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Live Earth Farm (Com)Post
6th Harvest Week, Season 12
May 7th - 13th, 2007

(click here for a pdf of the paper version of this newsletter)

In this issue
--Greetings from Farmer Tom
--Crop Notes
--Family Share "Bonuses"
--How the strawberries work
--More pictures around the farm
--What's in the box this week
--Notes from Debbie's Kitchen

" Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now."

~ Goethe

Greetings from Farmer Tom

Here at the farm we know how important pollination is. Every year in early Spring when our Warren Pear orchard starts blooming, a small swarm of human pollinators swing into action. Armed with long dust poles, they puff pollen dust on thousand of flowers several times over the entire orchard during the annual 10-14 day blooming period. For some still mysterious reason, this particular pear variety has poor fruit set when left to its own devices, so to ensure a reasonable harvest, every year we engage in this cumbersome courtship between us and the pears.

Like most crops we farm, pears typically rely on bees for pollination, and the most common and favorite bee among farmers for crop pollination is the honeybee. Everyone is troubled, however, by the recent collapse and disappearance of honeybee colonies (it is so significant it has been given a name: Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD). Although nobody knows what's causing it, the threat is being taken seriously since the losses are quite dramatic all across the United States and Canada, in Europe, and even as far south as Brazil. Here on the farm we have two beekeepers, and only one, Greg Muck, believes to have lost one hive to CCD this winter. Steve Demkowski from Willow Glen apparently didn't lose any of his approximately 10 hives. There is a lot of speculation about the causes of CCD; whether it is from parasites, fungal diseases, pesticides, poor nutrition, habitat loss, or microwaves emitted by cell phone towers, nobody knows for sure.
honey bees
The honeybee is truly one of nature's workhorses. What makes them so popular, besides the honey they share with us, is that they are able to pollinate a large number of different plant types. Due to their social nature, they tend to recruit other bees to visit the same plant several times during their blooming period, increasing the chances of higher yields of fruit or seeds produced per plant. Avocados, kiwis, apples, berries, squashes, cucumbers and broccoli are just a few of the more than 90 fruits and vegetable that depend on bee pollination. Imagine what the content of our shares would look like if pollination disappears. If alternative pollinators don't pick up the slack (in pollination loss due to CCD), we might face a "slow food" diet of bread and water.

As we already know (or should know), too much of a good thing, all the time, will eventually get you into trouble. So relying solely on one kind of pollinator for the bulk of the crops in our current food supply is proving to be pretty risky. Just like it's wise to grow a large diversity of crops to achieve a more sustainable farming system, we also need to encourage a more diverse population of pollinators. One way to do this is by increasing the population of native bees. Supposedly there are more than 3500 species of solitary bees in North America. Although native bees only make small amounts of honey (which is not collectable), the sole purpose of attracting them would be for pollination. Native bees can be divided between soil dwellers and wood dwellers. Soil dwellers include the bumble and digger bees, and forest dwellers include the mason (or blue orchard), leafcutter and horned faced bees. The best way to encourage and maintain their presence is to preserve wild land (habitat), set aside uncultivated areas (undisturbed hedgerows and field borders) and grow suitable crops to attract and increase their numbers, making sure to provide sufficient flowering/pollen producing plants to ‘feed’ them year round, especially through the winter.

Thanks to Steve Demkowski we are starting to introduce native bees into the environment here at the farm. Steve set us up with nests of mason and leafcutter bees this spring. These nests seem pretty simple to make; Steve’s design consists of paper drinking straws about 6” long, capped on the back end, then packed into an old coffee can which is attached to a post about 5 ft. above ground. The tubes need to face east, so they get a couple hours of morning sun, and also need some sort of roof to keep off the rain (and shade them so they don’t get too much sun and cook!) During our summer solstice celebration in June, Steve has offered to give a tour of the farm, and introduce interested members to his hives and shed some light on the importance of both honeybees and native bees. Maybe we can get him to do a workshop on how to make (and maintain) your own native bee houses!
Although Einstein has been quoted as saying "without bees, humans will only have 4 years to live," he probably referred to the popular honeybee and didn't think of the many native bees, some with pretty cool names such as Shaggy, Digger, Fuzzyfoot, and Hornface.

Do you ever get this feeling of complete insignificance in the face of all the news and information we are being bombarded with about the Earth's environment going to shambles? That the collapse of honeybee colonies are just another example of a "canary in a coal mine?" It is true that individually we may be insignificant, however the exciting thing is that everywhere you look a lot of ‘insignificant’ people are coming together, adding up to a real force of change, creativity, and hope for the future. I believe in that force and the opportunity it offers for our children.

Tom's children: David and Elisa
Farmer Tom's children: David and Elisa

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Crop Notes

Throughout May we will mostly be cruising through a lot of the same crops, so I thought I’d give you a picture of what’s to come. We should have fava beans for another 3 weeks or so, but then they will be done for the season, so enjoy them while you can (or if you feel you are getting too many, see Debbie’s prior newsletters for how to freeze them). The Chinese cabbage and fennel which I photographed two weeks ago (see Week 4 newsletter) are coming along nicely, and are probably going to be in your shares in another 2 weeks or so. Things start to ramp up in June, as the first new red potatoes will be coming in (followed by yukon gold and yellowfin later in the season); the radicchio should be ready to harvest sometime in June, maybe even some summer squash, and by the end of June we should see the first of our green beans. Sometime in July we should have leeks (I’m leaving them in the ground to get nice and fat). And lastly, for you ‘Extra Fruit’ members, many of you want to know “when will it be anything other than strawberries?” That would be sometime in June, when the plums and blackberries start to ripen (see pictures, below, of fruit in progress!). And that ‘Strawberry Bounty’ option? Probably late May.

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Family Share "Bonuses"

Sometimes members find extra goodies in their Family Share boxes which are not listed under “What’s in the Box.” This is an added bonus to being a Family Share member, as when we pack the boxes, we always pack the Family Shares last, so if there is anything we have extra of... you get it! You may recall there was broccoli in last week’s boxes that wasn’t on the list. This is an example!

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How the strawberries work

Some members are confused by our system for giving you strawberries, so I'd like to explain. It is important to understand this so that you don't ever make assumptions and end up taking the wrong quantity, thereby shorting other members of their strawberries!

This year there are four possible ways you can receive strawberries: as a part of your Family Share, as a part of your Small Share, as a part of your Extra Fruit Option (if you get this option), or as a part of your "Strawberry Option" (if you get this option). If you look at the upper right-hand corner of the checklist in your pickup site binder, it states how many baskets of strawberries go with each of these four options. The number of baskets of strawberries next to your name will be the combined total of berries you get based on your share combination. The checklist is the bible, in terms of quantities to take; ALWAYS go by what it says on the checklist, as that is how many baskets of berries we have left at your drop site for you.

The confusion last Wednesday stemmed from my having put only one basket of strawberries down for the Extra Fruit option instead of two. The quantity of strawberries left at each site correctly matched the checklist, it was just the checklist that was wrong! ;-) That's why Wednesday "Extra Fruit" members are getting 4 instead of 3 baskets this week. - Debbie

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More pictures around the farm
Farmer Tom is enjoying his newly found calling as a photographer, documenting the farm in pictures! Each week he takes his camera with him into the fields to capture the essence of what's happening at any one time, or to illustrate his topic of discussion. Thanks to digital cameras and the internet, we are able to keep you, our members, even closer in touch with and up to date on what's happening on 'your' farm!

Native bees
Native bees! At top, a Mason bee (sometimes also called Blue Orchard Bee, or "BOB" for short) pollinates a blackberry blossom; in the middle, Steve Demkowski's native bee installation at the farm; and at lower right, a native bumblebee feasts on a lavender blossom.

green Santa Rosa plums
The Santa Rosa plums are sizing up but still green.

Ditto for the ollaliberries/blackberries!

sprinklers in new field
Sprinklers at work on a freshly sown field...

red onion and a fresh red onion, on the hoof!

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What's in the box this week

(Content differences between Family and Small Shares are underlined and italicized; items with a “+” in Family Shares are more in quantity than in Small; anticipated quantities are in parentheses. Sometimes the content of your share will differ from what's on this list, but we do our best to give you an accurate projection. It's Mother Nature that throws us the occasional curve ball!)

Family Share:
Red Ace beets
Cauliflower (Lakeside)
Chantenay carrots
Japanese cucumbers (Nagamini Farm)
Fava beans +
Garlic +
Lettuce +
Mizuna (bagged)
Red mustard greens (bagged)
Onions +
Spinach (Lakeside)
Strawberries (1 basket)

Small Share:
Broccoli (LEF/Lakeside)
Chantenay carrots
Fava beans
Mizuna (bagged)
Red mustard greens (bagged)
Strawberries (1 bskt)

Extra Fruit Option:
3 baskets of Strawberries
[Wednesday members get 4 baskets to make up for last week's error!]

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Notes from Debbie's Kitchen
If the recipes I give you here don't suit your taste, there are literally hundreds more in the recipe database on our website! There are also many pictures of veggies, in case you get something in your box you don't recognize. Click here to go to the recipe database. - Debbie

Mizuna and Mustard Greens
I’m going to sound like a broken record to longtime members because I usually give the same advice about both of these greens each year (if you want to see what they look like, see pictures in the recipe database I mention above; click on the camera icon to the left of each item’s name in the list). To prep both greens, dump into a sink of cold water and swish around to release any possible dirt, then transfer to a salad spinner, separating out and discarding any yellowed leaves, or the occasional grass or weed. Spin greens well to remove excess water, then spread out on a cotton dish towel to air dry. Place in a plastic bag, gently squeeze the air out and refrigerate. If you’re in more of a hurry, after washing them just roll the greens up, towel and all, and store in the plastic bag. The towel will wick the water off the greens (you don’t want to store wet greens in a bag; they rot more quickly that way). It sounds like a bit of work, but you’ll be so happy you prepped them this way when, during the week, you can just open your fridge and they’re ready to go!

How do I use them? I never get beyond using them as a salad green. I love them this way! Mix them together with torn lettuce, and maybe some spinach, for a lovely simple green salad with your favorite dressing.

I welcome anyone’s ideas and recipes for cooking either of these greens if that’s how you like to use them. I expect they’d be good just simply sautéed in olive oil with a sprinkling of salt and used as a bed for fish or chicken. They would cook up much like spinach: quickly, and down to almost nothing in volume when cooked!

Chantenay Carrots
We’re getting a new type of carrot this week, an heirloom variety called Chantenay (these, alas, I don't have pictures of in the recipe database. Tom, can you take a shot for me?). They are typically shorter/squattier with broad shoulders, narrowing quickly to a blunt tip. Sweet, crunchy and carroty, you can use these any way you’d use regular carrots.

Five-Minute Beets
from ‘Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone’ and submitted by member Lauren Thompson via the LEFCSAfriends yahoo group who says, “If you are looking for a way to cook beets that is a little less cooking time intensive, try this out. It takes a little more work in the prep department, but isn't too bad. The recipe is very flexible."

4 beets, about 1 lb.
1 tablespoon butter
salt and freshly milled pepper
lemon juice or vinegar to taste
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, tarragon, dill, or other herb

Grate the beets into coarse shreds. Melt the butter in a skillet, add the beets, and toss them with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste.  Add 1/4 cup water, then cover the pan and cook over medium heat until the beets are tender. Remove the lid and raise the heat to boil off any excess water. Taste for salt, season with a little lemon juice or vinegar-basalmic or red wine is good-and toss with the herb. If you don't mind the shocking color, you can stir in a tablespoon of yogurt or sour cream, always a good tasting addition to beets.

Nagamini Farm’s Japanese Cucumbers

Tom put Japanese cucumbers from Nagamini Farm into our shares last year too, and they are wonderful. Slender and delicate, they do not need to be peeled or seeded (although you can do both if you prefer, but they're practically seedless). A nice way to use them is to take a zester and drag it down the sides of your cukes to create stripes before slicing, or if you don’t have a zester, simply drag the tines of a fork down the sides of the cucumber to score its skin and achieve the same effect. They're very pretty when sliced.

Curried Rice and Cucumber Salad
from Farmer John’s Cookbook – the real dirt on vegetables
Serves 6

“Because they are so mild and refreshing, cucumbers are often used as a foil to more assertive or fiery ingredients. This recipe pairs juicy cucumber slices with rich curry seasoning but forgoes the heat, instead letting the freshness of the cucumber feature prominently. Mixed with golden raisins and tender, aromatic rice, the result is sweet succulence. Of course, if you like your curry spicy you can certainly add some hot pepper to this dish, and it will be differently delicious. You can use vegetable oil or butter instead of ghee, though ghee is the preferred oil for Indian cooking. You can make this dish up to two days in advance, store it in the refrigerator, and toss it with freshly toasted nuts just before serving.”

3 C cooked basmati or jasmine rice
1/3 C sliced scallions [you can use the light green and small inner dark green stalk and leaves of the onions in your share just as you would scallions]
1/3 C golden raisins
3 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
½ C coarsely chopped walnuts
1 tbsp. ghee
1 tbsp. curry powder
1 large cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeds scooped out, thinly sliced [with Nagamini’s tender little Japanese cucumbers, I wouldn’t bother to peel or seed them!]

1. Combine the cooked rice, scallions, raisins, and lemon juice in a large bowl and stir. Season with salt to taste.

2. Toast the walnuts in a dry, heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) over high heat until they durn brown in spots and smell fragrant. Transfer nuts to a dish and set aside to cool. [I like to spread walnuts out on a sheet of foil and toast them in my toaster oven. Just watch when you do it the first time, so you don’t burn them. They only take a few minutes to toast.]

3. Quickly wipe the surface of the skillet with a clean towel; melt the ghee in the skillet over medium heat and stir in the curry powder; stir for 30 seconds.

4. Add the cucumber slices. Cook, stirring constantly, until the cucumber is tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the skillet from heat.

5. Add the cucumber to the rice mixture and toss to combine. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

6. Toss the toasted walnuts with the salad, then sprinkle a generous amount of paprika over the top. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Simple Broccoli and Lemon
I can eat broccoli this way all the time (and often do!): just cut broccoli into whatever size pieces you like, steam them for 3 to 4 minutes, plate them, squeeze a goodly amount of fresh lemon juice over them, drizzle with your best olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt. The warm broccoli releases the aroma of the olive oil in a wonderful way! Mmmmmmmm.......

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes with Spinach and Coconut Milk

from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen, by Jack Bishop
serves 4 as a main course

This recipe was also submitted by Lauren Thompson, who says, “This is one of my favorite recipes! It's a great way to use up a lot of spinach in one pass. The flavors of sweet potato and coconut milk together are a must try!”

4 sweet potatoes (10-11 ounces each), scrubbed
2 tbsp. canola oil, plus more for rubbing on the potatoes
2 tbsp. minced gingerroot
2 tbsp. Thai red curry paste
1 1/4 lbs. flat-leaf spinach, stems removed unless very thin, leaves, washed, shaken dry to remove excess water, and chopped (about 8 cups)
1/3 C unsweetened coconut milk
3 tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro leaves

1. Move an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly rub each potato with a little oil. Place potatoes on a foil lined baking sheet and bake until the skin is crisp and a skewer slides easily through the flesh, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Remove baking sheet from oven and set the sweet potatoes aside on a rack to cool for 10 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees.

2. While the sweet potatoes are cooling, heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Add the ginger and the curry paste and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the damp spinach, cover, and cook, stirring once or twice, until completely wilted, about 5 minutes. Add salt to taste and set the spinach mixture aside.

3. Using a folded kitchen towel to hold the hot sweet potatoes, cut each one in half lengthwise. (If possible, cut so that the flat side of the sweet potatoes will rest on the baking sheet.) With a spoon, scoop the flesh from each half into a medium bowl, leaving a 1/4 inch of the flesh and skin in each shell. Arrange the empty sweet potato shells on the baking sheet.

4. Mash the sweet potatoes in the bowl with the coconut milk until smooth. Stir in the spinach mixture and cilantro. Adjust the seasonings, adding salt to taste.

5. Mound the sweet potato filling into each shell. Bake until the top of the filling is firm and slightly crisp, about 15 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and cool the sweet potatoes on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Serve. (Straight from the oven, the potatoes are unbearably hot to eat.)

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Calendar of Events
(see calendar on website for more info)

<> Fri. May 18, Four Fridays Mataganza Garden Internship (5/18, 5/25, 6/1, 6/8)

<> Sat. Jun 9 “Outstanding in the Field” Dinner

<> Sat. Jun 23 Summer Solstice Celebration

<> July 10-14 Teen Adventure Camp

<> Aug 24-26 Children’s Mini-Camp

<> Sat. Oct 20 Fall Harvest Celebration (in prior weeks' newsletters this had been mis-dated as October 3rd; it is October 20th... at 3pm! Thanks to the alert member who caught my error!)

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Contact Information
email the farm: farmers@cruzio.com
email Debbie with newsletter input or recipes: deb@writerguy.com
phone: 831.763.2448
web: http://www.liveearthfarm.net