Summer CSA – Week 2

An inch of rain would make my life a lot easier right now.

We don’t have irrigation at our farm, and we rely on high organic matter, clay/silt soils a high water table and a little bit of irrigation to get by.

A vegetable farm thrives on 1-2″ of rain/week, (best in one or two installments, with warm, dry, sunny weather in between).  That’s 27,154 gallons of water per acre inch.  We currently have 5 acres planted, with an acre to be planted this week.  That’s over 100,000 gallons of water we would need to give our crops the healthy dousing they deserve.

Right now, our only source of water is Ashland water, for which we pay agricultural rates  ($6.37 cents per 100 cubic feet, which is 748 gallons).  At that rate, an inch of rain falling on our fields is worth $1156.22.  That’s why when it rains we legitimately say, it’s raining money.

We have no reliable way of getting that much water onto our crops without rain.  Even the best irrigation systems are challenged when it gets really dry.  Right now we are using two methods to get water to our crops.

We are driving a tank of water (the tool we usually use to transplant) over the beds and letting the water fall directly on the crops.

erin watering with transplanter
Erin driving the transplanter over the onions last Friday. Onions have shallow root systems and depend on regular irrigation for proper development.

We estimate the cost of running our tractor with an operator (including cost of the machine, fuel, annual maintenance, insurance, etc, etc) to be around $60/hour (we do not value our time very highly – but the value of agricultural labor is another topic). We can water about 600 bed feet of vegetables with 300 gallons of water in roughly one hour.  That water costs $3 (based on rates above).  We rely on the vegetables natural ability to use water when needed (like how lettuce leaves act as a funnel to run water that falls on the plants directly to the roots).  We also avoid watering pathways with this method.  But its a negligible amount of water compared to what would make the crops really thrive if we got an inch of rain.

We also drive cube tanks (250-300 gallon tanks) on the the back of our old F-350 flat bed to the top of the hill and use a pump to either water with a hose by hand or feed the water into a drip irrigation system.  Drip tape is a good way to get water directly to the crops roots, allowing them to more effectively use the minimal amounts of water they are receiving. But drip tape is made of plastic, and is only reusable to a point – then it becomes waste which is questionably recyclable.

Most of these challenges would be lessened if we had land security.  We would dig an agricultural well (roughly $20k) with a 15-20 gallon/minute flow rate with an output at the top of the hill we farm, so all water used for irrigation would flow downhill (the opposite of what we have now, where our water source is at the bottom of the hill).  Right now we can’t run hoses up the hill as a part of the restriction of our lease, but that would be another way to at least get the town water up the hill faster.

So how does this effect you?  We prioritize crops that need a lot of water and make people happy (like peas, lettuce, carrots) when we are watering, but what we are able to do cannot compare with real rain.

small carrots june

We would hope the above carrots would be larger so we could put them in the share this week, but they just didn’t get enough water.  We will focus on irrigating them as heavily as possible this week so we can put them in next weeks share.  We try not to pick the carrots when they are super tiny because it reduces our overall yield dramatically.  If we were to pick our carrots now it would probably take 2-3 times as many bed feet of carrots to make enough bunches for everyone.  And that’s less carrots in the future.  So we will wait and let them size up!

We also are very tight on produce, still, so we have limited trades and choice.  We didn’t bring any peas to the Ashland Market this past Saturday to make sure we had enough for the CSA this week.  We do have more zucchini and squash thanks to two cube tanks of water last Thursday and just the fact that the plants are more mature. Hooray!

Lets all hope that it rains tonight.  But just a little bit of perspective: if it doesn’t rain tonight, or at all this week or next, no one is going to starve.  We are very, very fortunate.

What’s in the Share:

Head Lettuce
Arugula
Radishes
Scallions
Kale/Escarole/Dandelion/Frisee Choice
Zucchini/Squash (follow the link of a great picture of each type of squash with a description – we grow most of the squashes in this blog post except the Eight-Ball, and very little Costata Romanesca because its very slow growing)
Peas
Micro Basil/Garlic Scapes Choice

3 Reasons to Eat Bitter Greens (highly recommended article)

3 Reasons to Eat Escarole (Specifically)
Below are some simple recipes that can go a long way with most CSA shares.

I am not a food blogger or a photographer, so I apologize for ugly photos and my many, many grammatical errors. The above collage is of the process of roasting roots (something I recommend if you want a quick, easy way to enjoy some really sweet veggies.  Extras can be saved and put on salad later. If you think it’s too hot to roast you can always do this on the grill.  Just wrap the cut, oiled roots in tinfoil and leave on the grill for at least 30 minutes, maybe longer.

Basic Roasted Roots Recipe

Twist off the roots, wash them, cut the ends off, cut them into 6ths or 8ths (see picture above), toss in olive oil and roast at 400 degrees for 25-40 minutes.  I don’t even bother to turn them sometimes, but you can turn them at around 20-25 minutes.  Just add salt. Simple and delicious.  You can do this with radishes, carrots, beets, turnips . . . any root.

Pesto is a great way to use a lot of greens.  Last week I made pesto with green garlic, a bag of arugula, a bunch of spinach and olive oil and salt.  Adding nuts and cheese and lemon is awesome and delicious and a level up, but this pesto was spectacular like this.  You can put it on pasta, on pizza, on sandwiches, on toast with eggs.  You can freeze it and use it in winter when you are so sad your CSA is over.  ANY green can make pesto.

After roasting the turnips and beets I made pesto with the beet and turnip greens.  With those I added lemon, walnuts and parm.  Not every pesto will be your favorite, but think about how much awesome green goodness you can pulverize into a creamy, yummy paste that goes on almost anything!

Basic Pesto Recipe:

Use food processor to blend garlic (or something like garlic/onion), nuts and cheese (both optional)

Add washed greens to food processor and turn on high, slowly pouring in olive oil until the leaves start to get picked up by the processor.  Scrape the sides, pulse again.  If it is still thick and chunky add a little more oil. Add salt and/or pepper and/or lemon juice to taste.

Freeze in a mason jar, leaving at least 1″ of head room for expansion.  I like using little half pint jars because it’s the perfect amount to thaw and use later.

Dandelion Pumpkin Seed Pesto

More Recipes

Baked Kale Chips

French Frisee Salad with Poached Eggs and Bacon

Escarole Tart

Sauteed Snap Peas with Scallions and Radishes  

Enjoy!!!

PS: For those of you picking up a share at one of our delivery sites, we are going to put pictures of the labeled CSA distribution crates on our facebook page tomorrow during distribution so if you aren’t sure what something is in your share you can check those pics!

PPS: Remember to store your produce in plastic bags in the fridge so it will last longer.  Twist the roots off their tops and store in separate plastic bags.  The bags we are sending your cut greens home in are great to rinse and re-use for other items in later shares.

PPS: Thanks for a great first week – it was nice to see so many familiar faces and meet so many new people! You all did a GREAT job with the first pick up!

PPPS: That “rain” we got on Friday wasn’t really rain.  This is how much water we got – not enough to even cover the bottom of a bucket.  Definitely better than nothing . . .

rain bucket empty

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