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Saturday, October 31, 2009

After the Storm

After Passage of the Front...

I know it could have been much worse; everthing is relative. Saturday morning greeted us with sunlight filtering through the bamboo blinds, blue skies, cool-dry air. Lovely! But sooo wet!!! The Weather Channel the night before went on and on about Shreveport - something like 15 inches in some areas. We only received three inches. But it comes at a bad time for us and I've seen this movie before. The grass we had hoped to cut for hay now stands in saturated ground that would not support the hay equipment even if it (the grass) were to dry out enough to cut, and much less the pickup truck and trailer to haul the bales out of the field. The garden has sections of standing water - I usually hill up the whole field so it will drain during the winter, but this time I was lucky to get the fall cover crop tilled in and another one spread before the rains of last week made it too muddy to work. The last time we had this sort of weather foolishness, there were no strawberries planted, and I can see that happening again. But there is good news as well; the Australian Winter Peas that I spread and was unable to cover have remained so wet that they have worked their little primary roots into the mud and are spouting nicely, along with the crimson clover and sprinkling of mustard and turnips that I spread at the field margins.

Although pictures only a farmer could love, these sprouts promise to cover the field with green going into the winter and ought to pay dividends in the spring whe
n they break down into humus. I wandered across the front of the field where we have planted a modest winter garden for us (modest, if you think two can eat 40 broccoli plants). Of course that is the problem when you start plants like these from seeds; it's hard to resist planting all of the starts - and we really only planted about half of the cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and brussel sprouts plants - and this time gave the rest away before they were too old. Yet, there are flats remaining...

These on the left are more lettuce, some parsley, some cute little violas, and white and yellow California daisies from seed collected and given to us by a CA native - yes, Loree, they are indeed spouting. The flat below is more cabbage that we will probably give away because we are out of room.

But, back to t
he garden...
Here's a look at the ready-to-munch lettuce and the shot below that is the cutting celery that made it through the dry summer and is now mired in the mud at the wet end of the garden. This is some hardy stuff and I would recommend it to anyone who likes celery flavor.

On the right is shot of the turnips; already thinned
for greens and about two week
s away from nice roots to cook with bacon and cane syrup (a Cajun technique). There are more pics of the garden to come later, but I wanted to post a couple of zinnia and butterfly pictures. With the relatively warm and very wet weather, the yard has a spring look to it and I meant to take a couple of pictures of the giant marigolds that are in full bud, but we will have to do with the zinnias, Mexican sunflowers and fall butterflies. Till next time...Will.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Deer Bones In The Yard

Here we have a hunk of dead deer. If you are already nauseous, just don't read this post, ok?
Poor old Dude, who doesn't get around much, apparently can smell a freshly gutted deer from a mile away. We have neighbors who hunt deer. That's just what they do. Hey - anyone who loves a venison roast should just man-up about this...because this is indeed where it comes from!
So the neighbors (and probably friends) go deer hunting. They clean the deer, and don't use the hind quarters for anything, so they toss them into the nearby brush. Dude wakes up from a nap and thinks "hey! I smell deer!"
So he goes way over to the neighbors property (its not THAT far, but it's pretty far for this old dog). And next thing you know, he had dragged a whole deer leg into the yard.
Will calls out and says 'Hey! Bring a cookie sheet!' first I'm thinking...oh no. He says..."we can either let it rot out here or we can roast it!" And then I'm thinking ...'uh...roast it? you mean, like...'
Of course not. He was thinking that Dude will drag it over, but we both know he won't actually EAT it. Not unless it's roasted, of course. I am guilty of roasting meat for this dog on a regular basis! ok, fine.So Will brings it into the kitchen and into the oven it goes! I must say, a venison roast smells yummy. A raw deer leg, not so much. Matter of fact, it smells pretty rank!
In the end, old Dude has three large hunks of deer to much on. I'm so glad it wasn't intended for us because, well, you know.
This morning I took the last one out of the outside fridge, but made sure to take a picture before I put it down for Dude. This probably looks very yummy if you're a dog...ok..I more blog posts about meat in the yard!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cover-Cropping...Let's Do It Again!

Of the two of us, only Will takes the deep breath and cranks up the mow down the very last of what we have been hanging onto from the summer garden. Well, first of all, only Will drives the tractor, but secondly, it just kills me to see things go - which is why he is the farmer of course.
I suppose if it were up to me, we'd just have a big gnarly mess of old vegetation until it dried up and eventually became compost(!) (with a bunch of weeds). That anything is left at all after August 1st is only because Will is humoring me.

Here we have the last things to go:
italian basil in it's last throes, and huge yellow cosmos as a backdrop...
goodbye to that, right? nothing like a clean slate
(pay no attention to the herb beds at the end of the field -
even Will can't mow down the celery leaf. Next comes the cover crop...
very exciting if you're into that kind of thing. Happy soil, happy plants next time. a few weeks later, and you have the mother of all cover crops!! Knee-high and dense, ready to plow under (if the weather cooperates). Lo and Behold! We actually have time to do it all again! It's mid (to late) October and - hey...two cover crops are even better than one! Out comes the tractor and down go the peas! The other evening, Will was out there walking back and forth, back and forth - with the bag of seed and his little device that spits it out when you crank the handle round and round.
He walked and walked and it got dark and he was still walking. But it was going to rain (and it did) and the seed had to be down. Didn't have time to till it in, but it ought to come up anyway. Pictures later for those of you who think cover crops are groovy.
I promise a blog post about something a little more colorful first. Like, maybe, zinnias!

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