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Eating Local

We are getting so close to the local season exploding! The next few months are going to roll in like morning fog, and then heat up like hot summer day. The rain last week has hydrated the crops and added moisture to the fields. The moisture is especially helpful this time of year for 2 reasons.

The first is what you might expect, it waters the crops, and after that hot stretch, the peas and lettuce are happy for the cool weather and a drink! Plants are so amazing. When you look at a plant and study it’s leaf structure, you will notice how they have a center rib that funnels water towards the roots and/or the outer circumference of the plant. This is sometimes referred to as the drip zone. The leaves are accumulators of moisture and funnel it to where the plant needs it most.

Another interesting tidbit about leaves is that the leaves “open up” in the morning to capture the dew and then “close off” to conserve the moisture and nutrition. There is also really good evidence that the birds chirping away are one of the mechanisms that causes the plants to open up and take in the nutrition. Joelle and I have intentionally planted trees, all types, on the borders of our property to encourage a diverse ecosystem. 

Starting in the spring, and running throughout the summer, it can get really loud at sunrise with all the avian activity on our farm. I would venture that a rooster didn’t get the farmer up at the crack of dawn, it was all the wildlife singing to the plants!

Another use for moisture is to help breakdown the remaining residue from our winter crops that we plant to protect and nourish our soil. Moisture and heat are critical for the fungi and bacteria world to turn the fibrous plant material into nutrients. Which, in turn, build soil health and feed the plants. Making sure the crop is incorporated into the soil, and there is adequate moisture, speeds up the process and frees the nutrients to feed the plants. 

Feeding the soil bacteria and the other host of unseen workers is job one for an organic farmer. Without healthy soil you can’t have healthy food, and without healthy food you can’t have healthy people. If the national health trend is any indication, our nation’s soil is not producing very healthy crops. And to compound the issue, the agricultural crops are turned into a myriad of overly processed foods that are even more unhealthy.

Organically grown fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes consumed as close to their original state is the silver bullet to America’s health crisis. A simple solution, but one that eludes most.

Growing food for you.

-Tristan

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Grilled Garlic Herb Corn With Tomatoes And Walnuts

Yield: 4 Servings | Prep Time: 20 minutes | Source: www.pumpkinnspice.com

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 ears of corn, husks and silk removed
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup walnuts

Instructions:

  1. Heat grill or grill pan over medium heat.
  2. In a small bowl, combine melted butter, olive oil, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.
  3. Brush butter mixture onto each ear of corn and then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  4. Grill corn for about 5-8 minutes, rotating so that all sides are cooked.
  5. Remove from grill and allow to cool slightly. Remove corn from cob and place into a medium bowl.
  6. Add chopped tomatoes and feta cheese.
  7. Pour into a serving dish and top with walnuts.
  • Serve immediately.
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Small Things Matter

When I think about small things, I am thinking about the little decisions that can elevate a conversation to optimism or an argument. Or on the farm, getting ahead of the weather by a day or two can also have lasting impacts on the crops.

Last week, we saw temperatures climb from the low 60s to the high 70s/low 80s. This is the season where a small decision can really influence a June/July harvest. Ideal weather doesn’t exist. The weather is just what it is. Which means, as a farmer, I do my best and then move on. Farmers have an edge about them, it comes with the territory. Some crops do great, some not so great and others just don’t make it. 

Years of farming inform many decisions. A collective wisdom that has been passed down season by season and crop by crop, which means that the weather plays a big factor. But it is out of my control, and when a crop flourishes it probably has more to do with the weather than I give it credit. But the little things like depth of tillage, timely weeding, and timely watering can go long ways towards working with nature to help that crop flourish, too.

80s in May can have a lasting impact on cool weather crops, and the variability of weather can really mess with a plant’s internal clock. Cilantro is always looking for a reason to bolt or “go to seed,” as is spinach. We have chosen to focus on crops that are less temperamental like lettuces, cucumbers, tomatoes, winter squashes, and garlic. We have tree fruits and raspberries, too.

We no longer grow blackberries. We had two varieties of thorn less blackberries. One came on early; I mean a month before any wild blackberries were ready to harvest, but every bird within a few miles descended upon them and feasted away. The other challenge was that a warm March and cold April with a late frost, killed about a half of them. Their shoots for next year will be fine, but the combination of bird predation and frost susceptibility have made them less desirable to grow.

The other blackberry came on in late August and the birds had plenty of wild blackberries to feast on, but I didn’t like their flavor. They were prolific, big and juicy. I would always walk by them and look for the plumpest berries and eat one and think “meh”. Every time I always thought “meh” when I tasted them. So last fall, I took them out and took out their trellising. 

The beautiful thing about farming is that there are lots of choices when it comes to what crops to grow and every farmer gets to match the crop to their microclimate, their personality, and their temperament!

And with the weather changing, we have new opportunities to grow different crops. But the warmer weather has also come with new pests. I noticed new birds flying over the farm that are now in the valley. Changing weather patterns come with lots of new variabilities and that definitely keeps a farmer on their toes!

Growing good food for you that loves to grow in the Stillaguamish River Valley.

-Tristan

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Kale, Avocado & Cucumber Salad

Yield: 2-4 Servings | Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes | Source: www.urbancookery.com

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Water
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Lime Zest
  • 1 Tablespoon Cilantro (minced)
  • 1/3 Cup Onion (minced)
  • 3 oz Kale (de-stemmed and cut into bite-sized pieces)
  • 1 Avocado (cut into 1″ cubes)
  • 1 Cucumber (cut into half-moon shapes)


Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together your mayo, water, salt, lime juice, lime zest, Cilantro and onion. Add a little crushed black pepper.
  2. Place your de-stemmed kale in a large bowl and toss with the dressing made in step one. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to help break down the kale’s toughness.
  3. After the kale has sat for at least an hour, toss in your avocado and cucumber and serve.
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Sauteed Sugar Snap Peas With Cauliflower Rice

Yield: 4 Servings | Prep Time: 15 minutes | Source: www.chelseyamernutrition.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil or sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 lb sugar snap peas
  • 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon honey mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • Small pinch of ground ginger (optional)
  • Optional: sesame seeds to garnish


Instructions:

  1. Cut cauliflower into bite-sized florets.
  2. Place cauliflower florets into food processor and pulse until rice-like consistency forms.
  3. Steam cauliflower (you can easily do this in the microwave — cover a bowl of cauliflower rice with a damp paper towel and microwave in 1-minute increments until desired consistency is formed). Alternatively, you can sauté the cauliflower in a couple of teaspoons of oil over medium heat. Flavor with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. In a large sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat. Once your pan is hot, add garlic and sauté so the garlic does not burn.
  5. Add the snow peas and continue to sauté, constantly moving the vegetables around the pan.
  6. Once the snow peas begin to soften, add soy sauce and spices. Then add honey mustard. Sauté well so marinade is evenly distributed.
  7. Cook until vegetables are soft, but not limp. Serve over cauliflower rice. Enjoy!
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Lilac Blooms

When your world revolves around the farming calendar, some memories are forever with you. It was 1994 and I had begun my career in the produce business. That was a long time ago! During these early years, before Joelle and I started Klesick Farms, I worked in specialty produce in Portland Oregon. It was here that I met my first organic farmers. Hard working folks that were working outside from sun up to sun down and making their own deliveries, because that was their only option. 

It was inspiring! We didn’t have any land, but we did have a beautiful Purple Lilac in the front yard. It was full of blooms, and I harvested some stems and sold them to my work. Lilac blooms were my first agricultural or floral sale! And every spring since 1994 I get to pause and smell the lilac flowers and reminisce about those early days. 

Last week Joelle harvested some white lilac blooms that beautifully adorned our table. Once again, lilacs will hold a special meaning for me. Our son Andrew and his wife Abby have decided that Pittsburgh is where they want to live. I am excited for them, but sad at the same time. Andrew wasn’t born, though he was in the “oven,” when Joelle and I started Klesick Farms. Now 21 years later he and Abby are finding their way. As our families gather to say good bye, pray for them and send them off, lilacs once again signify that a change has come to the Klesick Family.  

His older brother Micah lives in Michigan, and Abby’s grandmother also lives in Michigan, which is comforting. Technology softens the move with messenger or facetime, but the sadness will persist. So far, all the grandbabies still live near us, but that too will change. Not sure when we will have all nine of our children together again, probably weddings and funerals. I do know that when we see them again, the embraces will be long and teary, much like the night before they left. Tears filled with excitement and mixed with sadness as we will now watch from a far. 

Change is hard and it is good. Now every spring when the lilacs bloom purple I will remember how Klesick Farms began and when the white lilacs bloom, I will be reminded that another Klesick is making their way in this world. 

For many of you, our lives through a box of good have been intertwined for those same two decades. And for you, too, the agricultural calendar has created many memories. Spinach and peas, raspberries and cherries, nectarines and blueberries. We have a rhythm to our menu planning, and it is heavily tied to local food. And for the next several months, Klesick Farms and my local farming neighbors will begin to share our bounty with you. Stay tuned, the box of good is going to get a lot more local!  

-Tristan

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It Never Fails

Inevitably, we end up planting our 1st, 2nd, and possibly 3rd rotation of lettuce transplants all at once. This not a big deal, it just tends to stack up a lot of lettuce at one time. Thankfully, lettuce mostly matures at the same time. “Mostly” being the operative word. 

All crops have a range of maturity, and with lettuce we will be harvesting the over achievers first and letting the laggards mature for a later harvest date. For now, I am happy to report that 2500 red leaf, green leaf, and romaine lettuce starts are in the ground. And it is a good thing, because plantings 4 and 5 are close behind!

This weekend we are also driving T-posts and stringing the peas. The same weather that tossed a wrench in our transplant schedule also impacted our ability to cultivate the peas with the tractor. In a perfect situation, we would have been able to “hill” them and smother the weeds in the row and kill a bunch of weeds outside the rows. This year there wasn’t a dry enough window to do that and so now we are going to be hand hoeing. 

It isn’t a big deal, maybe an extra 3 hours compared to 10 minutes with the tractor. On the bright side, the peas look great! They just grew beyond the point where I was comfortable tractor weeding. Those peas are off to a great start! Think mid to late June for a harvest date.

And since we are talking about peas, next week we are harvesting Pea Vines and Tendrils. I know, you are thinking “fancy.” Actually, I am thinking that the cover crop I planted last fall to protect and nurture the soil is lush and green and ready to harvest. We didn’t plan to harvest these for food, but I am now. They taste absolutely amazing. The tops of pea plants are very tender and taste surprisingly like peas. They will make a great addition to salads or stir fries. Joanna and I just graze them like Peter Rabbit or Bambi might, helping ourselves to a top here and another there as we mosey along. 

Now to be clear, while pea vines are very tasty, I am not willing to harvest Pea Vines that will become SUPER SUGAR SNAP PEAS in the near future! Nope, nada, never. So, I essentially have two different varieties of peas, Austrian Winter Peas and Sugar Snap Peas. Both produce tasty pea vines and tendrils, but the Sugar Snap Peas produce those big, plump, juicy, green peas and it would be a culinary shame to eat those vines. That being said, the Austrian Winter Peas are ready to harvest and provide a splash of local farm goodness!  

Cheers to your health!

-Tristan

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Beet Salad With Pea Shoots

Yield: 4-6 Servings | Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes | Source: www.myrecipes.com

Ingredients:

  • 5 medium red beets, unpeeled
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2-pound pea shoots, tough stems trimmed, and shoots snipped into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 bunch fresh chives, chopped (about 3 tbsp.)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 to 3 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 firm-ripe avocados, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper


Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°. Scrub beets and put in a baking pan large enough to arrange them in a single layer. Sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt. Cover with foil and roast until tender when pierced with the tip of a small, sharp knife, about 1 hour.
  2. Cool beets until cool enough to handle. Peel and cut into 1/2-in.-thick wedges.
  3. Combine pea shoots, shallot, chives, oil, lemon juice, and remaining 1/2 tsp. salt in a large bowl. Top with beets, avocados, and pepper, tossing just to coat.
  4. Make ahead: Roasted beets, up to 1 day (peel and slice just before making salad).
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Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Broccolini

Yield: 4 Servings | Source: www.myrecipes.com

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound thinly sliced peeled sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 6 ounces trimmed Broccolini

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°. Combine 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and sweet potatoes in a large bowl, tossing to coat sweet potatoes evenly. Place ­sweet potatoes on a jelly-roll pan and bake at 425° for 16 minutes. Combine 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, crushed red pepper, and Broccolini in a bowl, tossing to coat Broccolini evenly. Remove sweet potatoes from oven and stir. Arrange Broccolini on baking sheet with sweet potatoes; bake at 425° for 12 minutes or until Broccolini is crisp-tender and sweet potatoes are fork-tender
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Timely and Untimely Weather

Fitting in work here and there, we have been waiting. After such a great start to March, April showers have certainly put a damper on field work. It’s alright though, the fields were looking and feeling a little too dry for the start of the farm season. So, in many ways, I am grateful for the early start and the rainy April patch. 

And besides, if we hadn’t got the nice weather in March, I couldn’t have snuck in another unplanned planting of those tasty sugar snap peas! 

Now it is fruit blossom time. Our one cherry tree didn’t care that it was raining during blossom time, but I DID! On the brighter side, the Italian prunes have burst into full blossom, and the rain let up at the perfect time. We use Mason Bees for most of our pollination. Those little pollinators tend to work rain or shine, unlike Honey Bees. The Mason Bees do require a little more maintenance than do the other pollinators, like Bumble Bees. The Mason Bees need a water source nearby and a clayey mud puddle. With the rainy weather all of our tractor ruts serve as an excellent source of water and mud to make their nests. 

Another interesting fact about Mason Bees is that the males emerge first, and then the females a little later. And since each little nest has 5 eggs in it, it is really important that the female Mason Bee lays 2 female eggs in the back of the nest and 3 male eggs in the front. Nature is truly amazing. How does the female know that it is laying female eggs in the back and male eggs in the front? This is absolutely critical too, because the males emerge first, and if the female mason bee lays a male egg in the back of the nest it will wake up first and destroy the eggs in front of it. Now I am not an expert, but every year we see Mason Bees emerging and building nests, so something is working right. One thing for sure: no pollination, no fruit!  

Farming is a humbling and exhilarating adventure; you can do so many things right and then it can rain during pollination, and next thing you know you’re caring for trees for the whole year without a crop to harvest. Ouch. Thankfully that doesn’t happen very often, especially in our orchard. The reason that we usually have fruit to harvest is because, we haven’t “put all our eggs in one basket.” We have 3 varieties of Plums, 3 varieties of pears and 4 varieties of apples and they all bloom at slightly different times, essentially spreading out our risk over a few weeks. 

We have chosen to be small diversified fruit and vegetable farm. Focusing on a couple dozen crops that grow really well in our climate and on our farm and we grow them for you! 

-Tristan