Blog For Food Campaign

Because our farm is young and because we started the whole thing coming off of five years of living on a single meager income, whenever we make arrangements to donate to the food bank, Andre always jokes that it is the needy helping the needy. Luckily, we aren’t needy in the food department, being able in land and body and knowledge to grow so much of it for ourselves. Even when we didn’t have so much space, we were able to do this for ourselves…I’m not sure what our food status would have been otherwise. Even with the few staples I go to the store for, a bag or two full of butter, bulk grains and beans and flours, coffee, cream, olive and coconut oil, fruit in the winter, some almond milk, sometimes some cheese–I walk away with a price tag that always surprises me. Food is expensive, especially nourishing food from good sources. And I know of how to save money (and resources) on these things, Azure Standard, and I know how to cook, and knowledge goes such a long way when we are talking about poverty and hunger.

So a group of Oregon bloggers have joined together to raise money for the Oregon Food Bank, I urge all of you to contribute to this campaign by clicking on the logo here to go to the OFB donation page (just write “blog for food” in the tribute section), as these food banks are helping a lot of our community members right now, and if we help to keep them well stocked, they will continue to be a great source of help come what may this year. But, and I don’t really have anything solid here, more like just a calling to arms, great help can also be spread through spreading information. This is more difficult than it sounds, I know. But helping our communities gain knowledge about how to have more control of our food security and more knowledge as to how this is integrally tied to the control we have over our own health..this would help us become a community that has even more assets to fight these huge issues of hunger, poverty, and health care.

You can always take food itself too. If you would prefer to donate food rather than money, we were given this information as well pertaining to this particular campaign: Sarah Pederson from Saraveza has generously offered her place as a food drop off site for the campaign. So if people would rather donate canned goods than cash, direct them to Saraveza! ( Saraveza is located at 1004 N. Killingsworth, PDX 503-206-4252. Here in the valley, contact Tricia Harrop of YCAP at Ext. 124 – 503-883-4170 for information on how to donate in Yamhill County.

For us, we always feel blessed when we have fresh produce to donate. We have to provide for the business and our family first, and because of those larger needs, the first few years we donated little in comparison to what we were growing. Our hope is that with improved yields we can reach a point of donating every week. And this is something for everyone with means to consider…planting just a little extra in your garden can provide you with a way to help fight hunger with fresh, nourishing food. For those in need, a little from those of us who feel our needs our met, goes a long way.

the music of the night and the blanket of stars

Although much of our attention as of late has been focused on the time to come-the gray skies, the wet ground, the cool and the cold–we‘ve also been taking the time to enjoy this warm weather we‘ve been having. Whether it is because of the time we had to devote to some unexpected side projects right in the thick of summer’s madness, or simply because we are now coming down the backside of the warm season’s growing hill towards shorter days and settled veggies just waiting for harvest..whatever the reason, we are now enjoying the fact that there is still some beautiful weather around while we have the time and the frame of mind to relish it. Our fire pit had seen but one fire this summer, at our eldest’s birthday party, until this past week. Now it has been lit every night, and after dinner cooked over the fire and eaten out of doors, we are found sitting around the fire either mesmerized in that way only the dance of flames will do or making music as a family in a way that warms my heart even more than the end of summer air and blazing fire. We made a point to have fun this summer, to make this special time in an otherwise wet clime about more than just working hard on the farm. We did get to the beach more than once, we had many a breaking of bread with friends and family…it was a wonderful summer and a great growing season with only minor stumbles in the field. Still, to know that any of these last warm days could be just that, the last warm day before the chill sets in–this makes our nights by the fire even more delightful.
Still, farm business is never locked too tightly away in the folds of our minds, and we have had a lot to hash out and work on as we get ready for the changing season. Farmer’s market will end in just five short weeks. This will mark the beginning of the changes we wrote to you all about, and we know that it will bring changes to some of the faces we see each week. It has been difficult for us to find a balance between finding what will work best for the farm in order to provide vegetables year round and what will be considered reasonable or doable to all of you who have been nourished by the bounties of summer and wish to continue to enjoy the freshness, health, and taste of local food through the fall and winter. These worries, as well as the planning of a new season, of harvests all the way into March and April, these thoughts are always close at hand. We are really, really excited to be making the switch to a year round CSA, and now that we have been through these Oregon seasons almost four times round, we are still thrilled at the ease of eating seasonally in this temperate climate. As much as I will always have the season’s of the Midwest to call to me with memories of a certain air at the onset off fall, of a thick blanket of snow, of hoar frosts in the morning, of nights hot enough for swimming and firefly light shows….as much as those memories of place are what I was raised with, I look forward to the time when years here bring me the memories of these seasons and with them a much more distinct association of foods. Here, we don’t even get too carried away with putting summer’s treats by for later, because there is so much that will still be growing in the winter it is not as necessary. We still do some, and the pickles, the salsas and sauces are a good way to round out an eating style that differs so greatly from what we were raised on. We have 7 gallons of pickles fermenting now, and will probably need to do some more before the cucumbers fade away. We are finally getting into heavier tomato production, and we planted a lot of heirloom paste tomatoes because they make the best sauces and dried tomatoes, things we are sure to enjoy on a cold winter night.
The passing of time, of seasons, is something that can happen very quickly. Quicker, it seems, once you have children or get older (I am not sure which was the direct cause, so I will credit both!). We are blessed to have the opportunity to slow things down if we make a concerted effort to do so. Farm life can either be very hectic, or by will, made very calming and centering–a simple routine of living that we share with our community. Right now, we have seen that difference. Maybe it was a little out of our hands when we were thrown extra work, but these nights by the fire are all a pleasure we have simply made the time for. Last night, as we pulled out the blankets and made a bed in the grass, the music of the night and the blanket of stars slowed time down as we let the warmth linger a little longer. When the rain comes again, and the warmth on our skins or the thought of sleeping outside is just a memory of a different season, we will be just as tickled with the change, we always are. But for the moment, we’ll stash away some of this summer in both its physical outpourings as we make our sauces and in its intangible joys as we make memories on this farm.

Joy of cooking

As an avid cooker, as well as a proponent of healthy eating, I have always had a desire to share information on nutrition and tips for preparing nourishing foods. Unfortunately, the result of this desire is not always the passing along of useful information, because my enthusiasm for sharing this information is often tempered by an honest weakness I have as a would be teacher. Now, it isn’t so hard to repeat the facts regarding the reasons to avoid processed foods, the nutritive value of whole foods, or the connection between nutrition and health. These facts tend to resonate with logic and common sense, and it is often just a matter of gaining access to information regarding these subjects that in turns propels folks to take a closer look at their diet. When we are confronted with the fact that it is food that is the source of all our body’s energy, we realize that the old adage “you are what you eat” really is literally true.
This I can do…share information on nutrition. The problem arises when people ask me how to do the cooking, because the truth is, as we farm so we cook–very creatively. We do not usually use recipes, and when we do, it is almost guaranteed that we do not follow it to the T. Even when we are baking, a much less forgiving branch of the culinary arts, we substitute at will to use different sweeteners and flours. As we approached the beginning of the CSA season, we began trying to keep notes of amounts used, but habit is hard to break, and we really do not prepare any two meals exactly the same way. The seasonings change, the veggie combinations change, all based more on what we have available than on a predetermined outcome. It is very fluid, very spontaneous, very fun…but very hard to transmit.
And yet, it wasn’t like this when I first started exploring the kitchen. I remember trying recipes, having them fail, having them succeed, learning different cooking methods, trying different spices and spice combinations. And now, this information, this knowing of my way around a kitchen and around different meats and vegetables, oils and spices, this familiarity is simply ingrained. I don’t think about it in the same way at all. And it has been questions from our great customers that have reminded me of this difference. Vegetables that I have a deep intimacy with have turned out to be new and intimidating to some of you. And although we never got too many of our own recipes nailed down, we were lucky enough to have an eye for good recipes so that we can include as many as we can for you to try, hoping to ease this burden of becoming familiar with new vegetables. It has even brought new dishes to our table at a time when a hectic schedule inclines us to simple foods.
And we love to hear that you enjoyed a particular recipe or that a new veggie is now your favorite, but we do also hear from some of you that you somehow messed up the recipe, or that you haven’t yet enjoyed a certain veggie because you think you are preparing it wrong. It is these comments that remind me of my inability to really transfer my cooking ability to others. I suppose like all good things in life, it is in the process of our own undertakings that brings true understanding. So many of the steps that occur as I cook the same recipe are happening at an unspeakable level. This may sound disheartening, but it all happened because I spent time cooking and observing.
To encourage any of you who have had trouble preparing some of this season’s veggies, I wanted to address this issue–the letting go of measurements and times and the development of your best cooking skills, your senses, Greens provide a good example of what I am talking about. We have tried to include a lot of recipes for cooking greens, recipes that we think are really yummy so that for those of you who have not yet learned to love the taste of these nutritional giants can begin to enjoy them. I was remembering the first year we grew and ate a green. I don’t why we chose them since they are not the most mild flavored green around, but it was mustard greens. My first reaction was not pleasant, and then my fobled attempt to cook them was even worse. Years later, I can not imagine feeling this way, partly because I no longer taste them with trepidation, a sure fire way to experience a negative taste (yes, our brains can affect how we taste things!), but mostly because I now can prepare greens in so many ways that truly do highlight the flavor of these veggies.
The trick is getting to know the vegetable. Most of the recipes for cooking greens we give out we would consider usable for all greens. However, tiny things like the minutes you will cook the greens to altering spices or meat additions might be necessary. Chard, like spinach, is less fibrous than kale. It can easily be overcooked and then be unpleasant to eat. It is mild, and so is a great salad green as well. Kale has thicker leaves than chard, so you would cook it a little longer. Because it is thicker, it can also go in the pot for soup without becoming mush, and there are scores of soup recipes with kale that attest to this. Collard greens, which we do not grow, are similar to kohlrabi leaves, which we do grow and encourage you to eat, are tough, but if given a long enough cooking time, become tender, with a delicious broccoli flavor. Mustards are course, and you would not want to eat them fresh unless young, have the strongest flavor, and are like chard in that they are more thin walled and not very good overcooked, but take a little longer to cook. Their strong flavor often requires additional consideration, and often is best cooked with other strong flavors rather than mild ones. Cabbages are like chard on one hand-they make excellent salads , but I find that when cooking them, their flavor is best with a longer cooking time.
All of this information can be gained from using your senses when you cook with these vegetables. It is more important to pay attention to the green as it cooks and softens than to the time listed in the recipe. With the tender greens, cooking times are so short that 1 minute extra can be too much, and the mushy green will not be very appetizing. Let the smells, feel of the vegetables, the taste tests you take mid-stream, and the look of what you are preparing be your guides. Soon enough, the things you have to make conscious decisions about now will become instinctual, and your dishes will take on characters of their own. Always temper experimenting with simple and sure preparations so that you can know the flavor of things by themselves too. And in the end, suit your time in the kitchen and at the dinner table to you, lest these necessary actions become chores rather than joys!