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Monday, June 22, 2009

Father's Day Food!

check out the little jalepenos stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped with bacon!
tomatoes and peppers and onions roasting for the salsa-making: red beans on the stove...ditto yellow squash...salad on the table. yea summer.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Garden Survey

well. I wanted to say the garden is now at it's peak, but I believe we are beyond that point.
Things are getting gnarley out in the herb beds, but we're holding our own for now. The zinnias, planted especially for the wedding, are as pretty as they're ever going to get. The sunflowers have started blooming. The field peas went from this to this in one week!
There's okra, but you have to know that because all of the other vegetables are so distracting!
There are more cucumbers than anyone could possible deal with, and the squash have to picked every single day. Small squash in the morning, giant squash in the evening. I kid you not! The drought and heat wave are taking their toll on the garden and on us, but so far, we're persevering...I figure a high pressure system has to move or break down at some point, although this one has lasted - what - three weeks? four? I guess it's better than 'severe storms' with big hail and 80 mph winds, right?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Braving the Blackberry Patch

...actually, it is a really, really long row - but a gnarley one! Used to be a row - now it is a wide patch of all sorts of stuff, including massive blackberry vines. We kept meaning to get out there and make it oh-so perfect for picking time. But it wasn't meant to be - too much else to do. The berries are plenty accessible, it's just a little creepy. I seem to remember that snakes like berries, and of course we used to pick them from all manner of semi-dangerous environs when I was a kid. This is pretty tame by comparison. Got enough to freeze and last night make blackberry turnovers (but the Filo was very uncooperative!). Yummy anyway. And I was able to send Will to work with a smoothie this morning.
If we were willing to draw down the pond more than we've already had to, we would flood the berries - but we need to conserve and use the water only on the vegetables. Yes, we're in a little drought - in the 95+ degree heat. That's fine, as long as we stay ahead of things and come inside by 9:00 a.m....on to the next thing - sorting tomatoes and putting them in boxes! yea! Glad the garden is so prolific, but MAN, there's a lot of tomatoes!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

After the Party

I cannot BELIEVE that I took no pictures this Saturday morning...week 2 of our CSA!
Many members came to help - they picked yellow beans, green beans, helped pull up ALL of the strawberry plants (that's a pretty big deal)...helped pack baskets, sort potatoes. A crazy time, to be sure. Lots of kids, lots of sweaty hard-working people. It's beautiful, I must tell you. But it never occurred to me to get the camera; I was just too busy. This time, I tried to get out earlier. I woke up at 5:30 and was in the garden at 6:30. It took me two hours and more to cut and bag all of the herb orders and flower orders: next week , I don't know - maybe I'll wake up at 5:00.
A great success, all in all. We are lovin' this CSA thing!The cats are hot (big heat wave here) and they lay around a lot. The Crazy Cat is very very sociable, and likes to mingle with all of the folks on Saturday morning. Last week he got ahold of some woman's purse and he was NOT going to let it go! But the others are close at hand: here is the Kitty Witty trying not to move very much:
And the Crazy Cat just daring Will to pick up his farm hat: This morning (Sunday), we heard the driveway alarm, and Will calls out: "Hey! It's Claire and her Dad!" And they're on horseback!" Claire is the daughter in a CSA family, a hard-working young lady and very smart to boot! She was the very first helper of the season, coming over to weed strawberry plants way before the garden was even planted. Here are the horses tied up for a moment on the fence. And so we begin another week...let's have some voodoo from out there - we are need of rain.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Remember the $64 Tomato?

Those were the Brandywines, last year...well this is kind of the $64 Tomato Redux. Heirloom tomatoes can be a wonderful thing. In fact, there's a man down the road who grows all manner of interesting and beautiful ones...Purple Russians, that sort of thing. He gives them away. He grows them 'just because'...This time, it's a packet of free seeds from one of the seed companies. Uh - I can kind of see why they're giving the seeds away. An interesting tomato, to be sure, but not only are they way-ugly; it's hard to get any actual tomato to eat from one of these guys. We made a salad last night, and Will said he'd just use one of these and 'they better be good!' They were ok, but nothing to write home about. Give me a giant creole tomato anytime.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Attack Of The Vegetables

It's THAT time...well, this particular job wasn't that big of a deal; Ian and Senna (son and girlfriend) sat around with us on Sunday and helped shell all of these Horticulture it was only a matter of blanching, dunking in ice water and bagging...THIS, on the other hand, is a different story! I remember a really funny Garrison Keilor story from way back about his childhood and all of the excess vegetables, mainly tomatoes, from the garden (and of course leaving bags of zucchini on people's doorsteps in the middle of the night - I totally get that). 'Canning' tomatoes is daunting in it's way. First of all, the ones you work with are the ones with imperfections - holes and little soft spots and such - and you stand at the counter and cut and throw the good parts into a really big pot and dunk the other stuff into a bucket at your feet. This goes on for a long, long time. Yesterday, I wound up with two huge pots of cut up tomatoes simmering on the stove. Then you wash the jars. Then you boil the jars. Then you line up the jars. Then you boil the lids. Then you haul the pot of tomatoes over to the jars. Then you fill the jars and continually wipe up the spillage. Then you wipe off the tops of the jars with a paper towel dunked in boiling water; Then you put lids on the jars. Then you figure out which pots you have left to set the jars in...then you set the jars in the water bath and then you let it come to a boil and then you let it go for ten minutes and then you pull the jars out and listen for them to go 'click',,,'click' - that's the sealing.
And then you realize that you never sterilized enough jars to begin with and here you are with half a big pot of tomatoes. Then Will comes in and offers to do 'Round 2'. That's a good thing, because by that time, I was just done in. I need an attitude's way to early in the season to feel overwhelmed by this kind of thing. The result is a beautiful thing, though!
And I still can't figure out why they call it 'canning' when in fact you are putting stuff in JARS.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

'Many Hands Make Light Work'

...Saturday and it was officially WEEK 1 of our CSA activities; I had gotten out early to pick and wash and bag herbs for the orders, but our members showed up early too. When I was finished, I heard laughing and talking in the distance and I thought...'man, I have to get over there...they're having too much fun!" Will pulled up both 70-ft rows of Horticulture beans, and folks were working pulling them off the's amazing how much work six or seven people can do! At some point, I was back in the carport beginning to line up the baskets for our 20 families......and was helped mightily by Caroline, who was spending the day with Dad....she learned to weigh out and bag 3-lb allotments of beans - and Caroline is going into the 2nd grade! A fast learner and a big help!in the meantime, members were busy pulling yellow beans off plants, and Will was free to till up the rows in the field - a luxury for him to be able to do this so quickly after vegetables are pulled up.I don't know what is up with this year's crops. We've talked about it a lot. Look at the size of these bell peppers - and it's early yet. But they're HUGE! Also, the crepe myrtles are crazy-blooming and if I'm not mistaken they're VERY early. Hmm. I'm not complaining, it's just that things seem to be in a big, big hurry.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Post-Wedding Farming

The month of May has seen one son's college graduation and another son's wedding here at this little farm....the wedding is over and the vegetables are calling!The garden is not much worse for wear, considering we've done little in the past week or more...but the weeds are already asserting themselves, trying to get the best of us. I'm pulling weeds and hoeing and Will is tilling between rows - we both know it's only a matter of time; a couple of months from now, we'll just hand the garden over to the weeds and concede. But for now the garden still belongs to us. The produce is charging ahead, doing what it always does, and on its own schedule.Our PLAN was to begin our new CSA adventure this coming weekend (June 6). Thankfully, our CSA members happily chipped in a couple of weeks ago and helped with early harvesting and maintenance, and understood that the schedule had bumped itself up a week or two. This will be the first weekend that we will pick and pack for 20 families...kind of intimidating, but it looks like it will work! Thanks to Will who, scientist and horticultural maniac that he is, plotted the whole shebang out months ago, trying to make sure everything happened with some kind of order. It is kind of like herding cats, but fenced-in other words, there is a perimeter of sorts.

It's amazing that only three weeks ago, folks constructed this cucumber fence and the little plants weren't even THINKING about climbing it!vegetables wait for no one...

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