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Live Earth Farm (Com)Post
6th Harvest Week, Season 13
May 12th - 18th, 2008

In this issue
--Greetings from Farmer Tom
--What's Up in the Field
--Live Earth Farm Kids
--Clearing up the Fruit Confusion
--Plan Ahead when Picking Up!
--Egg Cartons...
--Pictures around the farm
--What's in the box this week
--Notes from Debbie's Kitchen
--Calendar of Events
--Contact Information

" We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot. "

~ Leonardo da Vinci

Greetings from Farmer Tom

When schoolchildren visit the farm I like to ask what they think is the most important thing we grow. It's a good way to learn what fruit and veggies they like to eat as well as teach them to distinguish locally grown from imported crops such as the popular bananas, mangoes and pineapples.  But my reason for asking the question is not just to focus on what we grow, but also to explore the elements that allow us to grow.  I then hint that the most important thing we grow is neither plant nor animal but something we stand on.  At first, all I get are puzzled looks, but as they gaze down around their feet, I know the answer is close at hand.  Is it "DIRT" Farmer Tom?  "That's right, it is dirt – the soil beneath our feet; that which we depend on to grow strong and healthy crops. And for me, as a farmer, it is like ‘money in the piggy bank.’” Call me a "Dirt" Farmer and I won't be offended, I joke with them.

The adults in the group laugh, but then the kids don't want to hear about dirt – they came to eat strawberries, pet goats, and chase chickens!  So I shift gears. If dirt is going to have any meaning to these kids it has to taste good, so we venture out into the strawberry field where they are ready to "pounce and munch". But before I let them loose, I try one more time to get my message across. I grab a handful of soil and sift it through my fingers, feeling and smelling it. I explain that a strawberry is only "yummy" and sweet because it lives in such rich "yucky" soil.  Then they are off; the strawberries are sweet and juicy, staining everything from their lips down, and I don't hear any complaints if a little dirt is sticking to the fruit and ending up in their mouths. Harvesting and tasting is as close to a field-to-mouth experience children can get, and probably a better understanding of the importance of soil than any explanation Farmer Tom can give.

Most people grow up unaware of the soil-food connection. Growing up in urban environments surrounded by asphalt, concrete and manicured lawns, dirt is just perceived as a filthy substance that soils us. What people don’t realize is that, just as we need air to breath and water to drink, we need soil to feed ourselves. The increase in the Earth's human population has only been possible due to an increase in agricultural productivity – however such productivity has taken its toll on the world's soils. On average, it takes nature 500 years to build an inch of topsoil, however under modern farming practices it’s estimated that topsoil is being depleted 16-300 times faster than it can be replaced.

Good soil is the central building block in a healthy and sustainable food system. Here on the farm, crop rotation, cover cropping, and composting are the keys to maintaining a healthy soil. We also add amendments such as rock dust and gypsum, and the combination of all these things works to increase the organic matter content of the soil, as well as build it up over the long term. As farmers we need to be ever more vigilant so as not to deplete our soils because of increased pressure to grow more food. [And the pressure is indeed great; our waiting list is now nearly two-thirds the size of our membership, and growing by the day! – Debbie] Over the past 6-7 years we have been buying compost, but with the continued increase in fuel prices we are looking into making our own again. Annually we apply about 300 tons of compost to our fields, and I would like to double that amount.

Soil is at the center of any farming operation's long-term sustainability and, ultimately, fundamental to the health of our crops and our own well-being. The vegetables in your shares are a direct connection to the farm’s soil, so next time you are visiting grab a handful of this precious material and let it sift through your fingers, smell it, and imagine tasting it in the crops that are grown from it.

- Tom

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What's Up in the Field

Oh, who says farming isn't cute?? Last week six more baby goats were born, bringing the total number of "kids" to nine – and we're still waiting for two moms to give birth (see pictures of newborns in 'Pictures around the farm', below). We are expecting a heat wave this week; this should give our warm weather crops their first growth spurt. Potatoes are starting to grow nicely: the first field was "hilled" last week. I would guess that in 4 to 5 weeks we'll harvest the first ones for the shares. Summer squash is starting to bloom, so it’ll be maybe another two weeks before we start harvesting them. In the meantime, there’s lots of weeding and hand thinning of what I would say is a bumper crop of apples.

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Live Earth Farm Kids

This week’s pictures and story are from member Karen Fox, who says, “First thanks so much for all you do, this has been a great experience, better than I ever expected. I love getting my box, trying new ways to cook new foods, and visiting some old familiar veggies from my childhood. My hippy parents grew most of our veggies and raised chickens and rabbits. I have fond memories of eating in our garden and I love your improvements...ahhh chard with no EARWIGS! Fava beans that are sweet and tasty raw?! Just enough of a variety of veggies instead of an overload of things that my dad thought would not grow and overplanted!

“Second, I had to send you pics of this week’s 'box raid' as I have named it. As soon as our bag arrives home the kids delve into it to see 'what did we get from our farm?' Today they were having a late afternoon organic lollipop from Trader Joe’s, when they raided the bag and pulled out the peas to eat. They started shelling and eating as fast as they could -- note the abandoned lollipops stuck to the towel! I was laughing and saying the peas were sweeter than candy, then my son stuck a stick in a pea to demonstrate...too funny.

“So thanks for the laugh, for the beautiful fresh organic veggies, and for getting my kids excited about farming!”
Fresh shelled peas and abandoned lollipops
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Clearing up the Fruit Confusion

Hi all, Debbie here. Last week, when the “Extra Fruit” option started, I got several calls and emails from people saying, ‘I signed up for that “Extra Fruit Bounty” option but only got 2 baskets while others seem to be getting more? I was wondering if maybe there was some mistake...'
First of all I want to thank you one and all for only taking the number of baskets listed next to your name! THANK YOU THANK YOU!! That was the correct thing to do. The confusion stems from the fact that we have TWO DIFFERENT fruit “options” – “Extra Fruit” and “Fruit Bounty.” It was only the “Extra Fruit” which started last week.
Members which I added off our waiting list may not have realized there were two fruit options, because the “Extra Fruit” sold out early, and so only the “Bounty” option remained. Confusion is compounded by the fact that both the Family and Small shares get some fruit as well (Family Share always, Small Share most of the time but not some weeks).
Anyway, here is the difference between the two fruit options:
Extra Fruit is our original fruit option (we only started the ‘bounty’ option last year), and it runs for 29 weeks, starting in May, and is every week until the end of the season in November. The Extra Fruit option is the only option which gets ALL the different kinds of fruit we grow over the course of the season.
The Fruit Bounty option last year was called the “Strawberry Bounty” option, because it was only strawberries, and literally tied to when we had a bounty of them! There are two times per season when we get a definitive ‘flush’ of strawberries: the first is sometime in May, and a second, slightly smaller one occurs in September/October. Since we never know exactly which weeks the bounty will occur (depends on the weather), but we do know approximately when and how many weeks of it we tend to get, the “Bounty” option is 15 floating weeks. Tom makes the call as to which weeks we will have the “Bounty” based on what’s happening in the fields, so you need to keep an eye on the newsletter for announcements of when it occurs. As you see above, the Bounty option has started this week!
Now the reason we changed the name to “Fruit Bounty" from “Strawberry Bounty" is because Tom is growing more kinds and quantities of fruit now, and so doesn’t want to limit it to just strawberries. This year’s “Bounty” option may include other kinds of fruit – it all depends on what we have lots of!
Anyway, my A-number-one rule still stands: ALWAYS go by the quantity of fruit listed next to your name on the checklist in the binder at your pickup site. This is the COMBINED TOTAL of the various kinds of fruit from your Family or Small shares PLUS any options you have signed up for. My database does the math and totals like kinds of fruit (this will become clearer when we start having other kinds of fruit). Please DON’T go by the ‘what’s in the box’ list in the newsletter, because that’s only the ANTICIPATED amount of fruit; it can change at the last minute based on how the harvest comes in, sometimes as late as the morning of delivery!
If you’re curious about what all fruit we grow and when approximately you may be seeing it, see the Harvest Chart on our website.

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Plan Ahead when Picking Up!

Now that strawberry season is upon us, members with fruit options can often be picking up six or more baskets of berries each week, and this can pose a problem for some: how to carry all that fruit home with you? You are welcome to take the strawberry baskets (although we ask that you return them the following week so we can reuse them), but please don’t take the flat boxes (the yellow boxes the strawberries are dropped off in). We re-use those as regularly.
Some folks just bring plastic bags and dump their strawberries into them and leave the baskets. This is fine, but be aware that at times the ripe berries are more fragile than others and could get smooshed. (You can generally make this determination when you pick up.)
Another way to go is to simply bring your own box or tote. Site host Barbie Aknin suggests using “one of those foil lasagna pans with the plastic top from the store. It lasts all season and keeps the berries fresh and fits 6 baskets. I put a paper towel at the bottom to soak up moisture. Folks could keep them [the foil pans] in their car [like you do with your cloth grocery bags!].”

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Egg Cartons...

Just a quick note on this topic: a few folks were alarmed last week because some of the cartons of eggs in the coolers at their pickup site were from other egg companies and so they thought the eggs were too – this was a false alarm; Jim Dunlop, who raises the pastured chickens from whence the eggs come says his [egg carton] supplier was short, so he was scrambling for whatever cartons he could find. I asked him if, when he did this in the future, he would put a 'TLC Ranch' label on any recycled, non-blank cartons, so as to assure folks the eggs inside are still from him, and he was fine with this.

On a related note, this brings up a good reason for returning Jim's half-dozen-sized cartons to your drop site; our driver will bring them back to the farm, where Jim can pick them up and re-use them. He very much appreciates this, and you're doing a good turn by keeping them out of the waste stream. Remember, reuse is better than recycle!

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Pictures around the farm
Newborn goats at the farm
This year's farm intern, Gillian, was on hand when these goats were born, and snapped some quick pics for us! In image at right, they're so new, note that they're still trying to figure out which end mom's teats are at! To give you a sense of size, the babies are about the size of an average house cat. They grow quickly though!

hilled potato field
Some of our recently hilled potatotes...

immature apples... a preview of the bumper crop of apples on this year's trees...

closeup of bumblebees in flowering vetch
And lastly, Farmer cum Photographer Tom says he just sat down in a field of flowering vetch (cover crop) which was alive with the humming of bees... and just waited for them to pose for him!

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What's in the box this week
Content differences between Family and Small Shares are in red; items with a “+” in Family Shares are more in quantity than in Small; anticipated quantities, if any, are in parentheses, as are the source of any produce if not from Live Earth Farm (LEF). Occasionally content will differ from this list (typically we will make a substitution), but we do our best to give you an accurate projection.

Family Share:
Broccolini or broccoli + (if Broccoli, from Lakeside)
Celery (Lakeside)
Fava beans +
Garlic (still green, but starting to mature)
Lettuce +
Bunch of red mustards or bag of tatsoi
French breakfast radishes (too small; hopefully next week!)
Strawberries (2 or 3 baskets – go by what’s on the list next to your name in the binder)

Small Share:
Broccolini or broccoli (if Broccoli, from Lakeside)
Celery (Lakeside)
Collard greens or Kale
Fava beans
Garlic (still green, but starting to mature)
French breakfast radishes (too small; hopefully next week!)
Mystery item (beets or baby carrots)
Strawberries (should be 2 baskets, but as always, go by what’s on the list next to your name in the binder)

Extra Fruit Option:
Strawberries (should be 3 baskets, but may be more... go by what’s on the list next to your name in the binder, and read ‘Clearing up the Fruit Confusion’, above)

Fruit "Bounty" Option!:
Also strawberries (should be 3 baskets, but may be more... go by what’s on the list next to your name in the binder, and read ‘Clearing up the Fruit Confusion’, above)

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Notes from Debbie's Kitchen
Click here to go to recipe database

This week we’re getting the last of this go-round of beets (the regular red “Ace”). Tom says he’s clearing the field, and that they’ll be bunched, instead of topped and bagged like two weeks ago. He’s not quite sure how much he’ll get when they’re all harvested, so the plan is to put them into the Family shares, and maybe the Small shares too. If there aren’t enough for both shares, baby carrots may be substituted in the Small shares (hence the ‘mystery’ item). The beet greens Tom says are on the small side, but when you get your beets home, top them for storage, throw the leaves into a basin of water to rinse/swish away any dirt, then pull out the good leaves and spin ‘em in a salad spinner and store wrapped in a cotton towel (or paper towels) in a plastic bag in the fridge. Remember, you want to store the roots separately from the greens; if you leave the greens attached, they tend to suck moisture from the root and make it rubbery. But don’t compost the greens! They’re basically an extra green leafy veggie. Beet greens can be used in pretty much any recipe you might use chard. 

Oh, and by the way, it was a (wonderful!) surprise to also get golden beets mixed in with our red beets the week before last. Golden beets are delicious and mild and sweet; if you’re at all on the fence about eating beets, try the golden beets. You may be pleasantly surprised!

Here’s a beet recipe I’ve been meaning to try next time we got beets:

Beet Gnocchi with Rosemary
[that’s pronounced “NYO-kee”]
from another Bon Appetit clipping; serves 8 as a first course; 4 as a main course

3 small beets, trimmed
1 lb. fresh ricotta cheese
1 large egg
¾ C freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 ¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ C flour, divided
½ C (one stick) unsalted butter
8 3-inch long fresh rosemary sprigs
Additional freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Wrap beets in foil and roast until tender, about 1 hour. [Note from Debbie: because we tend to keep our beets in the fridge, this adds to their baking time. If you think of it, take ‘em out so they can come to room temperature first. They may cook a little quicker. Of course I always forget to do this, but I thought if I wrote it down I might remember!] [Beets are done when they pierce easily with the tip of a sharp knife.]

Allow beets to cool enough to handle, then slip off skins; discard [compost] skins.

Coarsely grate beets. Place ¾ C grated beets in large bowl (reserving any remaining beets for another use [i.e. in one of those ‘beet sandwiches’ from last week!]. Stir in ricotta, egg, and ¾ C parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Mix in 1 C of the flour.

Lightly dust baking sheet with flour. Place remaining ½ C flour in a small bowl. Using a tablespoon measure as an aid, scoop dough into rounds; transfer to bowl with flour. Coat rounds with flour, then roll each into little oblong footballs in the palms of your hands. Hold each gnocchi in the palm of one hand and gently press centers with fingertips to make slight indentations [the better to hold sauce or butter with!!]. Transfer gnocchi to prepared baking sheet.

Melt butter with rosemary sprigs in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Cook until butter begins to brown, about 3 minutes. Set aside.

Working in batches, cook gnocchi in a large pot of simmering salted water until gnocchi float to the surface, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook 1 ½ minutes longer. Using a slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to skillet with butter and rosemary. Heat butter and gnocchi over medium heat, stirring gently to coat. Transfer to plate; sprinkle generously with additional Parmesan cheese and serve.
Looks like the only ‘new’ veggie in this weeks’ shares is the Collard greens in the Small shares (and of course the celery from Lakeside, but I think everybody is familiar with that!). Collard greens look to me like Chinese paper fans: the leaves are more-or-less round and flat; a kind of dusty-dark green with light green stems and veins. Collards are a stronger-flavored green and so can benefit from longer, slower cooking in soups or braises. But the weather’s getting hot, so I think I might try inverting my ‘hot salad’ idea; that is, take a green that you’d normally cook and eat hot, and go ahead and cook it (strip leaves from stems then boil in well salted water for 5 to 7 minutes), but then chill it and serve it with a vinaigrette or lemony sauce of some sort! Or maybe with a hot sauce tucked into a tortilla with some cheese and/or beans...
Actually in light of the arriving heat, I’d recommend treating the broccoli similarly. It doesn’t need to be cooked that long; just steam it for 3 to 5 minutes, until just tender, then chill. Dress with lemon and olive oil and salt (or your favorite salad dressing) just before serving, as the beautiful green broccoli color turns a sort of olive after awhile in an acid dressing. Put another way, chill it then dress it, don’t dress it then chill it!
Favas in the Raw
Before I forget (Karen Fox’s story above reminded me!), I, too, learned just last week that fresh fava beans can actually be eaten raw! Remove the pods, peel off the skins, and pop ‘em in your mouth like a snack! My friend had some growing in his backyard, and he says he does this all the time. I tried it and they were good!

Alert: please read about raw favas

From my archives of submitted recipes, here’s one sent by member Christie Boone to the LEFCSAfriend yahoo group (of which, by the way, you’re welcome to join!):
Fava Beans with Yogurt, Lemon, and Dill
from Deborah Madison's "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" 
4 lbs. fresh fava beans in their pods
2 1/2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 scallions, including some of greens, thinly sliced [or you can use the light green stems of the big onions]
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper
3 tbsp. finely chopped dill [Christie says she uses dried dill to taste]
1/3 C yogurt, whisked until smooth (unnecessary if have runny yogurt to start)
Shell the favas and peel them if they're large. Cook them in a medium skillet over medium heat in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until they're tender, about 10 minutes, then stir in scallions and turn off the heat. (NOTE from Christie: I've been shelling the beans, blanching for 1 minute in boiling water, skinning them, and then since they're basically cooked already, just heating them up again briefly in the olive oil instead of cooking for 10 minutes.) [That’s what I’d do too, Christie! – Debbie] Whisk together the remaining oil, lemon zest, juice, and a pinch of salt. Pour it over the beans, add most of the dill, and gently mix everything together. Season with pepper. Pile the beans in a dish, drizzle the yogurt over all, and garnish with the remaining dill. Serve warm or chilled.
Christie says, “I've found this dish to be great warm or cold, and extremely forgiving in terms of ingredient portions. I also just mix everything together rather than drizzling the yogurt at the end. It's very good, and very easy!”
And another fava recipe, this one from member Holly Trapp:
Persian Sabzi Polo (Herbed Rice with Fava Beans)
6 C water
4 C uncooked Basmati rice
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 bunch fresh dill, chopped
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
2 C fava beans (shelled, cooked and skinned)
ground turmeric to taste
ground cinnamon to taste
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
In a large saucepan bring water to a boil. Rinse rice; stir into boiling water. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in dill, parsley, cilantro, fava beans, turmeric, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer on lowest heat for 40 to 45 minutes. Note: It's normal to end up with crispy rice (called Tadig) on the bottom of the pot after cooking; it's delicious.

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2008 Calendar of Events
For details on events listed below, please Click here to go to the calendar page on our website.

Santa Cruz Permaculture Design course - one weekend/month for 6 months, Feb-July

Spring "Six Thursdays" Mataganza Garden Internship
- every Thursday from May 1st through June 5th, 10am - 5pm, in the Mataganza Garden Sanctuary at Live Earth Farm.

Herbalism Classes at Live Earth Farm:
<>Herbal First Aid
- March 15-16
<>Medicine Making - May 10-11
<> Cooking with Herbs - July 19-20

Summer Solstice Celebration - Saturday June 21st

Children's Mini-Camp - July 11th - 13th (Friday evening thorugh Sunday noon)

Fall Equinox Cob Building Workshop and Campout - Sept. 20 and 21

Fine Farm Feast - Oct 4th

Fall Harvest Celebration - later in October (date TBA)

Contact Information
email Debbie at the farm (for any farm or CSA share-related business): farmers@cruzio.com
email Debbie at home (with newsletter input or recipes): deb@writerguy.com
farm phone: 831.763.2448
website: http://www.liveearthfarm.net