Monday, May 31, 2010

Ken and kids lay irrigation line in a row of broccoli to help cool the crop from the recent high heat. We regret to say, that crop of broccoli didn’t hold up. No worries. There will be more.

Letter from the Farm
We love farming. But it’s not nearly as romantic a job as one would think.

Farming is all consuming. We don’t get weekends off, forget about a summer vacation, and even holidays like this week’s Memorial Day are just another work day for us.

Farming is expensive. According to the USDA, operating expense ratios for a “medium-sales small-scale” farm like Free Bird are about 75 percent. That means for every dollar we earn, 75 cents goes to costs. A good example of farming’s steep costs might be the $1400 we recently spent to replace two tractor tires. (At least the other 2 were salvageable.)

Farming is unpredictable. In May, we’ve had damaging frost and unseasonably hot, not-so-helpful 90-degree weather. Last week we had the worst hail we’ve seen on this farm. Amazingly, no damage. And there’s more than just weather to contend with. We have bunnies noshing on new plantings, and coyotes stealing chickens. Ironically, nature isn’t always so compatible with farm life.

So maybe it’s a precarious calling. But as much as we are constantly bracing ourselves for the unexpected, we are equally and steadfastly embracing the many, many positives of what we do. We love the work. We care deeply about what we do. It’s ever changing. Every year is an opportunity to do things better. And we come to know some of the coolest people—fellow farmers, market customers, and CSA members alike.

We’re excited about the upcoming season and getting to know new members as well as catching up with returning members from as near as our small, beautiful town of Palatine Bridge to the southern Adirondacks, Albany, Cooperstown, and two new and dynamic CSA communities in New York City. Our CSA has experienced quite a bit of growth this year; consequently our farm has undergone quite a bit of growth and change. Yet no matter how busy we get, moments like the one in this photo are what define us. We remain what we originally set our hopes and hearts on being, a family farm.

Thanks for growing with us.

Ken & Maryellen
Free Bird Farm

In this week’s share:

1/2 lb. spinach
1/2 lb. mixed baby salad greens
1 bunch green onions
1 head bok choy
5 ounces (1/3 lb.) arugula
1 head romaine lettuce
1 bunch radish
1 bunch cilantro

Farm Facts.
What are the holes in the arugula? That’s the work of itsy, bitsy, voracious-for-the-taste-of-arugula flea beetles. The beetles small size (1/16 inch) and ability to jump are what earns them their name.
To stave them off, we rotate where we plant our arugula each year, and we lay row covers over the crop as soon as the seed is sown. We do not apply pesticides. Despite our efforts, flea beetles find their way to the arugula—through the slightest tear in the cover or a gap in its sides when lifted by the wind. You’re not going to find these bugs in your greens. The holes are merely cosmetic.

Variations in egg size. Bear with us while some of your eggs might be on the small side. Our 5-month-old pullets have just begun to lay, and small eggs are what they first deliver. Fairly soon, our Rhode Island Red chickens will be laying their standard large to extra-large sized eggs for you.

Recycling egg cartons. For all those with egg shares, we’re more than glad to reuse any clean egg cartons—from the eggs we’ve provided or even eggs purchased elsewhere. Bring them to the CSA distribution site.

Recycling rubber bands. Through the course of the season you’ll accumulate quite a few rubber bands we use to bunch a number of our veggies. We can reuse them. So feel free to bring your eventual stockpile to the CSA distribution, and they will get returned to us.

Recipes:We'll do our best to provide recipes each week and ones that are relatively simple since most often cooking with a CSA share means cooking on the fly. We'll also do our best to include recipes that use more than one share ingredient and don't call for additional produce that's not in season. We'll also strive to offer recipes or include variations on recipes, so that they can be enjoyed by all, whether you are a vegetarian or vegan or eat meat.

Mango-cilantro salsa
Serves 3

This quick recipe uses both the cilantro and scallions in your share. It’s great with grilled shrimp, pan-seared salmon, or chicken. Or spoon it over one of the farm’s favorite in-a-pinch meals—black beans, rice and tortillas.

1 heaping cup chopped mango (thawed, frozen mango works fine)
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons mild-flavored oil, such as peanut, walnut or grapeseed
Large pinch of red pepper flakes (or minced fresh jalapeƱo, amount to your liking)

Combine all of the above ingredients in a small bowl. Season with kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste. Let sit, refrigerated, for up to 4 hours before serving.

Recipe by Maryellen Driscoll

Bok Choy
A relative of cabbage, bok choy is a common ingredient in Asian cuisine. It has a soft crunch and a gentle bitterness. It’s well suited to stir-frying, and we especially like this recipe for stir-fried bok choy with garlic, ginger, and scallions by friend Susie Middleton.