; and I have lots of experience with bread-making...especially this recipe. But 24 loaves of bread????? All having to be baked on Friday so everybody gets it fresh??? Good Grief! Luckily, I have a friend with a counter stand-mixer, so she lets me borrow it. I figured I could just whip out 24 batches of dough on Thursday, rise them once, put them in plastic bags in the fridge, and bake them all on Friday. this also sounds good in theory. right?

NOTE: This is a pretty long rant about bread-making, so if you're not well for it, you can just look at the pictures and get on with life!

So I go to the store and load up: 15 bags of flour, four jars of yeast...
I experimented on Wednesday. just to see what happens when you try to preserve dough for baking the next day- the only smart move so far. I made a regular batch of bread, by hand, put the dough in a plastic bag in the fridge. It just kept on rising and rising in the coldness of the fridge! It just wouldn't STOP! At this point, I realized I'd have to freeze all of them first, THEN put them in the fridge for later use. (Note: once they unfreeze, even in the fridge, guess what? yes. they keep rising. That little item I'd find out much later. So I just forged ahead. I had already planned to do this, and it was our only plan, so I had to go with it.
Thursday morning, I pick up from said friend's house the Kitchen Aid Accolade 400! I mean, who on earth decided to name a mixer the Accolade?! That's a car name, or it should be.
First, I just figure I'll do it the way I always do; no measuring, just rise the yeast and alternate hot water and flour until I get the right amount and consistency. Do not try this in a standing mixer! The mixer will have none of it! I wound up #1 with a great glob of goopy mess that of course never turns into a dough ball while using the dough hook attachment! But I had been smart, and knew from reading online conversations about this appliance that the dough wan't ever going to do that anyway. #2, I thought it would be a good idea to wrap the first two I did in wax paper before putting them in plastic bags. big mistake. good thing I didn't continue to do that with the other 21 loaves. more later. #3, I really should have made sure they were all frozen solid before transferring them to the outdoor cooler. I was flying by the seat of my pants. I had ten loaves done by 1:00 p.m. I figured I was making good progress. From start to end on Thursday, I had been on my feet (I kid you not) for 12 hours! I had to drag myself through the last 4 or 5 loaves, because I was ready to jump off of a tall building by then. But, by 10:00 at night, I had 24 bags of dough, once risen and cooled down in the freezer, on the highest shelf of the cooler in the shed.
Friday morning, I figured this would be an easier day. My oven will only take three loaves at a time which is good, because I only have three loaf pans anyway. I go out to the shed and open the door. My goodness it smells like bread in here! of the bags had exploded (remember the 'keep on rising' part?) and spilled all the way down the front of all the bee boxes stacked in the cooler. gross. I start hauling all the bags out, crossing my fingers. Although this was the only actual explosion, many of the bags had expanded and popped the ties on the bags...I brought all of them inside and began stuffing them into the two freezers. What now? I only have this one day! I chose three and set them on the table. The goal is to get the dough to room temperature before baking. well, I waited an hour and a half and that just was NOT happening. So I put the first three in the oven. yet another mistake. I buttered the tops at 20 minutes. I looked in at 45 minutes, figuring they'd be ready but the bread just wasn't baking all the way! I left them in for an hour, and the middles STILL weren't done! Patience, patience. Three loaves maybe ruined. One exploded and ruined..AND, the two wrapped in wax paper? Well, let me just say that the wax paper became ONE with the dough and there just wasn't any way to separate one from the other. into the garbage. That's three ruined loaves before baking and three baked loaves probably ruined also (although they looked alright, I didn't trust them at all).
Good thing I am a very determined woman. I hauled all of the loaves from the freezers out onto the carport, put the bags on trays and in bowls covered with plastic wrap and dish towels. The real challenge here is making sure that as they got warm enough to bake, they never came into contact with a fly. With everything covered with tablecloths, I felt pretty confident about that. The day progressed, and every round looked better than the one before. After putting the last three in the oven, I whipped up three more by hand..the baking was done by 10:00 p.m. But I did it!Like Will said, everybody will be excited with a loaf of bread in ther market basket, but nobody will think 'MAN, 24 loaves of bread!' No matter. Here is the basket everyone received on Saturday...Watermelon, Okra, Squash, Pepper Jelly, Bread, and herbs.

Our CSA Members seemed to be sorry the whole thing was over, eager to sign up for next year, and pleased with the whole experience. Hey! We managed to pull it off, beginning to end! Now, as we do every late summer, cut it all down, plow it all under, cover crop...and rest.

1 comment:

CountryCouture said...

Are you STILL recovering from the bread-making? Any new farm news?! Would love to see an update on here!

About Our CSA

We are entering the sixth season of our CSA (Community Support Agriculture). What began as an experiment for the creative marketing of our produce has developed into a fulfilling experience for us and our members, one that we so look forward to each year. What you will find below is an explanation of how we operate the CSA, the cost, length of season, expected commitment, etc. We ask that you read it carefully before responding. We have dedicated members that stay on year after year, but for a number of folks, it is challenging to come out every Saturday for nine weeks running and to have time to participate. For those who love the quality of the vegetables, herbs, and flowers – and who like the experience of planting, harvesting, and interacting with others who have the same likes, it is a very rewarding experience. Please read on…

What is Community Supported Agriculture? (CSA)

Community supported agriculture is a movement that got its start in this country in the mid-1980’s, driven by a desire by neighborhood groups to re-connect with local growers and producers. The CSA movement is enjoying increasing popularity and availability with each passing year. The goal of CSA is to involve the vegetable-eating-public more intimately with “their” farm. Why do I use “their” in that description? Because in CSA, members buy a share of the farm which, in effect, provides them an ownership stake in the vegetables produced. In that respect, the farmer and consumer become partners. There are many benefits from this relationship to the farmer and consumer alike. For the farmer, it provides a guarantee of sales so he can plant to supply his contract. It also minimizes the time required to market the produce, freeing him up for what he does best, which is…farm. For the consumer, it guarantees a steady supply of farm fresh produce for a fixed price, encouraging healthy eating, and promoting a sense of participation and community around the farm that has been long lost in the age of industrial agriculture. For both the farmer and consumer, it promotes a bond based on trust and mutual interest. For those interested in information on CSA and farms that have set up these systems, the web has worlds of information available with a simple word search.

Why did Port Hudson Organics decided to become Port Hudson CSA?

For most of you who have spent any time visiting our farm and talking with us, you are aware that Thais and I both work full time, maintaining our little farm, bee hives, yard, and other farm-related activities in our “spare” time. This means that virtually every waking hour that we are not at work you would find us in the field or manning the produce tent (or carport). As we expanded our farm-related enterprises to areas such as biodiesel, berries and bee hives, the farm demands finally exceeded our available time. So in 2009, in order to continue our farm sustainability effort and reduce our time commitment (primarily the time spent selling), we tried a concept that is becoming increasingly popular across the country in the “Eat fresh, Eat local” movement, that is, the CSA farm. In the spring of 2009, we enrolled (what ended up to be) 25 CSA member families, and were blown-away by the success of the venture. Member enthusiasm, assistance, and clear appreciation for the unsurpassed quality of our produce resulted in an excellent experience for everyone involved. Since then, we have expanded our enrollment to approximately 40 member families, which is a comfortable carrying capacity of our one acre garden. At this point in our lives, with regular jobs and other commitments, we have no plans to expand further.

What kind of vegetables are grown and how are they distributed?

We grow a wide variety of Spring and Summer vegetables (generally about 20 different varieties). At any time during the season, you can expect around 12-15 different offerings, and 6-8 culinary herbs. We also grow cut flowers, usually zinnias and sunflowers. Each week members will receive a selection list by email. Members then make 7 selections of vegetables and 2 selections of herbs from the list. Members can check off their first and second preferences and we will make every effort to supply the members with their selected items. In cases where we are short on a particular item, say, yellow squash, we will substitute another available vegetable (for example, zucchini) from member’s second choice selection if at all possible. Members are free to make notes on their list if there is a particular vegetable they do not want (for example, zucchini) and we will try to honor their request. The amounts (pounds or numbers) of vegetables or herbs per selection were based on an approximation of equal value based on the prices we have charged for these items in the past. And as last year’s members know, the amounts of produce on the list are the minimum amount you will receive. Often, when there is a surplus beyond what has been selected, we will throw in some “lagniappe”. Members should note that there are a couple of exceptions on the selection list: a bouquet of flowers, when available, counts as two selections from the herb list; similarly, watermelon, when available, counts as two selections from the vegetable list. Each week, a basket with all of your produce and herbs will be made up with your list attached. Blank lists will be available for you to fill out for the following week, as the mix of produce and herbs change with the weather.

Can I select more than one of a particular item?

Yes, if you want 6 pounds of tomatoes one week, you can simply put the number “3” next to the selection “2 lbs. tomatoes” on your sheet and pick four other vegetable selections to make a total of seven selections. If we have enough tomatoes to satisfy your request, we will provide that amount. If we are short, we will attempt to at least provide you with one selection of tomatoes and make up the rest of your basket with other choices. We will let members know each week which vegetables we expect to have in abundance. For example, due to space considerations, we have limited plantings of corn and each planting is generally available for only one Saturday, so we will be encouraging members to select as much corn as they can from the list on the weeks that corn becomes available (we try to send out weekly emails on the state of the farm). Of course, members will also be given preference for the purchase of additional vegetables if, for example, you want to freeze a bushel of corn when it comes in and there is surplus available.

How will the CSA Baskets be distributed?

Members choose to come to the farm either Friday evening or Saturday morning each week during the season. Once you arrive, you can choose from a variety of garden activities in progress and lend a hand. This can range from planting and/or picking vegetables; washing, weighing, and bundling produce; cutting and arranging flowers; cutting and separating herbs to order; helping to pack baskets with weekly selections; sitting under a tree with other members and stripping beans off of plants. Occasionally there is a bigger project at hand, such as erecting the cucumber fence or helping to mulch rows with hay. There will be weeks when you are not able to help due to your schedule, but we find that most of our members help out almost every week. The process takes about an hour, and when you leave you bring your weekly basket with you. Many find this outdoor activity in the garden a respite from their work week in an office!

Members are asked to pick up their CSA baskets each Saturday by 10:00 AM. This is probably the biggest commitment you will make as part of the CSA. We understand that it may be difficult to come every Saturday for 9 weeks, but there are a couple of strategies you can employ to make this easier. (1) you can buddy-up with one or more members in your area and go on alternate Saturdays, each delivering or holding the other’s basket for pick up at their house; (2) you can send a family member or close friend; or (3) you can come Friday afternoon to help with the harvest and bring your basket home with you then (we had a lot of members take this option, as we do a lot of harvesting on Friday in advance of the Saturday bedlam).

What if you have a crop failure or natural disaster?

A CSA is a partnership between the farmer and the consumer, and within this partnership is an understanding of shared risk. That said, we do not expect members to bear the full cost of a catastrophic failure, nor have we ever experienced a completely failed season. Should the worst happen, members will be reimbursed a portion of their investment and we will do all in our power to make it right with members through a combination of refunds and discounts on following seasons.

What time commitment is asked as part of the CSA?

CSAs, by definition, include member support. Each week, literally hundreds of pounds of produce must be harvested, hundreds of bunches of herbs must be clipped and tied, and dozens of flower bouquets must be picked. Without member support, this is logistically impossible for part time farmers. Hence, we ask members to commit to help in some fashion (picking, sorting, filling orders, etc) according to their abilities every other weekend or so (we are not rigid on this). We have found that members enjoy becoming involved in the process. Learning about how food is grown and harvested is an uplifting and educational experience. After all, that is why we do it. And it is an integral part of CSA farms across the country. We are assuming that you found us because you appreciate this connection, and we hope that you can find the small amount of time to required to experience that connection.

What is the cost?

Cost of the CSA membership is $350. This covers 9 weeks of farm fresh vegetables, herbs, and flowers of your choice. This comes out to about $38 per week, probably more than you would pay at the grocery store for conventionally-grown produce, but less than you would pay for organic produce at Whole Foods. The quality of the produce, however, cannot be approached by any supermarket, and the experience is priceless. Also, membership in the CSA includes a pint of our farm honey when it becomes available.

In Summary

So that about covers it. If you want to experience first hand the pleasures of seeing, smelling, picking and eating truly wholesome food, please respond quickly to this email. We would appreciate some information on you and your family, and why you want to join the CSA. We will let you know within a few days, and will ask for payment at that time. We ask that you understand that we have about twice as many families on the waiting list as we have openings. However, if you do not make in into the CSA this year, we will give you first shot at joining next year if you are still interested.

Thank you so much for your interest in our little farm. We hope to see you this spring.

Will & Thais Perkins

Port Hudson Organics CSA