Spring is A-Coming!

A July share

A July share

I mean it, too, it really is!  Although we still have 2 winter share deliveries coming up in February, we are getting ready to start planting seeds for our spring shares and onions and a few other things for Summer shares.

The membership sign-ups have been coming in and that gets us very excited to get to work.  We are looking forward to trying some new plants this year and re-planting some of the old favorites.

February is actually a pretty busy month for us.  As we get ready to plant, we also have the Organic Farming Conference to look forward to in La Crosse, FairShare workshops to attend, brochures to print and hand out and fliers to hang.  (Help us get the word out!!) We start taking applications for seasonal and year-round help as well as signing up our work-share members now and order our necessary equipment, irrigation supplies and other supplies so that we are ready to go when we start growing and delivering organic produce to our members.

We are looking forward to this season as we always do and hope that you will join us for the 2015 season!

‘Open Farm’ November 15!

Brussels sprouts in the field.

Brussels sprouts in the field.

Come on out to the farm and stock up on winter vegetables for your winter comfort foods!

Saturday, November 15, from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm, we are open to the public and we have lots of great veggies!   Sweet potatoes for the holidays and the best acorn squash that I have ever tasted.  The

Delicious carrots

Delicious carrots

carrots are sweet and crunchy and we also have spaghetti squash, butternut and delicata squash.  White potatoes, blue and yellow potatoes, plus leeks, onions, shallots.

Stock up on the last of the season’s broccoli and romanesco cauliflower  and the cold sweetened Brussels sprouts are definitely a comforting treat.  We have lots of cabbage and kohlrabi, too.

'Delicata' squash

‘Delicata’ squash

Aly Wheeler will be here with some of her beautiful ceramics and we will have some nice, hot coffee and treats.

We hope to see you tomorrow!


Butternut squash

Butternut squash




Fall-sweetened broccoli

Fall-sweetened broccoli

Autumn’s Bounty

20141022_095555The harvest continues at the farm!  These past few gorgeous days have been so wonderful to work in, but I know those long, finger-numbing harvest days are just ahead.  It will be good weather for soups and stews soon and we have just the right vegetables here for you to make them!

Our summer CSA season has ended, but there is still a lot that we haven’t even harvested!  Much of our fall harvest is reserved for our Winter CSA shares but there is an abundance of some of our fall crops available for anyone to purchase.

As we shift gears for the winter, we are planning on several “Open Farm” days at the farm with lots of goods for everyone to stock up on.  Meanwhile, we have very fresh, certified organic produce available for you at the farm all this month.  We will be “open”  to the public this Saturday, November 1 from 10:00 – 3:00 pm. You are also welcome to pre-order and pick up anytime if you make arrangements to pick up ahead of time. Call 920-699-3658 or 920-988-5023.

Check out the list of produce that you have to choose from HERE.

Wrapping up the Season on the Farm

Standard share; week 20

Standard share; week 20

Wednesday morning harvest and afternoon packing crews.

Wednesday morning harvest and afternoon packing crews.

This was the final week of our summer CSA season.  It feels very strange not to be thinking about next week’s box and what needs to be done before that.  It also feels sad to think that all of our dedicated worker-shares are done for the season, too.  Next week, the farm will be quiet. Ugh.  We are going to miss everyone and we are eternally thankful to all of our members and workers for making another great season possible!

We have a new deadline for harvest now; the hard freeze.  We’ve had some frosty mornings, but nothing that a head of cabbage can’t stand…yet.  Last year, we still had some cabbage in the fields when the temps dipped to the teens and the cabbage looked like it was frozen beyond return.  A few upper 30 degree days were all it took to be restored.  What an amazing plant family those brassica’s are!  Last year, Matt and Casey were washing carrots outside when it was in the 30’s.  This year, we have a root tumbler to help with that. We also have a lot more carrots to wash!

Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, carrots, Romanesca, leeks and late potatoes are the big crops that we have left to harvest.  Most of that will occur in November after the storage areas have cooled down more.  After the fields are cleaned up and after the garlic is planted.  We will have all of these staples throughout the winter and available for anyone to stock up on.  Most of the greens that we have planted in the high tunnel and some of the less prolific cold-weather crops will be used for winter shares, but we may have some of those available from time to time, too.

Brussels sprouts in the field.

Brussels sprouts in the field.

If you would like us to send you an email when our winter farm market is “open” just sign up here:

Winter Produce 2014-2015

or email highmeadowfarmcsa@gmail.com and ask to be added to the mailing list.

Thank you to all of our CSA members, farmers market friends and farm customers who have helped us to have a great season of produce!

If it looks like a melon and rolls like a melon…

20140822_130215Does that make it a melon? Well, that is debatable.

There was a little friendly finger pointing going on here as to how seed for ‘Citron’ melons were ordered last winter because they were not on the original seed order list.  Checking back to our planting records, it appears that they were a gift from a fellow seed saver.  They were planted none the less and we assumed they would be, well, melons…the kind that you could eat.

They are beautiful.  Eye-catching and intriguing and also nearly i20140928_091850mpenetrable with a regular knife and once inside, they are hard, white and um, not very tasty.  So why do people cultivate them and save the seeds?  That’s what we would like to know.  We are puzzled about this and also determined to find either a use for them or good homes for them.  Someone, somewhere is looking for these, unusual heirloom specialties, I just know it and I am here to help.

Research tells us that they are ancestors of the watermelon and native to the Kalahari Desert of Africa and that there are records of cultivation of this plant dating back 4,000 years.  They are loaded with pectin and 20140928_101403for that reason they are used for making preserves.  Other than that, we have not found many recipes or uses for ‘Citron’ melons although today, my husband Mike may have made a new and important discovery; grilled ‘Citron’ steaks.

It’s possible that someone else has already tried this, but I admit being somewhat amused and impressed by his Sunday morning grilling adventure.  I was also surprised to find out what an improvement in flavor there was after they were grilled.  Grilling actually brought out a little watermelon flavor (undetectable when raw) and they held up well to grilling.  The texture was good, too.  Lightly salting them is enough to enhance the flavor.  We tried a piece with sugar and another with olive oil, but simply salted was both of our favorite.

One more thing that is worth mentioning is that the seeds are beautiful.  They are bright red and very striking in the white fruit of the melon.  I have a feeling that we will have a few of these melons left at the end of the season and although I don’t expect that we’ll save many of the seeds for replanting, I am considering other possibilities; jewelry, mosaics, trivets…winters can be pretty long here.

10636190_644599048981296_7193498613925020513_nOne melon that we will definitely be replanting next year is these exceptionally delicious cantaloupes.  The warm weather has extended their season into the fall and they are incredible.  I have been enjoying melon smoothies with lime basil and yogurt.  The smoothies are also delicious with fresh ginger and lime.  I have been freezing melon cubes to snack on and to use for smoothies well into the winter.  Give us a call if you would like to stock up on melons (either kind) before the season ends.  (We have a just few seedless watermelons left, too)

Winter Shares at High Meadow Farm

It may be warm out now, but soon the wind and snow will be blowing and we will be back to daydreaming over seed catalogs while we are remembering and thankful for last summer’s bountiful garden. With the late season crops, those that hold well and become even more flavorful in storage and cold-hardy greens that are planted in our tunnels, we are able to continue to enjoy our garden’s bounty year-round and we are very grateful for that.

We hope that you will join us for another season of beautiful fresh greens and stored crops that were grown on the farm this year by our family, employees and farm friends that have worked hard to put these crops up for the winter.

Click here for more information.

Here are some examples of past winter share boxes:

Summer and the Height of the CSA Season

Tomato and cucumber salad

Salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, green pepper, onion and Bragg’s cider vinegar, salt and pepper.

We’ve had a few rainy days.  The first since July 1 and I love every second of it.  Although irrigation keeps the crops lush, the grass around the fields, the trees and wildflowers have all had their heads bowed for weeks.  There have been many insects, birds and amphibians finding an oasis at our irrigation headers when we are watering.  It had become the miniature Serengeti watering hole; a good place to view all of the local creatures.

I have been waiting for a rainy day to get caught up with paperwork, canning, cleaning and updating our blog.  I need more rainy days.  I need many of them.  I am starting with the blog.  When I am out in the fields, weeding, harvesting and spending time with the plants, I often think of things that I would love to tell everyone about them.  (I really can’t say I ever think that much about cleaning or paperwork, at least not when they are out of sight.)  Then I come inside to make dinner and ‘POOF’, the thoughts are gone.

Zucchini Pancakes

Zucchini Pancakes

I do, however, manage to get excited about the armload of vegetables that I bring in for dinner each night.  Our meals are almost always later in the evening (much later than they should be) and the goal  is often to make something in a short time frame with a quick thought to what is needed the most that day; carbs, protein or something light?  Then I look at my husband and consider how much longer he can go without food; are we in an emergency situation?  (He is a hard worker, but sadly, not a chef.) If so, the solution usually involves eggs and/or tortillas or pulling some bacon out of the freezer for BLT’s and O’s (onions). If we have a little time to spare, a frittata, omelet or Quiche or a quick stir-fry, likely seasoned with ginger, soy sauce, chili and sesame oil.

I love to cook, but let’s be clear that I don’t make any claims to being a great cook.  I can’t say that I really ever measure ingredients, so if I think that a meal is worthy of writing down, doing so after the meal has been made is tricky.  I think adjusting recipes to suit one’s taste is the best way to cook unless you are unfamiliar with the spices that are called for.  I find that this principle rarely works when baking though.  A pinch of this and a handful of that usually ends poorly. Someone told me once that cooking is an art and baking is a science and that flipped the light switch on for me.  Now I have an excuse to avoid baking (too scientific) unless it involves free artistic license after the science project has been completed!

Quesadilla with purslane leaves

Quesadilla with purslane leaves

Before I pat myself on the back again for cooking though, I have to emphasize that it is hard to fail if you are working with the best and the freshest organic produce.  I think that the only way to ruin a meal that starts with fresh, organic vegetables is to overcook or burn it badly, spill the salt into it or mistake the cayenne pepper for paprika.  (Too many jalapenos might ruin it for some, too.) Once you learn what fresh, clean food tastes like and you become accustomed to eating it on a regular basis, your body will send out the “danger” signal when you eat processed foods.  The trick there is not ignoring that warning when you hear it and you will be adding years on to your life.

We are halfway through our CSA season.  School will be starting soon, days will be shorter and for many, time to cook will be challenging.  I am hoping that our members have been getting in the habit of putting great meals together from their CSA boxes each week and will continue to do that as the days shrink into the next seasons.

Here are a few of the quick meals and other things that we have made this summer:

A Farm Winter

2013-03-05 2013-03-05 001 003

We are often asked what we do in the winter months, “when nothing grows?”  Well, for one thing, we fantasize about doing all of the things we dream about doing in the summer; reading books, knitting, catching up with friends, painting the walls, skiing, vacationing, and outdoor activities, and we do manage to accomplish a few of those things, mostly in January.  (I did manage to make a few pairs of wool mittens and read a few books while Mike relentlessly loaded logs into our wood furnace.)  I also cook more, sometimes enthusiastically and sometimes not.  I have been baking sourdough bread and I made some wonderful soups this winter, and some that were very strange indeed, and this does not count the kettles-full of whole pie pumpkins and stale bread that I have cooked up for our chickens during the coldest spells. In reality, we end up doing things that are on a different, less appealing list, (rhymes with schmaxes) and a lot of farm planning, and paperwork for organic certification.  And then there is the planning for CSA season!

Checking in the seed orders as they come in.

Checking in the seed orders as they come in.

We spend quite a bit of time putting together our seed order and deciding what plants did well last year, which ones were member favorites and what vegetables were requested by members for the next season.  Our seed order takes about a week to put together.  We order organic seed from a few different suppliers and if the seed that we are looking for is not available as organic we try to find it elsewhere or order certifier approved, untreated seed if we can’t find what we are looking for.  We put the finishing touches on our crop plan and planting schedule for the next season, too.  Everything gets planted on a schedule whether it is started indoors or direct seeded outside. The planting schedule starts with spring share vegetables and goes through the season until we plant the last greens for our winter shares.  Winter is also the best time for us to get our organic paperwork compiled and filled out so that we can be scheduled for our annual inspection.

We’ve been talking to many people about the CSA and hanging flyers in some locations and we have been getting really excited about the memberships that have been coming in!  We have added a delivery site to the East side of Madison and are working out details for an Oconomowoc site.

Winter blues-busters; popping out of their soil today!

Winter blues-busters; popping out of their soil today!

And here we are in February already. It is time to order chicks and make plans for putting up new fencing for livestock.  As soon as the frost is out of the ground is the best time to sink posts for this.  We are hoping to add a few more grazing animals to the farm and are planning on moving our current pastures to our newly organic certified pasture areas.  I have started several trays of micro-greens, but in the next few weeks, we will be starting our indoor seeding program, seeding mouth-watering greens and onions into flats for early deliveries.

Next week is our 5th winter share delivery.  I was really hoping to have some nice fresh salad and greens in the boxes next week, and I am not giving up hope entirely, but I am not holding my breath either.  We’ll see.  We still have sweet carrots, cabbage, beets, onions and other root crops and fabulous potatoes!  The final winter share delivery (#6) at the end of the month should have lots of nice greens ready in it, though. (It just has to be above 0° by then!) The plants just haven’t been doing much growing lately, but now that the days are at least longer, some of the greens are swelling a bit, but I don’t want to stay out there to watch them closer while the temperatures in the evening have been dipping into the 10’ and 20’s below zero for around 6 weeks now.  Let’s just say that they are growing slowly, if at all.

What goes on in the fields while our shades are pulled tight; the tracks of deer, fox, coyote and rabbit, all in the freshly fallen snow.

What goes on in the fields while our shades are pulled tight; the tracks of deer, fox, coyote and rabbit, all in the freshly fallen snow.

As far as the weather goes…it sure looks pretty outside on these bright, sunny days, doesn’t it?  And all of the snow that we’ve been having is keeping it all nice and fresh!  And, we are quickly getting rid of that big woodpile that was taking up so much space outside.  I hope that everyone else is managing the cold, snowy winter as well.  Spring will come.  It just has to!

#1 Most Feared: The Gentle Giant, Kohlrabi

'Kossak' kohlrabi; 8 lbs. of deliciousness!

‘Kossak’ kohlrabi; 8 lbs. of deliciousness!

What is it about kohlrabi that is so intimidating to so many people?  I know that it is the single most feared vegetable among our members (survey says!), but everyone that actually tastes it finds themselves very pleasantly surprised!

Kohlrabi are very patient.  They will wait in your refrigerator in fine condition, changing very little as the months drag on, for you to work up the courage to peek inside and be…pleasantly surprised.  Just yesterday, we had a visit from a winter share member, who upon seeing me with a large kohlrabi in hand on its way to the chopping block, confessed that he recalled seeing one somewhere in his home recently; fridge or garage perhaps, that he had received in his last winter share delivery box.  “What do you do with those?”  he asked.

“Well, you could try the recipes in your newsletter, or, here,” (I sliced off a nice piece and removed the skin) “just try this”.  I was happy to hear him say that it had a similar effect to eating a piece of watermelon in summer.  “Cool, juicy and refreshing!”

It’s true.  They are like cutting into a waterfall, (okay, not quite), but they are juicy.  They are very mild tasting, and every bit as satisfying to nibble on as raw carrots can be!  If you like to have raw fresh veggies as a snack, kohlrabi should not be overlooked.  If ever there was a case for not “judging a book by its cover”, kohlrabi is at the top of the stack. We only grow and send these out for our winter CSA shares and winter markets.

It is a common assumption with many people that the huge kohlrabi’s that shows up at fall farmers market stands are “woody” on the inside and therefore inedible.  The large kohlrabi is really just a variety that is intended to grow to that size.  There are the smaller green or purple varieties that you see most often in the supermarkets and then there are the storage varieties that you don’t see in the supermarkets.   Our favorite is ‘Kossak’, a storage variety that can grow to sizes as big as 8 lbs, as the one in the picture did, without losing any of its quality.  The storage varieties are one of the best vegetables to just have on hand and slice off what you need for raw snacking, salad, or as an addition to a cooked meal and then wrap what remains of it for future use. You can also do this with cabbage, celeriac, and Daikon.  And with a large kohlrabi, you can be sure that you have enough to create most kohlrabi recipes!

So what DO you do with them besides eating them raw? You can add them to just about anything.  (Maybe not desert.)  Not just to do something with them, but because they are very tasty.  Use them as a substitute for, or along with broccoli or cauliflower in stir-fry’s or soups.  Their flavor and texture is similar, but a little milder flavored. Cut them into cubes, slices or matchsticks. They are delicious cut into small cubes for an ingredient in a pasta salad or my favorite: tabbouleh.  Their crisp juiciness makes them a good substitute for diced cucumber in that dish! You can even pickle or ferment them as you would cucumbers.

As for last night’s melon-sized kohlrabi, I had no plan to start with, really.  It grew from my husband suggesting that we make something with the nice bacon that a friend had brought over for us.  He was probably thinking of something more on the lines of a BLT, or something equally mouth-watering, but I had a hankering for kohlrabi, since I had just returned from delivering some to a local restaurant.  Yes, bacon and kohlrabi it would be.

Parsnips, kohlrabi, and carrots, cut for stir-fry

Parsnips, kohlrabi, and carrots, cut for stir-fry

I had grabbed a few other vegetables from storage on my way into the house and laid them all out on the counter, and then a fairly quick meal was born.  It was not too bad!  It made a fine meal for the 2 of us and the leftovers were good for lunch the next day.  I only used ¼ of the kohlrabi, and part of that was even saved for snacking on the next day with some carrot sticks.  I loosely wrapped the remainder and put it in the fridge for another day.   You get a LOT of mileage out of these large kohlrabis!

Note: If I make this dish again, I might leave out the parsnips, mainly because the texture is so unlike the other vegetables, and their flavor was a little too bold for this dish, but if you love parsnips, by all means, use them! The bacon was good, but omitting it would not really affect the dish that much. (Oh, I suggest that matchstick veggies should be smaller than they are in the picture.)

Sautéed Winter Vegetables with Pasta,  Gorgonzola and Bacon

1 med. onion, cut into vertical strips2 cloves garlic, minced1 med. Delicata squash

2 large carrots, cut into matchsticks

¼ (or 2 cups) large Kohlrabi, trimmed and cut into matchsticks

2 parsnips, cut into matchsticks

4 slices nitrate-free bacon, cooked until crispy

Pinch nutmeg½ tsp ground gingerDash cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper

2 Tbs. tamari

2 Tbs. olive oil

¼ cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese

½ lb. good quality, flat egg noodles, cooked

Prepare vegetables.  Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds.  Cut in half crosswise and then cut sections into matchstick strips.  In a heavy skillet, sauté the onion in oil over low heat until clear.  Add garlic and sauté for a minute or 2.  Add spices and stir.  Add squash and stir into onions.  Cover and let the squash cook and steam for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it is almost fork tender.  You may need to add a few Tablespoons of water to prevent them from burning.  Add remaining vegetables and tamari.  Cover and cook, adding more water if necessary, until vegetables are crisp-tender.  Remove from heat and toss with noodles, crumbled bacon, and cheese.  Serve.