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August

It is that funny month, where you hang onto every last drop of Summer and yet are looking forward to Fall. The mornings are cooler, but the days are still hot and smoky! A good rain would sure be appreciated by everyone across the West. I recently paused and read this great email/newsletter written by Tom Stearns from High Mowing Seeds that summed up the season better than I could. It is written for growers by a grower. I pulled out this small excerpt to share with you. (Disclaimer. I receive no financial benefit by saying this 🙂. I purchase most of my organic seed from High Mowing Organic Seeds and would encourage you to give them a try, too.)

 

In Need of Pause

August. What does it bring to mind for you? Perhaps it is harvests: long, seemingly never-ending harvests. Or maybe it is water: the drips we give our thirsty plants, or the lakes, ponds, streams and rivers in which we cool our over-heated bodies after a long day in dusty fields. Certainly, August embodies the Sunday Syndrome of summer: although the season is not yet over, we already begin to look past it to what the next has to offer. This strange, hot month offers us a respite – a needed breath of air before plunging in again for cool, abundant autumn.

I have always appreciated how the poet Helen Hunt Jackson described this month in her poem of the same name: an “interval of peace” in which “all sweet sounds cease, save hum of insects’ aimless industry.” It truly is a pause – a greatly needed one – in which our plants are finally at stasis, if only briefly, and we can at last sneak away for an afternoon or an evening to do nothing but perhaps listen to the hum of aimless insects and recharge the wellspring for the final push of summer.

Wishing you a welcome pause this month,

Tom Stearns, Owner & Founder
High Mowing Organic Seeds

 

Farmer or not, those words aptly describe what most of us are experiencing.

Our farm is at that spot, plantings have slowed, summer harvest is going strong and weeding is mostly caught up. Fall is often busier than Spring and ironically, what went into the ground as a seed in June is now coming out by the ton.  My attention is definitely on Fall crops, like making sure to pick the apples before they fall! That doesn’t always happen, but when one drops, the rest are not far behind. Corn, winter squash and pears are not far off either and then there is the last plantings of garlic, winter kale, frisée, and Radicchio’s to be planted. We will also be planting cover crops to feed the soil and protect it from the compaction of winter rains.

I am tired just thinking about it all, but at the same time I am energized to see it through to completion.

 

Tristan

For the tired farm crew.

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When Time Flies By…

When I was younger I thought I had the “tiger by the tail.” I had unlimited amounts of energy and ideas and was constantly moving and doing. But now I have a little more seasoned appreciation for life and where to invest my limited energy and unlimited ideas.

Farming is one place where an unlimited amount of energy has served me well. When Joelle and I started farming over 20 years ago, you couldn’t even “google” us and “earthlink” was our internet dial up provider.  That’s akin to shopping for school clothes at Montgomery Wards or Sears! If you are lost about now, you can “google” it and get a history lesson. 🙂

We have chosen to stay small, local and control our own deliveries. It is an important distinction that we control so much of our offerings. When your name is on the Box of Good, you want it to be as perfect as possible.

“Mr. Klesick is a passionate person” or “He cares about the big picture.” These sentiments come across my desk quite frequently. It stems from my desire to bring you the freshest and healthiest organic fruits and vegetables because the freshest and healthiest vegetables are what fuel our bodies to serve our families, friends, and communities. Eating is important as is eating the best of the best and that is what the Klesick team tries deliver to you every week.

I also believe that Americans and the world are eating less vegetables and fruit and less diversity of vegetables and fruit. Consequently, these important nutrients are missing in a majority of Americans’ diets. Sadly, they are being replaced with more shelf stable and processed foods. I firmly believe that if Klesick’s is going to be a part of the solution to America’s nutritional crisis and the host of maladies that come from eating a diet low in vegetables and fruit, our boxes of good need to have a diversity of fruits and vegetables to maximize our health.

This is no easy task because all of us have different taste buds and all of us to one extent or another have been “tricked” by our taste buds (or corporate America), to prefer sweet and salt and not the subtle taste profiles of greens or plums.

For me, I use a “crowd out” strategy to eat healthy. On my plate I “crowd out” room for the more processed foods by filling my plate with a lot of vegetables and fruit. It takes a while to get use to eating this way, but by leading with the healthier fruits and vegetables my body says, “thank you.” And this body is the tool that I get to use to serve my Lord, my family, my community and you! I want to be as healthy as I can, so I can serve others as long as I can.

Tristan

Your farmer and Community Health Advocate

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A Time to Heal

Last week was the week I decided to fix my knee. I had twisted it around Mother’s Day and had been limping along for a few months between doctor visits and what not. Finally, it became obvious that surgery or limping along for the rest of my days were my two choices. I settled for surgery and had my knee scoped and all cleaned up—hopefully for a good long time, too.

Can I state the obvious? July on the farm is not the best time to slow down and few things slow you down more than a knee surgery. Currently, the Klesick farm team is in full harvest mode, planting mode and playing mode, but I am in CONVALESCING MODE! Not for long! I am already feeling better and gaining mobility.

When to schedule a surgery? That was a surprisingly easy decision. I took the earliest date possible. Around here we say, “Why put off tomorrow, what you can do today!”

So, for the last two weeks I have been running the farm from the “seat of my pants” in a very literal way! I have an awesome team and am grateful for their help.

Frisée

This week we are featuring Frisée and all its health benefits. The Bitter Greens are so foreign to the American taste buds, but so critical to our health. Here is an excerpt from an article by mindbodygreen.com:

Imagine if you could eat something that would help your liver, act as a gentle diuretic to purify your blood, cleanse your system, assist in weight reduction, cleanse your skin, eliminate acne, improve your bowel function, prevent or lower high blood pressure, prevent anemia, lower your serum cholesterol by as much as half, eliminate or drastically reduce acid indigestion and gas buildup by cutting the heaviness of fatty foods, and, at the same time, have no negative side effects and selectively act on only what ails you. 

If I also told you that this wonder food also tasted good in salads, teas, and soups, what would you do to get your hands on this treasure? Well, thankfully you have nature on your side, providing these miracle plants in abundance during spring!

I’m talking about bitter greens. Dark and leafy, some great examples include dandelion, arugula, and kale. In addition to being vitamin-rich (like most greens), bitter greens are exceptionally beneficial for digestion. They have a bold flavor that may take some getting used to, but the health benefits are definitely worth the effort!

Cheers to your Liver’s Health!

Tristan Klesick

Your Farmer and Community Health Activist

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From Peas to Beans

I can’t remember a year when I went from picking peas to picking beans. I wish I had more of those wonderful sugar snap peas, but…they love the cool weather and July is about when they decide to call it quits. This has a been a particularly good year for leafy vegetables and peas. I am always amazed at the fortitude of plants. Their whole purpose is to reproduce and as a farmer my whole purpose is to keep harvesting so that the plant will continue to keep producing, in this case, peas.

We have picked peas 2-3x a week for the last three weeks and even though I try and stagger my plantings, they all finish up around the same time. When it comes to peas, I have learned to plant once. The challenge with that is you can lose a crop when the weather turns south or, as in this year, hit a home run!

Now we are transitioning to Beans. My hamstrings are hurting just thinking about picking them. We grow a bush type bean that concentrates the harvest over a two-week period. Beans unlike peas handle staggered plantings pretty well. I have found that the April plantings are only a week a head of the early May plantings. There are also June and July plantings of beans. Those July plantings always make me a little nervous because most of my summer help heads back to school and Soccer season starts up about the time I need to pick them. They’re planted now!

We are also in the throes of raspberries and blackberries. We pick them every day and put them in our menus. This time of year, the menu planning is a little “squirrely”! Have you ever gone to a restaurant and the menu says, “Seasonal Vegetables or Seasonal Fruit”? Around here that is how we roll. I am constantly bringing up a few more random fresh vegetables and the packing team is tweaking the menus to fit it in and get out to you.

A good example of this in action is raspberries and blackberries. The season starts with raspberries and then blackberries start a week later and then both are on at the same time and then raspberries slow down and the blackberries keep trucking which is where we are right now. So, we will plan to bring you either raspberries or blackberries depending on which is ready on a given day.

This is probably too much information, but it is a glimpse behind the curtain of a working farm. And I believe that getting you the freshest fruits and vegetables is my primary job and sometimes it works itself out like “Seasonal Vegetables or Seasonal Fruit”, but all of it is organic and good for your health!

Thank you,

 

Tristan

Farmer and Community Health Advocate

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Oh My

peas, opened pod

I feel like we are in the middle of an energetic piece of music. Every instrument is playing and playing hard and I while I can play almost every instrument, I have been relegated to the position of Maestro because of my knee injury!

I don’t relish that spot. I much prefer to be a part of the orchestra and conduct on the side. But as with most things, when your attention is divided, so is the work and so is the result. I am still working around the farm—mostly checking on what to do next, picking a few berries, monitoring the health of the crops, what needs water, what needs weeding, what is going in the ground next and when and what we will harvest in the near future.

As with most good pieces of music, the Farm season starts out slow. First, the planning, studying and selecting the vegetables: How will I modify the system this year? What works best for our farm, climate, crew? So many pieces before a single piece of dirt is plowed. As with most things, a little planning goes a long way and a lot of planning can really help.

I will say that with farming, though planning is critical, you hold onto them loosely because farming is a living system and is impacted by the weather in a very real way. As an example, last year it stopped raining June 15th and started raining September 15th. This year it didn’t rain in May and mostly rained in June. On the farm that means it has been a great year for lettuce, beets, peas, but cucumbers and tomatoes are not as happy. Of course, this year I planned for a lot of tomatoes. I still believe we will get a hot summer and my tomato crop will come.

The planning is done for the year. Now we are modifying the plan. Currently, I am weighing whether to plant a Fall crop of leaf lettuce or let the season play out. I will probably do both—some more plantings, but not as much. That’s primarily due to more warm weather, but also school starts up and fall soccer kicks in which can make it hard to find enough help to weed and harvest.

But for now, it’s all hands on deck. It is the busiest time of the season. The local crops are being harvested daily and delivered to you as fresh as possible. My poor packing crew. They almost run the other way when I roll in from the farm or neighboring farms, because they know that I will bringing something that needs to be fit into the menus, something that’s fresh, nutritious and just needed to be picked!

I love this season, but when Fall rolls around, I am more than ready for the Farm to quietly resolve and end peacefully. Although this year as your fulltime Farming Maestro I am not sure what that season will look like, I imagine that in September I will already be thinking about January’s planning of next year’s Farming season. Hopefully, with a fully functioning knee!

 

Tristan

Your Farmer and Community Health Activist

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Mobility

Thank you for all the kind comments and outpouring of care expressed over the last few weeks. The gift of movement is much more appreciated by this farmer than ever before.  Essentially, I can walk pain free, but can’t kneel or climb stairs, and while I am waiting for the MRI results, I have adapted to farming with limited mobility. 

Once I understand the problem better, I will make the best choice going forward. Initially, when my knee locked up, I went into full rest mode hoping that it would heal quickly. After a few weeks of therapy, icing and rest with very little progress, I pursued an MRI. As I was resting and learning to drive an office chair 🙂, I realized that I was able to get around better with the limited mobility. So that is what I am doing.

If you check out our Instagram or Facebook page, you are probably aware that the farming portion of our business is about to explode. We have been primarily harvesting Lettuce, but now we are going to be adding Sugar Snap peas, Chards, and Bok Choy. Beans, Raspberries, and Blackberries are close also. This is the absolute best time to be a farmer and the absolute worst time to be LAME! But here I am. 

The hardest part for me is actually thinking in advance. There is so much that has to be done now and a lot of it gets decided the day of.  Decisions like: Do we save the Kohlrabi from being swallowed by weeds or do we trellis the peas? What time should we transplant the next round of cabbages and cukes—this evening or tomorrow? Or remember that we need to direct seed the 4th planting of beans so that we will have something to harvest in August. Don’t forget to pay attention to the Garlic. It is getting close and it is beautiful.

All these things are coursing through my mind as I WALK the fields wishing I could just jump right in and do SOMETHING! But I do have a new farm crew and they are quick learners. They can discern between pig weed and chard and thornless blackberries and blackberries with thorns. These are important skills. I am learning how to manage and be less of a doer. It is not an easy transition, because I love to farm, but, it is a necessary transition as I get older.

It is comforting to know that it takes four teenagers to REPLACE me (SMILE).  Not really. We are getting way more work done than I could by myself. I am also comforted that for the two weeks I was less active, Klesick’s kept humming along.

Our team, every one of them, is incredibly talented! This has made my ultimate goal of serving you by delivering organically grown farm fresh produce that moves the needle on your personal health uninterrupted.

 

Tristan Klesick

Your Farmer and Community Health Activist

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A Family Farm

Every farm at one time was a family farm. But along the way, farming became more business-like and less farm-like. Don’t get me wrong, farming has a bottom line and to stay in business a farm has to make a profit. What changed though? When did our food become so impersonal? It’s just lettuce, or tomatoes, or?

Just lettuce, for example, takes a year in the making. The lettuce seed farmer has to grow the lettuce plant to produce seeds, clean the seeds, and then package the seeds. Then a lettuce farmer has to buy the seeds, fertilize the fields, and plant the lettuce seeds. Then about 6-10 weeks later that farmer gets to harvest the lettuce and sell it to a thankful customer. But because our farming regions are further and further from urban centers, we are losing touch with the farming industry that is essential for life.

As a farmer I am in awe that food is so readily available and that we have so much local food available. The Puget Sound/Salish Sea area of Western WA has a robust local farm economy. We are blessed with so many smaller farms, surrounded by larger farms – dairies and berries. The whole system is interwoven and supported by tractor dealers, farm suppliers, veterinarians, food processors, etc.

To feed people you need farmers and farmers need land. Thankfully, much of Western Washington farmland is in flood plains—AKA not good places to build houses. These rich alluvial soils that are some of the most productive in the world are right here in our own backyard! This same farmland is a multi-benefit landscape providing many other benefits to our local communities. In addition to local food and food security, local farms store flood water, filter water from the hillsides and cities before it gets to the rivers and estuaries, provide open space and lots of habitat for a host of non-human critters too.

But what makes all these direct and indirect benefits of local farmland possible? A willing consumer and a willing farmer that have developed a mutually beneficial and meaningful relationship. For us, local customers are the reason we are farming. Because of you we grow food—organic, non-polluted food—that nourishes you, your family and indirectly benefits the entire local ecosystem. You might say that having local farmland farmed by local families is a win for you, the farmer and the local eco system.

 

Growing food for you,

Tristan Klesick

Your Farmer and Community Health Activist

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Weed Soon and Weed Often

I always know that I am planting at the right time of the year because everything else around me is germinating too! And oh boy, it looks like it has been a good year for the other seedlings – AKA Weeds!

As an organic farmer, I have a fairly high tolerance for weeds and weed pressure. Really weeds are just misplaced plants or in my case, just happen to germinate in mass wherever I want a crop to grow! But I have learned a few things in my 20 years of farming: better to weed early, the earlier the better.

Given my high tolerance for weed, one could say that I have built a fortune of weed seeds in my farm’s “Weed Bank.” And just to be clear, I am not talking about marijuana, although in the 1970’s the largest marijuana crop was being illegally grown across the street from my farm. Now to be fair, this was before my time and the current neighbors. But as lore goes, the illegal crop was planted in the middle of a field of cow corn.  As luck or bad luck would have it, the marijuana outgrew the corn, and someone spotted it from a helicopter. As they say, “The rest is history.”.

Not to be outdone, the Miller Road lore continues. Nissan was filming a 300zx commercial on our road. Boys and testosterone are not a good mix for the windy farm road we live on. Well anyway, the same field that grew the marijuana/corn crop had been converted to pasture and the film crew was a little nervous with the bystanders observing all the happenings. Apparently, Ferdinand the Bull didn’t care for the color of a RED sports car cruising by, so they asked the farmer kindly to put the bull in the back field.

And lest you think I am telling another yarn, there was the time that a young man with a brand-new motorcycle was drawn to the Miller Road (must have a siren call). Just as he was feeling his “oats” (farm talk for being a little too big for “yer” britches) coming out of the first corner heading into the straight stretch he met the “S” curves and laid that bike out about 60 feet into my strawberry field. Thankfully, only his pride and his bike were bruised. Even more thankfully, my daughters had finished picking the berries about 30 minutes before! Still gives me the chills just to reminisce about it.

Boys, testosterone and the Miller Road. Thankfully, the Miller Road is now a dead end and we don’t get near the bypass traffic we used to.

Oh, back to the weeds. I am talking about dandelions, thistles, chickweed, pigweed, henbit, grasses, and Lamb’s quarter. Nothing to this farmer is more beautiful than a freshly tilled and planted field and nothing is more short lived than that memory. In a week it will look like a blanket of green and purple weeds. But if you plant straight rows and start weeding early, you can knock that first flush back. But the longer you wait the harder the work. So around here we try and weed soon and weed often!

 

Tristan Klesick

Your Farmer and Community Health Activist

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From Rain to Hot

I have never direct seeded Green beans in April before. As a matter of fact, I have never seeded Green Beans at the same time as Sugar Snap Peas either. The weather pattern is shifting and after a few years of extra-wet springs followed by a heat wave, I am starting to have to adapt to this new weather pattern.  Last year really caught me off guard. This Spring we started our transplants a few weeks later than normal.

I was getting nervous that even starting 2 weeks later wouldn’t might have not been late enough. But the weather broke in our favor and we were able to empty the greenhouses and transplant thousands of romaine, green and red leaf plus seed those green beans, peas, kohlrabi, cucumbers, yellow and green zucchini, chard, bok choi, mizuna, frisĂ©e, beets and sweet corn. This week we will continue to seed more lettuces and winter squash in transplant trays, plus direct seed the list mentioned above.

What used to be a slow warm up in weather and the farming season has become a mad dash to capitalize on the soil moisture and heat. I am feeling pretty good about where we are to date. I am planting my favorite winter squash – Delicata this week. If you haven’t cooked up the Delicata from last week, get cooking, it is so good!

As a farmer and a business owner involved in the organic food world, I can assure that food doesn’t magically appear. I will grant that it is somewhat magical that wind or bees can pollinate a crop of apples or kiwi berries or cucumbers! Absolutely fascinating and magical. As an organic farmer I spend a lot of time thinking about how to enhance the biology and ecosystems on my farm to attract and keep as much wild diversity as I can to. We do everything from bird, bat and owl houses to planting beneficial flowers, to trees for birds to nest in and escape to. We plant cover crops to feed the soil food web, which in turn feeds the plants, which in turn feed us. Working with nature and its wild cohabitators is absolutely vital to a successful farm and food production system.

The solution to Americas health crisis is right here on my farm. It would be also be helpful if the other Washington would implement meaningful food policy that didn’t line the pockets of the chemical and multinational food companies. But I don’t see that shift happening soon, so it will be up to you and me to say “no” to their food and “yes” to real food and real nutrition grown on farms that respect your health and the environment.

Which is why I get up every day and source or grow and deliver the freshest organic produce I can find. Serving local families with healthy food is all we have done for the last 20 years and I don’t see any reason to change now.

 

Tristan

Your Farmer and Community Health Advocate

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From Wet Dust to Wet Flooding

In August of 2003, Joelle and I purchased our current farm. That seems like a lifetime ago! The 1892 old farmhouse was in pretty bad shape and the bank wouldn’t let us move into until we remodeled it. Having sold our home in Machias, we were stuck in that awkward state of nowhere to live. In hindsight, the bank was right. The old farm had “good bones”, but was in serious disrepair.

It was hard, but rewarding. We were finally on our own farm and everyone was pitching in, both family and friends. So much work but we found amazing treasures too. Treasures that you would never find unless you rolled up your sleeves and got to work! There was so much lathe and plaster and wall paper and more wall paper. The whole place needed to be rewired and replumbed and insulated. I remember when we were started to “attack” the lowered ceiling that was made up of acoustic tiles. As soon as we pulled out those tiles, everything stopped. We were in awe. Untouched and as beautiful as the day they were first installed 10’ up in the air was a 20’ long cedar 1” x 4” tongue and grooved bead board.

We were stuck. We knew it had to come down in order for us to do the wiring and plumbing, but we also knew that you just can’t buy that stuff anymore. I remember the moment like it was yesterday. We just stopped working in that room for a whole month! There was no way to patch it up and do all the upgrades. It had to come down, but yet it was a part of this home, its history, its craftsmanship. Eventually a plan came together. We removed the ceiling and broke boards, but we were able to save lots of good useable pieces. We repainted that beautiful rich dark green cedar bead board the same color and used it as wainscoting.

Why all this reminiscing? Well, October of 2003 was also the first year we were introduced to the Stillaguamish River and from that day on, we understood who the valley really belongs to. And this week we have our first flood watch for the season. Hopefully a nonevent, but in 2003 it was supposed to be a nonevent too but turned out to be the largest flood on record. Thankfully, technology has gotten better, and the forecasts tend to be more accurate, but that first flood, oh my! 

This month we have also been talking about Cancer and asking people to share their stories. In some ways our old farmhouse and the valley we live in serves as reminder of how precious and how fragile life is. That old farmhouse was in need of some love and care and it couldn’t do it on its own. People battling Cancer or any major disease also need love and care. They need a team filled with hope to “carry” them at times and help them win this very real fight.

At Klesick Farms we are privileged to be a part of your team. We believe in you and we want you to be healed. If you would like to share your story or the story of someone you know battling cancer, please click the link and submit a prayer request. It can be anonymous or not. We pray on Thursdays for the prayer requests we receive.

 

Your Health Advocate and Farmer,

 

Tristan