Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Greetings From Morning Song Farm 11/12/08

















For identification purposes, above are images of Arugula, Passionfruit, Passionflower, and Kale. I made a simple salad for lunch today with an entire bunch of arugula and about a quarter of the bunch of cilantro; no lettuce at all. I added a few crushed macadamia nuts, and thinly sliced radishes. I used a whole lime, squeezed over the greens with a little California Olive Oil dashed across the serving with a pinch of the crushed Kung Pao dried chili pepper you've been getting in your baskets each week. As a finishing touch I crumbled a little dried mint over the whole plate. Delicious!




We Pause Now for a Word About Kale

Remember that Kale can be eaten cooked and served hot like you would Swiss Chard, or can be chilled after cooking and served as a salad ingredient. Kale is among the most nutrition-packed vegetables a farmer can grow. It is an excellent source of carotenes, vitamins C and B6, and manganese. One cup of kale supplies more than 70 percent of the RDI for vitamin C, with only 20 calories. It is also a very good source of dietary fiber and many minerals, including copper, iron and calcium. Kale has almost three times as much calcium as phosphorus, and has demonstrated effective imune-boosting properties. Kale should be stored in the refrigerator crisper wrapped in a damp paper towel or placed in a perforated plastic bag. Do not wash before storing, as this will cause it to become limp.


*Use cut raw kale as salad green
*Lightly sauté kale with fresh garlic and sprinkle it with lemon juice before serving.
*Braise chopped kale and apples, then sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and chopped macadamias just before serving.
*Combine chopped kale, chopped macadamia nuts, and feta cheese with whole-grain pasta drizzled with olive oil.
*Use steamed kale as topping for homemade pizza.
Purée cooked kale and potatoes together and season with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and cumin for a delicious soup. Add vegetable stock if required.


Passionfruit

Also, some subscribers may have never seen a passionfruit. You'll see the incredible flower of the passionfruit vine above, as well as a photo of the fruit. The fruit is either purple or a little yellowish. I cut as small a cap off the top of the fruit as I can and still allow for a spoon to get inside. I sprinkle a little stevia inside, and scoop out and eat just like that, as a dessert. The seeds are edible like tomato seeds.




You'll see plenty of feijoa guavas in your baskets this week; it's a fairly short season so enjoy them while you can. I eat them like an apple, but some people don't like the skin, which I think is the best part. Suit yourself, but at least try the skin which has a minty/tropical taste.




Here’s this week’s pick ticket:
Limes
Lots of Feijoa Guavas
Dried Kung Pao Hot Peppers
Arugula
Basil
Radishes
Macadamias
Mint
Apples
Sage
Head Lettuce
Cilantro
Green Beans
Kale
Passionfruit

And in large baskets only:
Culinary pumpkins
Carrots
Baby Lettuce

Little Known Potato Fact


Conventionally grown potatoes are almost certainly doused with chlorprohham (CIPC) which is the most effective post-harvest sprout inhibitor registered for use in potatoes in the U.S. While spraying your food, workers are required by safety regulations to don respirators and wear protective clothing. There is an inevitable and legally allowable accumulation of residue at the moment of consumption of even the peeled tuber.

Another Reason to Buy Organic

From Vegetable Growers News, this just out: “The EPA has registered Syngenta Crop Protection’s Voliam Xpress insecticide. Voliam Xpress is approved for use on head and leaf lettuce, fruiting vegetables, head and stem brassicas and cucurbit vegetables.” …Voliam Xpress utilizes two modes of action to protect crops from chewing and sucking insects as well as lepidopteran pests. It contains chlorantraniliprole, a new mode of action from the diamide family of insecticides, and lambda-cyhalothrin, a third-generation phyrethroid insecticide. The two active ingredients are combined in an enhanced solution that provides fast knockdown and long-lasting residual control…”

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Greetings Morning Song Farm Supporters


Below is my favorite pumpkin pie recipe. The blue culinary pumpkins you have been receiving in your baskets are grown specifically for this recipe. Crack open your pumpkin on the driveway or other hard surface, scoop out the seeds and bake at 350 degrees until soft enough to scoop out. You can save that beautiful pumpkin for Thanksgiving if you like. It can be stored for months, unlike the Halloween pumpkins you may have purchased at the grocery store, these pumpkins are specifically grown for their storage and culinary uses.

We have opened another drop off site in Costa Mesa at the organic leaning Coastal Children's Learning Center. The address is 2245 Orange Avenue, Costa Mesa 92672. Their website is http://www.coastalclc.com/. Host Kristin Bryson can be reached at 949-722-1005.


Also, we are actively trying to start a new drop off near UCI in Irvine. The address is in a residential neighborhood at the corner of University Drive and Goldenglow Street, Irvine. Please tell your Irvine friends about us!

Many of you don’t know what to do with the herbs you’ve been receiving, so I’d like to give some general suggestions. We grow a lot of mint, partly because I like herbal tea, and secondly because the mint patch keeps getting bigger (mint will do that). I don’t eat much fresh mint, although small pieces can really wake up a green salad. I toss my bunches into an herb bowl on my kitchen counter until they’re completely dried. Then I crumble in the palm of my hand, throw away the stem portion and save in a little Tupperware or plastic bag for my teas. I also often make a limeaide, toss in a baggie of the crumbled mint (or get lazy and just throw in the dried bunch as is) and let sit overnight. I sweeten with the herb stevia, I get in powedered form from Traders or a health store. Make sure you get the good stuff that isn’t cut with dextrose or other forms of sugar. Look for 100% pure stevia. Strain your beverage the next day, and you have a sugar-free, minty limeaide that is super simple to make and quite unusual.

The basil is still going strong in our fields, but don’t expect to see it for much longer as it’s a warm weather crop. I really enjoy the mild basil we’re growing this year fresh in salads. You can also dry just like the mint above, and use later. I also make a quick and easy pesto:
Quick And Easy Pesto
I'm intentionally not putting measurements here because it's not necessary and you'll enjoy working with herbs more when you see how easy it is sans the nuisance of measuring everything.
Put all leaves of one bunch in a cusinart or blender with a good California olive oil, couple of garlic cloves (or more), tiny bit of dried hot pepper (you've been getting an heirloom dried pepper in your basket for weeks--save these for occassions like this), a quarter cup or so of walnuts, salt and pepper, a little bit of water to get the consistency right. Blend. I then add a sprinkling of more walnuts to the puree for texture. Serve over pasta, chicken, or as an amazing salad dressing.

Rosemary is another herb you’ll see plenty of, and I usually use this herb dried. Bunches get tossed in the herb bowl, and then I crumble, same as the mint into dishes as I prepare them. I like a simple pasta with butter or olive oil (Temecula Olive Oil Company in Temecula is a local provider of incredible, local olive oil; they have a CSA for their olive oil. Here’s their website: http://www.temeculaoliveoil.com/
tossed with rosemary, crushed garlic and a little salt. I use rosemary in many of my simple stir fries and add to a basic buttermilk biscuit, turning the biscuit into a Rosemary Biscuit.

I can’t get enough cilantro, and it will grow and harvest it most of the year. I enjoy a salad dressing made of cilantro, nonfat plain yogurt, salt, a couple garlic cloves and a tiny bit of dried hot pepper. Blend in a cusinart or blender and store in the refrigerator.

We’ve spent the week planting our strawberry plants which are slated to begin harvest in January-February. We’re mid-harvest in the macadamia grove, and should have macs back in your baskets next week. Just harvested, they don’t crack out well, so although we have plenty of harvested nuts, we didn’t have enough this week to crack out.


Pumpkin Pie
Line a pie pan with pie dough: you can get a decent, chemical-free dough already rolled out from Trader Joes, or follow this simple recipe: One cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sift together. Then add 1/3 cup plus 1 Tablespoon chilled butter to flour mixture, half at a time. Use a pastry blender, or work butter in lightly with tips of fingers until it has the grain of cornmeal. Then add the remaining butter into dough until it is pea size. Sprinkle dough with 2 Tablespoons water. Blend water lightly into dough. Gather dough up into a little ball, chill a little, then roll out into your pastry shell.

Preheat oven to 425. Mix until well blended: 2 cups cooked, pureed pumpkin. 1 1/2 cups cream.
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg or allspice.
1/4 teaspoon grated cloves
The above spice quantities make a strong, spicy pie. If you like it milder, reduce by half the above spices.
Two slightly beat eggs.
Pour the mixture into the pie shell. Bake 15 min. at 425. Then reduce heat to 350 and bake another 45 mins., or until a knife inserted, comes out clean.

Top with sweetened whipped cream, and serve.


Baked Apples
Preheat oven to 375. Wash and remove core to 1/2 inch of bottoms of 4 tart apples. Combine: 1/4 cup brown sugar with 1 teaspoon cinnamon. 1/4 teaspoon allspice, tiny pinch of grated cloves. Fill centers of apples with your mixture. Dot filled cores with butter. Drizzle juice of half lime or tops of all four applies. Put applies into an 8x8 inch pan with : 3/4 cup boiling water and 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake about 30 minutes--or until tender but not mushy. Remove from the oven and baste the apples several times with the pan juices. Should juices be runny, remove the apples to a serving dish and reduce the juices by cooking down a little, then return to serving dish.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Blue Pumpkins Are Here

Although prettier than your average halloween pumpkin, these little blue treasures are much more than ornamental. Heirlooms, these pumpkin seeds have been passed down for generations because of their fine flavor and cooking qualities. To begin with, many cooks are familiar with following a pumpkin recipe that starts with "open a can of pumpkin puree." If you want to use your pumpkin, you'll need to back up one step and make your own puree. It's not complicated. Smash your pumpkin (don't try this on your countertop; I give this job to one of my kids: take it outside and throw it down on the sidewalk or driveway. ) Once opened, remove seeds and bake at 350 until soft. Scoop out meat of pumpkin, and throw away the outer skins. You can now put in a blender or cuisinart to perfect your puree. From here, you can follow any pumpkin recipe. This pumpkin makes a fine pumpkin soup, pumpkin muffin, pumpkin pie or pumpkin gravy. A winter squash, you can enjoy the ornamental qualties of your pumpkin today, and eat it a month or two down the road if you'd like. Unlike summer squashes, winter squashes, particularly the heirloom varieties, can be stored.

Here's the super easy soup recipe:

Directly from the shell of the pumpkin, place cooked pumpkin in Vitamix or other blender with a clove of garlic, very small amount of grated Jalapeno, a few macadamia nuts, milk, dash of olive oil, salt to taste. Blend. Adjust thickness with more milk if necessary. Heat, and pour into separate bowls. Crumble a few macadamia nuts on top of each serving if you'd like.

Basil Pesto

This is a really quick, easy meal if you have a cusinart. Boil pasta, set aside. Throw in cusinart:

All the leaves of one bunch of our basil.

Two cloves of garlic

Quarter cup of walnuts

Half cup of olive oil

Salt to taste

Little bit of water if it comes out too thick



Puree in cusinart. Then add an additional, small handful of chopped walnuts to add texture. Stir over pasta, serve immediately.

October 22, 2008 Pick List

Here's this week's planned pick list:


Reed Avocados


Persimmons


Juice Limes


Apples


Carrots


Basil


Jalapenos


Heirloom Dried Red Peppers


Radishes


Swiss chard


Heirloom Blue Pumpkin (culinary)


Garlic


Fioja Guava


Head Lettuce


Dill


Cukes


Green Peppers (maybe just in large baskets?)


Macadamias, large baskets only

Saturday, October 11, 2008

It's not even related to a tomato, it's a persimmon!



It's not even related to a tomato, and is actually a tree fruit. For years the coyotes beat us to the punch and ate every one. We pruned the trees last year, so the trees couldn't be easily climbed by Wiley anymore, and so this year is the first ever that we have a good crop. Hopefully Mr. Coyote won't turn to my avocado trees instead.... Anyway, you can eat these persimmons when they are still somewhat hard (although as they soften, they are sweeter). Don't confuse this Fuyu persimmon, which can be eaten hard, with a Hichiya, which is longer and pointier. You eat one of those before the dead ripe stage and you with never, ever, make that mistake again. The unripe fruit's taste is bad, and I think, just to make myself clear, the word taste, is an understatement, you are more likely to look back on it someday, after getting over it, as a culinary train wreck, The ones in your baskets this week are good to eat at any stage. They can be peeled and sliced into a fruit salad, thrown in the blender for a smoothy, chopped into cubes and used in a cookie batter as you might raisons, or baked into a pie as you would apples. In fact an Asian pear- Fuyu persimmon pie, recipe below is worth trying.

Gingered Persimmon and Asian Pear Crisp

2 Fugu persimmons, not overripe, peeled and sliced

2 or 3 Asian pears, peeled and sliced

1/2 cup lime juice

4 Tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon fresh ginger root, grated

Topping:

4 Tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed

1/2 teaspoon lime peel, grated

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon cinnimon

1/2 cup rolled oats

1 teaspoon nutmet

Preheat oven to 375F. Combine frut, juice, salt and giner in an 8-inch square baking pan. In a separate bowl comtine topping ingredients. Sprinkle topping over fruit and bake for 40 minutes.

Applesauce is That Easy?

Hardly a recipe, but applesauce is so easy, it's really not worth ever buying. Peal your apples, squeeze a little lime juice, drop a couple drops of stevia if you think it needs to be sweeter (make sure you get the good stuff that isn't cut with sucrose or other additives; get the pure stevia extract) and put everything in a Cuisinart. Puree. I buy little disposable containers from Smart and Final and add these little treats to my kids' lunches.

Financial Markets Affecting Morning Song Farm

As many have been challenged by recent economic issues, Morning Song Farm's CSA program lost 25% of its supporters this last month. Wow! We sure are passionate about continuing our CSA program, but do need our local community's support. I thought perhaps I should consider offering a Laguna Beach, Hungtington Beach or Orange drop off. If anyone has a friend or organization that might be interested in joining or hosting in those communities, please let us know.

Few Weird Things in Basket This Week







Greetings!



What a scorcher of a week! Fruit photo at right is a Fioja Guava. Some people slice long ways and scoop out the contents. I like the spicy skin and eat the whole thing. Try it both ways and see what you think. Photo at right is sage, which you'll find in your baskets as well this week. The garlic is another heirloom, and is medium hot, and fairly easy to peel.


Garlic Butter:

Either churn your own butter like I do, or buy butter and toss a cube in the Cuisinart. Add a couple cloves of garlic and salt to taste. Puree. Remember that garlic adds "heat" to a dish, as well as the familiar garlicly taste that at least I'm addicted to. So add as many cloves as you like to your butter as it's being pureed, but make sure you don't overdo it. If you do, just add more butter.


Use the finished product on baked fish, as a dip with cheese and crackers, on toast in the morning, on your baked potato, or over steamed green beans,




Following is this week's basket contents:



Sage



Limes



Heirloom Melon



Avocado (Reed)



Apples



Asian Pears



Jalapeno



Weird long, heirloom hot pepper, requires drying



Eggplant



Arugula



Radish



Carrots



Baby Swiss Chard



Fioja Guavas



Rosemary



Mint



Basil



Heirloom Garlic



Baby Lettuce (large baskets oly)



Head Lettuce



Green Onions



Cilantro



Beans






Monday, September 8, 2008

Kale isn't for Cowards

Okay, I admit I was less than enthusiastic about adding kale to my
baskets. I got so many requests, I thought I'd at least try it.
It looks light Swiss Chard, only tough; I thought. But you have to
try this simple preparation before dismissing kale: Chop up, boil with a little
salt in pan. Drain, chill. That's right, chill it. Serve as a sidedish with a little goatcheese, crushed walnuts, drizzled olive oil and lime juice. If you tried doing that with Swiss Chard, you'd be disappointed but Kale keeps its shape even after steaming, so lends itself to a sort of
cooked salad. I think the taste is stronger than spinach or Swiss Chard,
but really delicious.

Of course you can serve it hot like you would Swiss chard or Bok Choy, but I think what makes Kale special is that you can eat it cold. I did try eating it raw. Don't try that. I think Kale is too tough to eat raw. Just my opinion.

Farm Work Day, October 11th, 2008

We could use some help with our new hoop house! We're putting up a small hoop house in an area of the farm that burned completely down (no clearing necesssary). We've discovered that the tiny greenhouse on the hill isn't big enough to keep the flow of flats going that we need for our row crops, so we're adding a cheaper version closer to the fields. Called a "hoop house" it's constructed by bending PVC pipes in an arch, attaching to rebar into the ground and then covering with plastic. It's like a giant tinker-toy project covered with greenhouse plastic. No beauty queens, but they get the job done.

Anyway, it's just been too darn hot to invite subscribers to enjoy our farm, but I would think by October it will have cooled considerably. Adults and teens only, as this is a work day. Bring a picnic lunch, closed toe shoes, sunscreen. For those who have never seen the farm, I'll do a tour at 9:00 and start work right after, breaking for lunch around 12:00ish and wrapping up by 3:00.

Let me know if you'd like to participate: donna@morningsongfarm.com

What's coming up this week

It's been suggested that I put the pick ticket up on my blog before we harvest, and I'd like to try doing that this week. The drawback is that sometimes our best laid plans are circumvented by harvest disappointments, or surprises, so pre-harvest tickets won't be absolute. That said, here's what we're planning on this week:
Lettuce, kale, zuchini, bok choy, tomatoes, maybe the first of our apples, Asian pears, avocados, radishes, Swiss chard, hot peppers, cukes, limes, mint, maybe figs.

We're planting brocoli, cauliflower, and kale in our little greenhouse this week and Swiss chard, radish, cilantro, beets and lettuces in the field. We should begin the macadamia harvest this month, so by mid-October I would think we'll be putting our wonderful raw macadamias in our CSA baskets again.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Farmhouse Rental Update

I mentioned in a previous post that we're nearing the finish line to offer our farmhouse for vacation rentals to our CSA membership. We have planned on welcoming our first guests starting the weekend of October 3rd. Price for CSA members is $250 a night, two night minimum, with a $100 cleaning fee which includes bed linens. I'm working on an activities book that guests can make reservations from, prior to their arrival. There's a local Swedish and Deep Tissue Massuese that will come out to the farm with her table. Ever the diligent farmer, I have voluntered to submit to a massage this weekend to see if I should include her in my activities book. I'll let you know! There's also several wine tours, cheese tasting, olive oil tasting, ballooning over the wine country of Temecula (which is just one exit north) and antiquing. I also thought I'd try to reach my old spinning teacher, Lila Sturges, to see if she'd come out by appointment and give an individual class to guests that wanted to learn how to spin our llama fiber. The farmhouse has a spinning wheel, so Lila would only have to bring her know-how. There's several casinos a short drive from the farm, so some of you might enjoy that. Also the Lawrence Welk Resort is just down the 15 from the farm, and I'll include showdates and times in my activity book, as well.

That Parsley Isn't Plate Decoration!


That Parsley Isn’t Plate Decoration!

Many of my adventuresome supporters must have rolled their eyes when they saw the parsley in their baskets this week. But wait! Hear me out! I too, remember being told not to eat the Denny’s plate parsley as a child. It wasn’t to be consumed, it was just there to class the plate up a little. The logic escaped me then, and the value of parsley has been in question ever since.

But several people have said how they enjoy cooking with parsley, and the seed catalogs claim it’s easy to grow (true) so I thought we’d enjoy trying it out. Of course numerous thumbs’ down will affect next year’s seed buying forays, so don’t hold back if you hated it.

But first just try this recipe, which is so easy it hardly counts as a recipe. I made 2 cups of a brown rice (no bleached rice in my kitchen which really is a kissing cousin of the zero value Twinkie and Ding Dong). I chopped off the woody stem ends of the entire bunch of parsley and put half in the cuisinart and chopped. Then I did the other half. Don’t do all at once or you end up with parsley pesto, which is a different deal altogether. I then combined the cooked rice, one crushed clove of garlic, )okay the truth is I used 3, but I could live on garlic, so maybe most of you are going to want just one) all the parsley, a little salt to taste and some walnuts. I drizzled a little (maybe 2 teaspoons) of a really good olive oil from Temecula Olive Oil Company and chilled. That’s it. Even if you don’t serve it for dinner, you can keep it in the refrigerator for an amazing, nutritional snack. I prefer it served cold.

August 5-6, 2008 pick it ticket

Here’s the pick ticket for this week:
Parsley
Kale (that’s the heavy duty looking green thing) It can be chopped up and cooked just like spinach
Lettuce Head
Beans
Avocados
Asian Pears
Cherry Tomatoes; red and yellow
Swiss Chard
Beets in large baskets only
Baby lettuce in large baskets only
Mint
Basil
Peaches (I think I should grow more of this particular tree; they aren’t super pretty, but sure are good!)
Limes
Heirloom Cukes
Jalapenos

Friday, August 1, 2008

Rent Morning Song Farm's farmhouse for the weekend




By October or so, we will finally be able to offer our little farmhouse for weekend farm experience rentals. It has 3 bedrooms (2 heated) with a total of 4 queen beds. We had always planned on doing this, but have had maintenance issues that needed addressing. We're almost there! Feed the llamas, gather eggs, walk the miles of trails that cut through our farm. You're far enough away from the city to actually see the stars!


One exit away from the Temecula vineyards and numerous golf destinations, there's plenty to do for everyone. Temecula has a wonderful craft/food/farmer fair on Saturdays in the middle of their Old Town section of town. While you're in Old Town check out Temecula Olive Oil Company's tasting room. Farmers themselves, the olives for their oil is pressed from their own harvest. They actually have a CSA program just for their oil that may interest some of you.

There's plenty of antique shops, candy stores, a magic store my own kids love, several restaurants, a Winchester Cheese store you won't want to miss and lots more.






What's New, August 2008

We're happily pumping from our new water source, the well we successfully drilled months ago is operational. Before we had over 30 valves to cover the east portion of the farm, now it's down to 2 valves. Water pressure is outstanding! Work load is reduced! We're giving our beautiful macadamia trees more water than they've ever had, and the crop looks excellent. We should begin harvest in earnest end of next month or early October.



The clunker of a Kabota tractor we inherited isn't working yet, but we plan to get it fixed. I can't believe how much even a used crummy tractor costs, so this one will have to be repaired. It looks more like it has more value as scrap than anything else, but we've been told it can be fixed. Meanwhile we rented a nice one from the rental yard and tilled the rented acreage next door for our winter plantings.



The summer has proved to be pleasant! No heat waves since May. Would love to invite interested parties to a weeding event end of August. E mail me at donna@morningsongfarm.com if you or your over-12 child would like to volunteer. We sure could use the help.

This Week's Pick It Ticket

Well, we sure are knee deep in cherry tomatoes. I hope the majority of my supporters are tomato fans.



Here's a pick ticket for this week
Avocados

Limes

Head Lettuce

Baby Lettuce

Carrots

Chilis (both the medium hot Japapeno which is plump and the long weird Pico de Gallo which isn't very hot at all)

Peaches

Swiss Chard

Mint

Pok Choy (large head)

Green Beans

Cukes

Leeks in large baskets only

Oranges

Cherry Tomatoes

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Leased more land, starting winter crops

I can't believe July is here already! July 15th is the beginning of our seed planting routine for our winter crops. We'll be starting califlower, brocoli, leek, onion, garlic winter lettuces, asian greens, winter roots crops (beets, potatoes, carrots, etc.)



We're excited about leasing the neighbor's flat land so that we have more room to expand our row crop plantings. We've also acquired a large shade house to grow lettuce and greens during the dog days of summer.

July 1-2 Pick Ticket

Pick Ticket for July 1-2, 2008

Item Large Basket/ Small Basket

Avocados-Hass 4 /Half

Baby Lettuce 2 large bags /Half

Mint 1 bunch Same

Limes 10/ Half

Apricots 20 /15

Zukes 3 pounds /2 pounds

Tomatoes, cherries 2 clamshells /Half

Kumquats 1 clamshells/ Same

Oranges, Valencias 6 /4

Carrots 1 bunch /Same

Arugula 1 bunch /Same

Swiss Chard 2 bunches /Half

Radishes 1 bunch /Same

Onion, green, bunch 1 bunch/ Same

Pok Choi 1 /Same

Beets 1 bunch /none

Beans 1 large bag/ Same

Basil 1 bunch /Same

Blackberries 2 clamshells /Half

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Well Close to Operational

The well we've dug has been at the center of a continuing saga for us, and we are thrilled to say we are stepping this week into a new chapter. Everything is installed, pump, wiring, etc. We're now ready to ask the County of San Diego for an inspection. Once our installation is approved, we can go to SDGE and get the line connected. Since the heat is here now, and the line isn't live, we'll probably still be way over our water use allotment this coming month and will be forced to pay the whopper overuse fine from Metropolitan Water District.

Blackberries are coming!

Great news for berry lovers! Just when the meager mulberry crop is coming to an end, blackberries are beginning to arrive to bolster our spirits and remind us that summer has arrived! You'll see them first, starting next week when there's enough to pick for every basket. A week early, I might add!



Tomatoes may be in as soon as next week, as well!



Pick-It Ticket for June 3-4, 2008
Item Large Basket Small Basket

New Crop

Valencia

Oranges! 12 half

Juice Limes 8 half

Avos: Hass 4 half

Mulberries 1 clamshell 0

Mint 1 bunch same

Rosemary 1 bunch same

Swiss Chard 2 bunches half

Strawberries 2 baskets half

Radishes 1 bunch same

Carrots 1.5 pounds 1 pound

Lettuce head:

Romaine 2 heads half

Zuchini 3-4 half

Cukes 2 half

Baby Lettuce 1 bag half

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

More Mulberry Trees Purchased

Many years ago we bought a mulberry tree whose fruit you've seen in baskets recently. Since then we have bought several other trees only to discover their fruit isn't as fantastic. Last week Farmer Donna searched through invoice archives from 2002 and found the purveyor of the exact trees we are enjoying this season. In horticulture, a cultivar (culivated variety) is always the same. By that I mean an Anna apple from Home Depot and an Anna apple tree from Stark Brothers produces the same, identical fruit. I haven't found that to be true with the mulberry.



I bought every last mulberry tree he had, with confidence, because the trees are in fruit this month and I was able to identify for certain I was getting the right trees. I'm told it may be 4 or more years before more planting size trees are available from them!



So next year, we can all expect more fruit, and every year after that a little more.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Temecula Drop Off To be Later

Hey, it's getting hot out here, and I think as the heat approaches it's time to change the Temecula drop off to a later time so greens aren't wilted. We've been getting to Temecula on Tuesdays by 1:00, but would like to put it out there we'd like to change it to much later, say after 4:00 to avoid the worst of the day's heat. That way your baskets haven't been sitting there waiting for the majority of you who pick up after work anyway. Any comments would be appreicated!

Wild Crafted Fennel

The licorce flavored ferny looking herb that could easily be mistaken for dill, is wild fennel. There are two kinds of fennel; one is grown for the bulb, the other is the one in your basket, grown for the ferny top. I tried something interesting that should definately be tried for St. Patrick's Day next year:

I followed a standard sugar cookie recipe. I cut maybe a fourth of the fennel bunch tops into the cuisinart with all the sugar required and hit blend. What resulted was a bright (and I do mean shockingly bright) green sugar. I then made those cookies with that sugar. The result was a gently licorce flavored cookie that was so green it looked like it had to be dyed. Try it!



Chef Mark Mcdonald says he's using the fennel in a pasta dish.

Mulberries

The wierd looking black-berry kind of fruit is Pakastani Mulberries. Enjoy them fresh right out of their little baskets! Many of our avocados that were burned in October will come back in the next couple years. One hundred of them won't. We plan to replace those 100 with the mulberry tree, which has less water needs. Tell me what you think!

Loquats

Those little apricot looking fruits in the baskets are loquats. Save the seeds of a particularly good tasting one, and try growing it in a little pot. They do make decent house plants for a few years. they're as easy to start and grow as corn! Also, if you throw the seeds in your garden, many with sprout and grow without even being buried. They make an amazing fruit pie; follow a standard apricot recipe. Last night I made a tropical stir fried chicken with loquats. Here's the receipe:



I used Trader Joe's frozen breast meat. I boiled several pieces in a shallow pan until just cooked through. Drain the water (or save for soup later) and cut into strips. Pour a kumquat reduction (recipe again below) over chicken, seed all loquats and leaving skins on, cut in pieces and add to chicken. Slice a few whole kumquats and scatter the rings. Heat again and serve. Finish with a little wild fennel sprig.



Kumquat Reduction:

Throw all washed kumquats you have in the blender. Add water to top of kumquats. Blend on high. Dump mash into sieve and squish liquid with back of spoon into saucepan. Throw mash in compost pile. Heat liquid in saucepan with added sugar and a little cornstarch until thickened.

Price increase of March, 2008

I have received an e mail from a much appreciated long-standing supporter about our price increase of March, and would like to share my response. My guess is, many farm members would like to know why in this economic climate Farmer Donna would increase prices.



Donna:

What is going on with the dynamic invoicing price swings and increases? Are these rates expected to be stable for the next several months? Also, it seems like you just raised the rates..........



Here's my response:

Hi ____,
I really appreciate your support and understand price increases effect everyone. Two and a half years ago, when diesel fuel was half what we’re paying today, the large basket was 40 a week. Now it’s 44.50.

Since fuel costs are a critical component of our produce delivery program, I don’t know what the future holds. Rumors of diesel going to $6 a gallon would certainly effect our weekly basket price, as well as everything else for sale in this country. The basket’s recent price increase was at the end of March and was a $2 a basket increase, pretty much a reflection of the minimum wage increase of January and the sky rocketing gas prices. Property taxes on our farm increase without fail, every year. Water prices have significantly increased in the last 12 months for farmers in San Diego County, due to the water shortage crisis. Fuel prices have effected deliveries as well as the farm’s fertilizer costs. In fact, anything at all that has to be shipped to us, has been increased. And all necessary services provided to us, such as soil analysis, certification, fertilizer deliveries, seeds, and animal feed have increased in cost, no doubt because of the minimum wage increase and fuel costs.


There was a time, early in my CSA days, when I ignored the fact that the CSA wasn’t paying for itself, or paying me anything, either for that matter. Hey, I was used to not getting paid, as the farm had never supported an income for me, even before I had a CSA, and had never paid the farm’s mortgage. I so love what I do, I just had faith that eventually as new plantings came into production, as I found markets for hard to sell rare fruit, and as I became more experienced in general, the farm would be able to pay me a salary and all of it’s expenses. For years, I worked full time, delivered a great product, and dipped into savings each month to make it all happen. That’s not working for free, as my husband has pointed out, that’s working for less than free.



I changed the model of the farm’s operation from farmers’ markets to CSA when he insisted I staunch the red ink or sell the farm. But with only a handful of CSA members, the red ink continued to flow. Not discouraged, I figured when I got enough supporters, and no fruit or produce was being thrown away, the bottom line would iron out. And it has! We’re closing in on 80 fabulous supporters, for whom I am really grateful. I have no choice but to keep a close eye on actual costs and pass them on to the community of supporters that want the farm to continue. That is the very definition of Community Supported Agriculture.

I am very aware that my farm is supported by people, many of whom are being hit hard by the current economic climate. I know there may come a day when I have to give up the farm if supporters are unable to assist me in keeping it going. I sure hope that day doesn’t come, but know that despite my love for the farm and passion for what I do, I am also running a business that has to be relevant and financially, not just environmentally, sustainable.

I think your concerns are valid, so much so that I’m going to post this on my blog. Thanks for letting me know what you think, surely lots of others are thinking the same thing.

Sincerely,

Farmer Donna

Monday, April 7, 2008

Kumquat Pound Cake with strawberries and cream

1 cup pureed kumquats


2 cups butter


1 TBS vanilla


3 cups sugar


10 large eggs


4 cups all purpose flour


1/2 tsp. ginger


1/4 tsp. nutmeg





Cream butter with half the sugar. Then add the other half of the sugar, ginger and nutmeg. Beat at high speed for 4 minutes. Add eggs two at a time. At low speed, add flour until blended. Stir in kumquat puree. Turn into greased and floured 10" tube pan. Cover with foil and bake 1 hour and 15 minutes. Invert and remove from pan and cool. Serve with strawberries and freshly made whipped cream.

Kumquat Pie

1 baked shell, I use Trader Joes which come frozen in two packs. They're as good as the ones I make myself and don't have any preservatives or chemicals.


3 tbs. butter


1 cup sugar


1/3 cup pureed kumquats, seeds removed


3 egg whites


3 yolks


1 and 1/2 cup water


1 tsp. lime juice


1 pinch salt


3 tbsp. cornstarch


1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract





Combine water, sugar, constarch and salt. Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Boil for around 2 minuites until thickened. Remove from heat, add juice, kumquats and butter. Cool a little and pour in baked pie shell.





For the top of the pie: whip egg whites with a little sugar and the vanilla. I add the sugar and vanilla after a minute or two of whipping. Whip until peaks are easily formed, and they are glossy. Spatula onto the top of the pie, making pretty peaks and put in a 450 degree oven for 3 or 4 minutes until golden.


Eat.

Kumquats Oatmeal Cookies

Adapted from the Kumquat Growers, Inc. Recipe site

Packed with wholesome food value, these are different and delicious!



2/3 cup butter

2/3 cup brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 and 1/2 cups REAL oatmeal (none of that weird already cooked stuff)

2/3 cup white chocolate chips

2 cups all purpose whole grain flour (I actually use half white whole grain purchased off the shelf from Trader Joe's and half whole wheat berries freshly milled in my kitchen., using the Vitamix. I've discovered 100% freshly milled can be a little heavy. This is a function of the type of wheat, nothing else. On my to-do list is to find a California organic wheat grower that can supply the different kinds of wheat berries for different cooking needs )

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp salt

2/3 cup pureed kumquats

(cut lengthwise, flick out seeds, add a little water to assist blending, drain off water)



Beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs to the mixture and mix well. Combine everything else except kumquats and chocolate. Mix well. Add kumquats and chocolate. Drop by teaspoon onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-15 minutes at 375. Makes 2 and a half dozen.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

This Week's Baskets

This weeks pick ticket:
Limes, avocados, kumquats, radishes, navel oranges, baby lettuce and head lettuce, Swiss chard, golden and red beets, green onions, green garlic, cilantro, strawberries, and mint. Large baskets saw peas and the first of our passionfruit. Here's something quick to do with kumquats: Throw a handful in the blender with water and a little powdered stevia and a couple sprigs of mint. Blend, sieve pulp out, pour liquid over ice, enjoy. Although I love raw kumquats, I have to admit the full flavor of the fruit doesn't appear until cooked. I think that may be true, also, of quince. A kumquat marmalade will made a jam-eater out of just about anyone!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Tractor needs repair

As we have been adding more and more row crop to our little farm, it was suggested we fire up the old Kabota tractor to so some of the heavy work. Son in law Duane, a professional rancher for many years, came down from Sacramento this week and took the time to give me his opinion. Could the Kabota be repaired, or should it remain a "lawn ornament?" It's a pretty cruddy looking thing; you have to stick a knife in the ignition to get it to turn over, and it needs $1,000 worth of tires all around. There's not much remaining of the seat and the paint is so faded it looks like it belongs in the trash heap. It's missing part of the starter mechanism and a valve. He added up all the parts we need to get it running again, and it definately makes sense to repair. That's great news. Daughter Tessa says the most important thing is new paint.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Couple of different things in baskets this week

Plenty of the ususual stuff, but I want to mention a couple new things this week. There's a strange looking lemon that has a little cap on the top. That's the Pakastani Sweet Lemon. I use its zest; the juice isn't really sweet, and it's juice isn't really sour. It's the skin that's to die for. Use a potato peeler and shave off every bit of the outer layer of skin. Chop and use in a number of different recipes. I like to add to my sugar cookies, imparting a scented geranium note that is very unusual. I also add to a basic olive oil and lime juice salad dressing. Or make a limeaide with the juice limes in this week's basket, and then add the juice and very finely shopped zest of the Sweet Lemon.



There's a bunch of young garlic greens that looks something like the green onions (also in this week's basket). Use it chopped in stir fries, raw salads, soups, etc. to impart a gentle garlic flavor and aroma.



There's a large head of Kale in each basket; use as you would Swiss Chard. And there's a small bunch of Arugula. The last of the Moro Blood Oranges and Mandarins.

Monday, March 17, 2008

What's happening in March, 2008


At left San Clemente resident Marina Carson acts as photographer's assistant to Photographer/Writer David Karp with Ian Crown and Stephen Facciola.

We've planted all the new trees we purchased, and are now finishing up the new blackberries and the low-chill raspberries. Also we're planting rhubarb and more asparagus. We haven't had much luck with rhubarb and asparagus; it may not be cold enough in Rainbow, but I'm still trying. David Karp, well-known fruit writer came for a visit this week with his author friend, Stephen Facciola and Puerto Rican mangosteen grower Ian Crown. Some of you may have read Stephen's Sourcebook, Cornucopia II, A Source Book for Edible Plants. It's an incredible compilation of edible plants and their seed sources. He was kind enough to sign a copy for me! Many of the things that Ian grows in Puerto Rico I grow as well; although I have no chance of growing anything tropical, which Ian specializes in. We enjoyed comparing notes on the things we grow in common.
As we walked through the farm, David was able to help me identify a few fruit trees whose labels have eluded me. We have 3 or 4 citrus trees that are "rootstock", which is a disappointment as rootstock fruit is useless. I also have a tropical apricot tree, (dovyalis) which has never fruited. I've tasted the dovyalis and it is truely amazing. I'd forgotten I'd purchased and planted it 7 or 8 years ago. Long time to wait for fruit....
They gave me a fig tree, which David knows I have a fondness for. David says this Violette is unusually delicious. I'll let my subscribers decide! I have root grafted many of my own figs on the farm.
He also confirmed that the weird looking fruit that wasn't picked soon enough is the Yuzu, better picked in the fall. David was most interested in the Ethrog trees that have just been removed from my farm. We had been growing Ethrogs, a sacred Jewish fruit, for a couple of rabbis. They have decided to move their trees elsewhere, but David, who is writing a book about Ethrogs, wanted to visit and discuss my experience and see what was left of the grove.

March 18/19 baskets

This week's baskets: Our juicy, juicy limes, pomellos, avocados, peas, tangalolos, blood oranges, navels, baby heirloom lettuce, heirloom new potatos, young heads of lettuce, Swiss chard, turnips (large baskets) beets, radishes. I know I've shared the lime merainge pie recipe before, but am including it here because there's so many new members.

Juice Lime Meringue Pie
Prepare a baked pie shell. For simplicity’s sake, I use Trader Joe’s ready-made. It doesn’t have any preservatives or chemicals and tastes the same as the ones I make myself. The following recipe makes a pretty tart pie. If you like your dessert a little sweeter, add more sugar.

Put into a saucepan: ¾ cup of sugar, 5 tablespoons cornstarch, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 cup lime juice. Blend until smooth. Add 3 well-beaten egg yolks (save whites for the meringue), 2 tablespoons melted butter. ¾ cup warm water. Bring mixture to full boil, stirring gently. Mixture will thicken quickly. Remove from heat, pour into pie shell. Cool a little.

Meringue:
Whip egg whites until frothy, add 4 tablespoons of sugar and ½ teaspoon of vanilla with ¼ teaspoon of cream of tartar. Beat until peaks will stand up and lean over only slightly. Do not over beat.

Spatula meringue over pie top, bouncing spatula over surface of pie to create pretty peaks. Place in oven at 350 until golden brown.

Eat.

Price Change for 2nd Quarter

Sorry to have to announce a small price increase this coming quarter of $2 per basket. Although operating costs have gone up a little in most areas, (wage, feed, fertilizer) fuel and delivery costs have doubled in the last year. Today, 3/17/08, diesel is 4.25 a gallon, with media commentary that higher prices should be expected soon. Effective for baskets delivered after April, 2008, small baskets will be 34.50, and large 44.50. I understand some of our fabulous supporters have to really budget thier food bills to participate, and apologize for the increase.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

March 11-12 Harvest, What's happening

Here's what's in this week's baskets, barring harvest mishaps: Juice limes, pomellos, hass avocados, arugula, peas, tangalolos, blood oranges, baby red-leafed and green leafed lettuce, bagged; also our older head lettuce, Swiss chard (rainbow), dill, radish, and beets. Remember beet tops can be used as a steamed green, just like Swiss chard. We maybe went a little overboard on the lettuce this week, would appreciate comments!

We're going to dig our oldest potato planting of heirloom potatoes for next week's basket, and we're hoping to add radish sprouts from our sprouting system by next week, or week following.

All our new trees are finally in and many are happily flowering!

Farmer Donna continues to slog through the red tape of getting the recently dug well operational. SDGE won't put in the power pole until the County of San Diego issues an electrical permit. It's a 2 hour round trip to Kearny Mesa in San Diego to the County Planning Department for unincorporated areas of San Diego. After waiting in line for a ticket to wait in the real line, our assigned planner snorted at the plot plan presented and sent me on my way with a 12 point list of requirements and an admonishment I should learn how to use an engineer's ruler. Ouch. The document I'd pulled off the internet said I'd need a "plot plan." I wasn't sure what I was supposed to be "plotting", and you sure can't call and ask. You have a question? You have to drive down there and wait in line. Returning a week later, I again waited in line at the kiosh to wait in the real line. This time, unfortunately, the clerk was labeled: "trainee." She sent me, (electronically) to the wrong line, and after waiting an hour I was called into a planner's cubby to be told I'd need to start over. Started over at the kiosh, and you won't believe this, trainee girl sent me to another wrong cubby, which was discovered after another long wait. I sat down, now on try three, with no apolgies, but a comment that I was surely in the right electronic que NOW and realized I was an idiot if I thought I was in the right line now and got up and insisted on speaking to someone in authority. I finally got called to the right planner, and he kept getting interrupted. He was happy with my new, improved, plot plan. Which surely did not include where the new apricots are planted. On the first plot plan I did, lacking any buildings or improvements on that parcel, I drew in the farm's planting guide, thinking that was better than nothing. Wrong, there. Twenty minutes before I would have had the permit in my hand I was forced to leave and start over on another day because I had to leave to pick up my kids. This is farming? Now you know why architechs and engineeers get the big bucks. They are totally able to wade through City Planning bureacracies without losing their tempers, serenity or car keys, a rare genetic character trait.

As I sat waiting the first time around, a nice couple befriended me. Fire victims, the wife told me she had gone postal a month earlier here. I noticed they got right in to the correct planner and were cheerfully gone before I even knew I was in the first wrong line.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

What's coming up, Farmer Donna!

As much as I love winter vegetables, I sure am ready for something new! In the greenhouse are a beautiful array of heirloom tomatoes: Sun Golds, Romanian, the ever popular Brandywine, Pruden's Purple, Moskvich, Rosalita, and more. Also some nice heirloom eggplants: Black Beauty which is said to have a poor yield, but I love the fruit of this plant and haven't found a yield problem myself; of course the heirloom Listada de Gandia from France we grow every year and we're trialing Galine.

Herbs coming along: Lemon Balm, Stevia, Sage, and Orange Thyme. In ground we're just starting to harvest cilantro, and soon dill.

You'll notice this week the baby red-leafed romaine lettuce which is really tender and flavorful. We were having trouble getting it to germinate in the cold, but now we hope to be consistent with it each week.

In the greenhouse are plenty of peppers, mostly heirlooms. We have the Chocolate Beauty, the Red Knight, Kung Pao, and the Jalapeno.

We just put in our first planting of greenbeans; I think we're a couple weeks early on that, but the risk is worth it. If we get hit with a late frost we'll have to replant.

Aphids in Broc grossing kids out

Lester Ip, charter member from the Costa Mesa gang has kindly pointed out a broc issue that seems to come and go. Aphids love our broccoli almost as much as we do! Herein lies the downside of organic production. Without the pesticides to whack down the bug population, it seems like every aphid in town occassionally drops by the living salad bar at Morning Song to stake a claim. I could say wash, wash, wash. But I've noticed with brocolli, that washing isn't enough. Those darn aphids cling happily to their little brocolli world and have no intention of moving on. Here's what I've discovered to be helpful if you're not planning on eating it raw: get a pan of water going to a nice boil, drop in your washed brocolli for 60 seconds. Remove and rinse. Aphids are much more easily rinsed off at this point.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sungold Mandarins, Blood Oranges

We're moving out of the Satsuma mandarins and into the Sungolds. They're a little harder to peel, but I love their firm flesh and sweetness. You can tell the difference between the mandarins in your basket and the blood oranges: the mandarins are a little flatter. The oranges are very round. The Moro Blood oranges have a slight red tint on the exterior rind, and of course are quite red and juicy inside. Throw the mandarin in your lunch bag for school or office; save the messy blood orange for your kitchen. Remember the blood orange juice stains.

Just Picked Cauliflower:not what you'd expect

I've never considered cauliflower a mainstream vegetable, and the rubbery tasting thing I've bought a couple of times at the grocery store over the years had confirmed my suspicions. So I hope those of you who have never tasted cauliflower that was just harvested that morning will at least give it a try before tossing it into the trade-in-basket. Hey! This is good stuff! I just discovered an unusual combination that I've been enjoying. Try crumbling your cauli with a little bit of pure crumbled blue cheese. Actually the cheese and the vegetable look really attractive together as a topping on your salad. The combo is startling good. Of course you can steam it like you might brocolli, but just picked cauliflower is delicious, raw!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Farm Day, February 9th, 2008

It's 3:00 on Friday, the day before our little Farm Day, and haven't heard from too many people. We don't need a crowd to have a good time, but I'd hate to miss someone who wants to come. We leave for the farm tonight and I won't have internet access on the farm, so if anyone needs directions, info, etc. please call me: 760-731-9566. Time is 11:00-4:00; potluck lunch at 12:00ish.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Potluck and Volunteer Day This Saturday 2/9/08

Unless we're rained out, we're planning a potluck and volunteer day this Saturday between 11ish and 4:00. Come to help out, come to just check out the farm, or come to meet your fellow CSA supporters! Bring a dish to share for a 12:00ish lunch. Give me a quick e mail to let me know you're coming. If you'd like to volunteer, we sure could use the help: We need to paint the barn, weed the west quadrant grove, remove burned irrigation pipe, mulch mulch mulch. If you'd like to help, do come with closed-toe shoes, long sleeves, and a shovel to aid in weeding would be nice.

USDA sends letter halting all farming activity

In an effort to recoup some of the significant fire loss sustained in the October, 2007 fire, farmer Donna filled out the paperwork with the USDA's Natural Resources Conservatin Service which provides very small grants to farmers to pay for a portion of restoring micro irrigation, mulch and also for debris removal. It's not significant compared to our loss, but hey, it's better than a kick in the butt. I actually had to sign a contract promising to continue farming for a certain length of time after tax payers had helped to restore me, and also to allow the USDA to come onto my farm for inspections to make sure they were getting what they were paying a portion of; i.e. new irrigation pipes and new mulch.



No sooner was the ink dry on the contract which I signed last Thursday, January 30, when the Natural Resources Conservation Service sent me a letter, dated the very next day, to halt labor on my farm until August 31st so that we might avoid the nesting/breeding season of the California Gnatcatcher. They also said in the letter that I could only use native seed, must avoid coastal sage scrub whether it's burned or unburned, and that I must avoid my creek (watering half the farm) completely. I'm not sure what I could grow that would be from native seed that wouldn't require water and that my customers would want to eat. Acorns maybe?



What have I wrought? I called the office where I signed the documents to express my thoughts, but the decision-maker is on vacation.



To be continued.....

Blood Oranges Are In

We've waited longer than usual to harvest our blood oranges; waiting for a frost to nip them, which turns the skin a little reddish. The juice is delicious, and can be mixed with less intensely flavored (and colored) citrus for a beautiful fruit juice. The juice can stain. It's been really cold in Rainbow, but as I surveyed the farm today I found no actual frost damage. The mountains to the east are all snow capped. The drive into Temecula from my farm is spectacular with the mountains in the distance all covered in snow.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Squeezing in last minute bare root additions

Because the first well driller didn't drill when he said he was going to, I had to pass up this years' annaul bare root purchases, usually made in December. They can be made much earlier, but the dead, dead line is mid December. After that, you can buy bare root in a local nursery, but not at wholesale or quantity pricing. With so much up in the air, I had to forgo my usual shopping trip through suppliers' catalogs. But when Paul told us we'd hit water, I did make a couple desparate calls, and got to squeeze in a few additions. Most of what I'd like is unavailable, but got a few items. We're adding 100 raspberry plants (300 row feet), 100 or so row feet of Rhubarb, and 200 heirloom Sweet Purple Asparagus plants. We're adding a few blackberries, some apples (most were unavailable), plums, chocolate persimmon, a few pears and maybe some jujubees. There's also an unusual pomegranate that is seedless, and I'll trial that.


Subtropical additions that I don't buy bareroot, like passionfruit, sapote, dragon fruit, blood oranges, Pakistani sweet lemon and Pakistani mulberry can wait until later in the season.

The Clampetts are Celebrating

After the December, 2007 notice from Rainbow Water District telling us that since Morning Song Farm is an “Agricultural Discount” customer, they’re taking the fine print option of putting us on a mandatory 30% water use reduction, we decided to go for broke and drill for water. Amid the cinders of the October fire loss, Farmer Donna takes a quick look at her P&L for the year, and comes to the obvious conclusion that the farm couldn’t possibly continue to operate at all without an alternative water source. There’s just no way we could cut our production 30%, and continue a farming operation. The farm isn’t an income source for the Buono family as it is, but 30% less than “right around zero income” would mean we’d be paying a whole lot of off-farm income for the privilege to grow for others. I love my job! It is a privilege to do what I feel I was meant to be doing! But jeez, there’s a point where I guess I would have to let it go and find something else productive to do. Husband Frank, in a strongly worded soliloquy, let it be known to all involved, and some that weren’t, that the farm had to stand on its own.

We do have a well already in use on our farm, but our water bill from Rainbow Water District is often over $2,000 a month, which augments our water well. We also have a live spring that bubbles water up from the ground. The previous owners built a pond that catches that water, and we pump it out twice a day. And now we needed another well! Right after the fires, I made a call to the well driller who had drilled the farm’s first well, many years before we bought the farm. He came out, did some “well witching”, plunked a flagged stake in a suspiciously convenient place to drill (right in the middle of my first garden, at the end of a paved road), got his $2,000 deposit, and said he’d be back in a week or two. Never heard from him again.

Amid the devastation and disappointment of the fire loss, I had to come to the conclusion I’d been taken! Crap! I was despondent. We had to start all over, this time with a well driller that was well known. Again, we made a deposit, and got put on the waiting list. Husband Frank wanted another witcher to come out, since the first guy turned out to be a con artist. Since where you drill is such a huge decision, and so much rides on the result, not relying on the recomendation of someone who'd proven himself dishonest was a no-brainer. To tell you the truth, I thought the whole witcher thing was iffy, anyway. My opinion is backed up by well driller Paul Stehly, who was uncomfortable telling me his honest opinion because the issue evokes feelings that border on the religious for many of his customers. I just about had to drag it out of him, but the truth be known, he wouldn't hire a witcher if he was drilling for himself.

“Okay Paul, what do you think about witching?”
“ I like to think it’s important what you, think.”
“ Okay Paul, you think what I think is important. I think what you think is important. So tell me, what do you think about witching?”
“ Well, you could hire a witcher, and then water might be found where the witcher tells you to drill.”
“Or not?”
“Yup.”
“ If I hire a witcher will I have a better chance of hitting water when you drill?”
“ No.”
“No?”
“No. My experience is that it doesn’t increase your chances, except to feel better. You can witch and hit water. You can witch and not hit water. You can not witch and hit water. You can witch, and then the city won’t let you drill where the witcher suggests, drill somewhere totally different and hit water. You gotta feel good about where you’re drilling because it’s a huge risk, and you’re the one paying the bill. If witching would make you feel better, especially if you have to write a check for a couple of unproductive wells, I’d recommend witching. If you witch and don’t hit water, maybe that would make some customers feel better; like they did everything they could do to increase their odds. But witching isn’t going to increase your chances of actually finding water. If there was any method, any method at all, that could predict where to drill for a sure, the person who offered that service would be one rich guy. There wouldn’t be any more dry wells dug, ever!”

I relayed this morsel of valuable information to my husband, who had seen some television science show on witching for water and insisted I was out of my mind and we needed to hire a witcher. I didn’t want to hire a witcher because it would add a delay, cost money, and the expert out there said it wouldn’t increase my chances of hitting water anyway. An argument ensued. We solved it thus: Frank had to pay for the witcher out of his own pocket (which I’m not sure what that exactly means since we’re married, and all pockets are fairly commingled—except for this: the farm business wasn’t paying for that witcher unless we hit a whole lot of water) Then, filled with risk-taking bravado, Frank threw a $100 bill at me and said he’d bet me we’d hit a whole lot of water and was I in or what? So the deal was if we hit a whole lot of water, the farm had to pay him back for his witch guy, plus I’d lose the $100 bet.

So the witcher came out and flagged a spot that wasn’t all that convenient but a whole lot better than drilling in the center of my garden. Just for fun, I asked him to witch the spot that the previous, disgraced well driller/witcher/con artist man had flagged. He said, “Got no water here. Maybe 2 or 3 gallons a minute, but not worth pumping.”

Well that’s interesting. Not that I’m saying I’m admitting the witching thing is credible, but at least the witchers, doing their witching thing, which according to them is scientific, should have been in agreement. Unless one of them was a con artist.

Paul, the driller, said he’d have his rig in probably on Tuesday, the day after the Martin Luther King holiday. He had said he’d go down around 500 or 600 feet before giving up; that being a typical well depth for the area. We could go right to 1000 feet, but my concern about a 1000 foot well, even if we did hit a good water supply, was the cost to pump that water up. The further we went down, the higher the monthly cost to pump would be. If we didn’t hit water at 500 or 600 feet, we’d probably want to cough up enough to immediately try another location. Paul warned us that a dry well was a possibility, and two dry wells were a possibility as well. And of course we’d still have to pay his bill, immediately, with or without water. That’s the risk, and why so many farmers don’t drill. If you sink two holes on the same day, it’s cheaper than trying on separate occasions because of the cost of the rig move-in and set-up. We were braced for whatever the outcome would be. Whether or not we continued farming hung in the balance.

So when I got an excited call from Paul on MONDAY, I was shocked! He’d started to drill, and I wasn’t even there! I sure had wanted to watch. I thought he was going to start on Tuesday. Frank was even going to take a day off from work, which is really something for Frank.


Over the roaring din of a drilling rig, Paul shouted that he’d hit quite a bit of water and he was only at 105 feet or so. Just to let us know! YES! I lost the bet!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Monster Grapefruit Looking Thing is a Pomello


Those would be some pretty whoppin' grapefruits, but no, they're pomellos. Considerably larger than grapefruit, the pomello is milder and takes a little more work to enjoy. The segments look exactly like grapefruit, but the pithe between each segment is too tough to eat. Separate the fruit from the pithey segment material and pile into a bowl to enjoy. They have very little tartness to them, so some people who don't enjoy grapefruit, do enjoy pomello. I keep saying I'm going to cut the few trees we have down because we only get a few fruit on each tree and they are a whole lot of work to eat. That is, if it weren't for my daughter, Tess, who loves the fruit and doesn't mind fiddling with the whole peeling procedure. Tess is quite protective of the fruit trees she in particular enjoys, (mulberries, guava, fig, blackberry, kiwi and pumello) so for now the pumellos are safe.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Weird Looking Root Thing is Kolhrobi

The weird root looking thing in baskets this week is kohlrobi. Peel and prepare much like you would beets. Cut into large pieces, steam, drizzle with a little olive oil or freshly made butter. A nice addition is a little crumbled macadamia nut scattered on top. Some people like them mashed, with butter, salt and pepper. I'm told the Chinese prepare it two ways, typically: one is very lightly sauteed and still a little crunchy, and the other is cooked fairly well to the consistency of a scallopped potato. Either way is delicious! Who knew such an ugly looking thing would be so tasty. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Kumquats

For some reason, Blogger is not cooperating today, so I am posting the following for Donna - T.

Those little bitty orange looking things in the clamshell are Nagami Kumquats, in season now! Usually they come in, in time for Thanksgiving dinner. This year they're quite tardy. Chris Aliseo, Costa Mesa CSA supporter sent me this link for recipes: http://www.kumquatgrowers.com/recipes.html. My favorite use of kumquats continues to be a simple reduction. Throw them all in a blender, add water to top. Blend. Force through a sieve to get rid of the seeds. Boil down with sugar to taste into a syrup or reduction. I use the reduction in margaritas, on top of crepes, to sweeten limeade, and as a dessert topping. Another favorite is cooking them whole with a little sugar and water until they're translucent and using them as a jam.