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Live Earth Farm (Com)Post
8th Harvest Week, Season 13
May 26th - June 1st, 2008

In this issue
--Greetings from Farmer Tom
--What's Up on the Farm
--Goat milk shares still available
--Family Share vs Small Shares
--Pictures around the farm
--What's in the box this week
--Notes from Debbie's Kitchen
--Calendar of Events
--Contact Information

"Only by choosing among the many possibilities life has to offer and continuously offering it freely to its possibilities, can we keep it."

~ Wendell Berry

Greetings from Farmer Tom

Early last Thursday morning when I turned on the faucet to brush my teeth, I was jerked awake by a gurgling sound and the realization that the farm was without water. The last few drops coming out of the pipe were barely enough to wet my toothbrush. I always panic when that happens; my thoughts start racing as I hurry out of the house to the most likely source of the problem - the well and water-storage tank.  The water level in the tank was full, which meant the well pump was operating, but there was no pressure in the system. This meant the problem was somewhere in the booster-pump.  I checked the fuses and circuit breakers, but no luck; something had to be wrong with the pump itself. So I called Maggiora Brothers (a local well drilling and pump repair operation) at 6:30am, surprised to find Mike Maggiora (the owner) was already in the office. He assured me someone would be coming out at 8am, when they opened for business.

smoke-filled skyIt was then I noticed that ashes were falling from the sky.  I looked up and saw that the morning fog was swirling and mixing with yellow and white plumes of smoke.  As the first rays of light peeked over the Santa Cruz Mountains to the east of us, the landscape was bathed in pale, dreary colors.  Something was seriously wrong; where was the fire coming from?  I sensed a second wave of panic.  I grabbed my bike and rode to the top of the ridge to get a better view of the farm. As I approached the ridge, I could see that the entire sky northwest of us (towards Corralitos and Browns Valley) was filled with thick billowing clouds of smoke. There was a huge wildfire fire somewhere, but how far away was it?? I had no idea.

At 7am the crew started early, picking strawberries for Thursday’s CSA delivery. The truck typically leaves the farm at 9am.  I called Juan to find out if he heard of or saw anything about a fire. He hadn't, but reported seeing ashes falling where they were, too.  At home, Constance and the kids were already up.  David had this big grin on his face; his school, Mt Madonna, was closed because of the fire. His final exam in History just "went up in smoke," he joked.

The local news reported about a raging wildfire starting somewhere on an abandoned wooded lot on Summit Road, near Loma Prieta.  The fire, which started at 5am, had already consumed over 700 acres of very fuel-rich forest in less than 2 hours. The news reports were showing the fire spreading southeast towards Corralitos, along Eureka Canyon. The weather forecast predicted strong gusty winds out of the east to northeast, which was not in our favor.  By 11am, 40 to 50 mile-per-hour winds were coming straight at us from where the fire was burning; the air quality was so bad that I sent all the workers home.

Last week we had to stop work because of a record heat wave; this week it was a fire. The wind was blowing hard. The tall stand of Eucalyptus trees next to our house was bending and swaying... with a sudden chill I remember the Oakland Hills inferno, where Eucalyptus trees were the main source fueling the fire.

By around 2pm the sky looked ominous; Bernadette, Brian, Gillian, and two visitors were starting to prepare to evacuate the animals; the baby chicks were placed in boxes, and the larger delivery truck was kept at the ready, in case we had to quickly evacuate the goats.

Then I saw Maggiora's red repair truck arrive with a new booster pump. What a relief; it was quite frightening to consider a wildfire approaching... and us with no water. An hour later, the farm had water again. In addition to everything else of course, the seedlings in the green house were getting thirsty.

Then all of a sudden everything felt different. The wind started to shift, blowing out of the northwest, away from us instead of straight at us.  My entire body started to relax; shortly thereafter, KSBW news reported the wind shift I had felt. The fire seemed to be changing course, heading towards the summit and possibly Uvas Canyon on the other side of Summit Rd. The smoke cleared, and the afternoon sunshine was a welcome change.  Although the fire probably never posed a direct danger to the farm, it sure bullied us into being nervous and scared.

By Saturday the fire was still not contained, but any sense of imminent danger was gone.  Many people have had to evacuate, and some suffered material losses. Fortunately no one died.  Thank you to the many people who called, concerned about our well being and offering their help.  I hope now we can enjoy a few weeks of calm and more predictable farming conditions. Then again... who has ever heard of normal and predictable farming conditions?

- Tom

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What's Up on the Farm

This week will be our last week of getting garlic for awhile; we will harvest it all and lay it in the sun to dry and cure. The next time you see garlic in your boxes it will resemble the more familiar dry bulbs. The Napa cabbage is just coming in; although it is only in the Family Shares this week, we should have it in both by next week. Next week we should also have leeks; summer squash is getting close, dill and radicchio are on their way. Once again, the unseasonably cool weather slows the growth. In about 2 weeks we should be seeing the first of our blackberries in the Extra Fruit option.

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Goat milk shares still available

Lynn Selness of Summer Meadows Farm says she still has a few ‘shares’ available in her goat milk CSA (note that this is NOT arranged or paid for through Live Earth Farm; you make all arrangements with Lynn, and she simply piggy-backs the delivery of milk and cheese to you via our deliveries to our members). For more information, please click here to download a pdf about her program.

One new thing to note (Weston A. Price Foundation members and followers of Sally Fallon’s ‘Nourishing Traditions’ will likely be interested in this): Lynn has fresh whey available too. Whey is excellent for baking, fermenting, and other things. There is a nominal additional cost for getting whey, to cover the cost of bottling etc. Ask Lynn for details.

Lynn can be contacted at: 831.786.8966.

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Family Shares vs Small Shares

Hi everyone, Debbie here. Every week I get at least one call from a member who is left with the wrong size share because someone else, accidentally or unintentionally, took the wrong size. We only leave off the exact number of Family and Small boxes, and the sites are on the honor system, so we need everyone's cooperation to make this work. (Mind you, one or two out of 650 is a pretty low error rate, but try explaining that to the person that got shorted.) My suspicion is that our members aren't the cause, but rather someone sent in their place (friend, spouse, neighbor) to pick up for them and who was not given proper instructions. Another possibility is the 'white' vs 'brown' box thing is not 100% -- the 'brown' boxes do indeed have blue-and-white white printing on them ("Fresh California Fruits and Vegetables"), but they are brown on top, bottom and ends. The 'white' boxes are all white -- top, bottom and sides -- and have various printing on them. Below is a picture; the Small shares are on the left, Family on the right.

So please, take your time when you go to pick up your share, be observant of these differences, and if you ever have someone else pick up your share for you, be sure to explain this to them. Have them read the instructions in the front of the binder, and all should go well. Thanks!!!

CSA boxes

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Pictures around the farm
No too many pictures this week -- the fire was, you might say, all consuming...

The sun, dimmed by the smoke from the Summit Fire The sky dimmed with yellow smoke really blotted out the sun.

more fire picturesAbove, Bernie and a friend pack the chicks into boxes in case we needed to evacuate. Once the wind shifted, we could see where the fire was coming from. Not so very far away!

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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:
Arugula +
Cauliflower (Lakeside)

Lettuce +
Napa cabbage
Onions +
Spinach +
Strawberries (should be 3 baskets; always go by checklist at pickup site for final number)

Small Share:
Collard greens
Strawberries (should be 2 baskets; always go by checklist at pickup site for final number)

"Extra Fruit" Option:
4 baskets of strawberries (ditto)

Fruit "Bounty" Option:
also 4 baskets of strawberries (ditto)

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

I’ll hold off on Napa cabbage recipes until next week, when it is in both shares, but this week everyone is getting lots of beautiful spinach! Here’s my favorite way to prepare it:

Debbie’s sautéed spinach and garlic
lots and lots of fresh, washed spinach leaves (stems okay too, just not the root)
a generous amount of chopped fresh garlic
olive oil and salt
vinegar (I like to use a sherry or champagne vinegar, but try whatever you like)
a big pot or wok or skillet with a lid

Heat oil in pot/skillet/wok over medium-high heat and then add garlic. Stir and sauté a brief minute, then start adding the spinach in big handfuls. Sprinkle in salt as you go, stirring often and adding just a small splash of water here and there as necessary (note that if you just washed the spinach, leave the water clinging to the leaves; no need to spin them dry. You may not need to add additional water in this case). The water step is important but tricky; you need that little bit of added moisture to wilt the spinach, but you don’t want to add so much as to end up with a puddle at the bottom of the pot.

The spinach will wilt quickly, so you should be able to add it all in pretty short order. Depending on what else you’re cooking, you can either just mind the spinach until it is done (it’s done when the spinach is all wilted), or cover it for a minute while you do something else... just don’t leave it too long. This really is a short process.

When the spinach has just wilted, splash in the vinegar and sauté just a little bit more, to evaporate some of the excess moisture. Taste for salt and serve! Sautésd spinach is great with SO many different things... any kind of meat, chicken or fish; it’s great paired with sweet potatoes or winter squash (though right now is not winter squash season, unless you cooked and froze some from last winter!).

We are also getting LOTS of delectable strawberries right now... isn’t it wonderful?? So I was surprised to hear from longtime member and recipe contributor Farrell Podgorsek, who said, “I came back from veggie pickup and was surprised – some members did not pick up [all] their strawberries because they could not use that many in one week!” She asked if I had run any strawberry-keeping suggestions recently, and I hadn’t, so here are her suggestions:

Farrell’s strawberry using and storing tips
“I sort through my berries when I bring them home - I use the ripest berries first, saving the others for later in the week.  I cut some up and put them in a separate container for topping breakfast cereal in the morning - my family will eat them if they are ready to go.  If it comes along to Tuesday [she picks up on Thursdays] and we haven't finished them all yet, I place washed berries on a cookie sheet and flash freeze them, then put them in a ziploc bag. [I don't even wash them before freezing; just hull them. - Debbie]

“We use these berries for smoothies, or eat them frozen like a popsicle. Cut berries can also be added to muffins, sprinkled with sugar or our new favorite, sweet agave nectar (Trader Joes), and used to top pancakes or waffles, or used to top ice cream or frozen yogurt. They can also be mashed with sugar and cooked for a few minutes. They will hold in the refrigerator and make a great jam to top toast or shortcakes.”

-- Farrell closes with, “Happy to take anyone’s leftover berries! :)” but of course now that you know what to do with them I’m afraid she may be disappointed...

Farrell also had this great tip for storing bread, and although it is not a ‘veggie’ in our box, we do have the new Bread Option this year, so I think it appropriate to share this info [my two cents is in square brackets]:

Farrell’s tips for Companion Bakers bread
“Hearty breads [like the kind Companion Bakers makes] store well if placed cut side down on the counter [or other flat surface, like a cutting board?].  Do not put them in a bag. Simply cut from one end of the loaf, and place that cut end flat on the counter.  The moisture will gravitate down to the cut end, and will be blocked by the counter from escaping.  It will hold well up to 3 days in many cases.   This method only works with thick-crusted breads – don't try it with a soft crusted bread like challah.”

Member Sumit Sen sent me another great Indian cauliflower recipe a few weeks ago, which he found online and forwarded to me. It uses a lot of black pepper, which is unusual and interesting. The story to go with the recipe is fun, so if you have the time, click here to go to the source and read it. Meanwhile, here is the recipe:

'Magical Peppercorn' Cauliflower Korma
~ 1/3 C cashews
1 tsp. garlic paste or 2-3 chopped garlic cloves
1 tbsp. oil
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/4-1/2 tsp. salt
1 head of cauliflower, chopped into florets
3/4 C water or chicken or vegetable broth

Masala 1:

2 tbsp. coriander seeds
1/2-1 tsp. black peppercorns
3 tbsp. white poppy seeds

Masala 2:

1/2 tsp. fennel seeds (M.P. uses 1 tsp.)
1/2 tsp. fenugreek seeds
1 tsp. black mustard seeds

1. Dry roast the cashews until they are fragrant and a few shades darker. Set aside.
2. Dry roast “Masala 1” and transfer into the coffee grinder. Grind until it forms a powder. Then add the cashews and garlic paste. Grind into a paste form. Optionally you can add a bit of water to the paste.
3. In a large skillet, heat the oil until it is sizzle-hot, then add “Masala 2.” As soon as the black mustard seeds have quit popping, add the paste and turmeric. Sauté for about 10 minutes and stir constantly so it doesn’t burn.
4. Add the cauliflower, salt and the broth or water and cook for 10-15 minutes (or until it is tender), stirring occasionally.

Speaking of cauliflower, member Celesta Birnbaum reminded me about a very interesting recipe in February’s Bon Appetit called “Cauliflower Steak.” It originally included a separate cauliflower pureé that you were supposed to serve it upon, but she thought that ‘sounded too gross’ however the idea of the steaks themselves intrigued her. She says the steaks didn’t really need a sauce, but it might be good with something herby, or with some roasted garlic or shallot kind of thing. Of the steaks themselves, she says, “I can't tell you how good they were. They completely caramelized from all this intense heat.” [You know me; I love roasted cauliflower!] Here’s the modified recipe:

Cauliflower Steaks
Bon Appetit Magazine, Feb 08; serves 2 [modified slightly; pureé option omitted]

1 head cauliflower
2 tbsp. vegetable oil plus additional for brushing
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a sharp heavy knife and starting at top center of the cauliflower head, cut two 1-inch thick slices, cutting through the stem end. [Save the rest of the head for another use.]

Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a heavy large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Brush cauliflower steaks with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add steaks to skillet and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer skillet to oven and bake cauliflower steaks until tender, about 10 minutes.

Here’s a recipe that can be used with any of the greens in this week’s box:

Sautéed greens with cannellini beans and garlic
serves 4 to 6; from an un-dated Bon Appetit clipping, slightly modified.

The recipe says, “A great side dish, but also a nice vegetarian dinner when made with vegetable broth and served over rice.”

5 tbsp. olive oil
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced [or more, if using green garlic!]
¼ tsp. dried crushed red pepper
1 large bunch of greens (such as spinach, mustard greens, kale, or broccoli rabe [or collards or chard]; about 1 lb.)
1 C (or more) vegetable or chicken broth
1 15-ounce can cannellini (white kidney beans), rinsed, drained
1 tsp. (or more) Sherry wine vinegar

Depending on which greens you use, remove stems [kale, collards, chard] or not [spinach, mustard greens, broccoli rabe].

Heat 4 tbsp. oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and dried crushed pepper; stir until garlic is pale golden, about 1 minute. Add greens by large handfuls; stir just until beginning to wilt before adding more, tossing with tongs to coat with oil. [This sounds a lot like my sautéed spinach recipe, above!] Add 1 C of roth, cover, and simmer until greens are just tender, adding more broth by tablespoonfuls if dry, 1 to 10 minutes, depending on type of greens. Add beans; simmer uncovered until beans are heated through and liquid is almost absorbed, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1 tsp. vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, and more vinegar if desired; drizzle with additional olive oil and serve.

Lastly, every year I get questions from people about how to use radishes other than in salad. Surprisingly, they can be cooked – added to stir-frys for crunch and color – or puréed into a salad dressing, but my favorite way to eat them is still in radish sandwiches! People who’ve been members for a long time hear this from me each year, but if you’re new, and have NOT tried this yet... you definitely want to!!

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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

Mataganza Garden Sanctuary Open House and Fundraiser - Sunday June 8th, 3-8pm

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