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As Luck Would Have It????

This year we have committed to growing even more food on our farm than we have in the past, which precipitated a need for more help to handle the additional weeding, harvesting, more weeding etc. Like most years, I have a big appetite for planting and while I do plan, the amount of work is often deemphasized while planning. As is often the case, the work is always considerably more.

This year we were fortunate to have a gaggle of teenage boys apply and I hired them. Strong young men who would like to earn some money. The challenge is that they were still in school and could only really work on Saturdays. This all changes this week and none too soon, because the weeds are coming with all the rain we got last week and the sun we got after that!

Normally, our family and a helper try to handle most of the farming chores, but this year I decided to add some help with the increased farming we added. And it was a good thing. With the wet April and the warm May, we were forced to pack a lot of farming into a fairly small weather window. This means that there is a ton of good work for those young men and our family.

Even more providential is that about two weeks ago I twisted my knee and have been unable to farm. I went from 12,000 steps a day to 100 steps overnight and have been limping along ever since. Oh, I miss farming, but having hired those young men plus John, our full-time farm hand, things have been trucking along. I have moved more towards managing the farm and doing less “farming”.

Even though I am a lame farmer for the foreseeable future, I am a “thankful” lame farmer and have been able to focus on some other important things like spending time with my children and grandchildren. As you might imagine during this season, I would rarely stop moving from sun up to sun down. But, this year I have been practicing how to SIT! My mom will attest that I came out of the womb and never stopped moving. So, this has been a big change for me.

I have had a chance to test a hypothesis though. I have often thought that weight loss has more to do with what a person eats than exercise. I believe in exercise, but now that I am a “lame” farmer, I got to test this hypothesis out. I know that a lot of people who tend to live a more sedentary lifestyle tend to gain weight (eek!). I am happy to report that I actually lost a little weight over the last three weeks, even though my physical activity has been sharply curtailed. I didn’t eat less or differently, just continued to eat a diet rich in plants. I am looking forward to getting back to farming, but as “luck” would have it, I have a great farm crew that has stepped up!


Tristan Klesick

Your Farmer and Community Health Activist

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Update: Operation Stem the Tide of Weeds

Thankfully, school is over and a few weeders, pickers, farm hands and all around great people have some time to dedicate to working! Managing a vegetable operation around a school, sports, assemblies, life, etc. schedule keeps me hopping (much like those rabbits that seem to be everywhere!) With school removed from the equation, we can dedicate some serious attention to weeding and other farm chores.

With weather patterns changing we are able to plant a little earlier, but the crops are ready even earlier than my psyche is accustomed to. This makes it a hair harder to manage when school gets out mid-June and the farm is in full production early May. In fact, I am thinking that we should all start referring to June strawberries as May strawberries! And correspondingly, have school get out in May. 🙂 This is a little tongue-in-cheek, of course, as we can’t change our school system to the benefit of the farmers. After all, there are more people incarcerated in America than there are farmers, and the number of farmers who actually grow fruits and vegetables is considerably smaller yet.

But back in the early 80’s in south Everett, a school bus would show up and bunch of middle and high school kids would climb on and head off to the berry fields in Marysville and Mount Vernon. Once they’d finish with berries, they’d start picking pickling cucumbers. Granted that was 30+ years ago, but agriculture was still a vibrant part of our economy; enough so that hundreds of kids from Everett would load up on buses and head to the fields. Many of these kids probably had parents who had done a similar thing when they were in school. Did any of you catch that bus or work on farms when you were in high school?

Sadly, most of that work has gone the way of the dinosaurs – replaced by chemical applications and mechanization. What also happened was a large migrant force of workers replaced the kiddos and the farmers also chose to not grow those labor-intensive crops any longer. Eventually, the school buses stopped coming and good summer jobs for young people stopped as well.

Farming is hard work and growing vegetables organically is very labor intensive. If we could shift our national food policy from corn and soybeans to fruits and vegetables, that would stimulate the farm economy to hire more young people. Eating organically grown fruits and vegetables is so critically important to the health of our nation (think diabetes, cancer, hypertension, etc.) and to the local environment (think salmon, swallows, earthworms, rabbits, trees, etc.).

Farming for you, the environment, and the health of our nation.




Recipe: Garlic Scape and Swiss Chard Pesto

Ingredients: 1 bunch garlic scapes 1 bunch swiss chard, leaves only 1/4 cup raw walnuts (optional) 1/2 – 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional) Juice from half a lemon 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil Salt and pepper, to taste


1. Blanch the Swiss chard leaves in boiling water for about 30 seconds, just to remove chalky taste. Rinse under cold water and squeeze out the water.

2. Put blanched Swiss chard, garlic scapes, walnuts, crushed red pepper and lemon juice into the bowl of your food processor and process until still slightly chunky. Gradually pour olive oil in to feeder tube and continue processing until smooth.

3. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Serve tossed with your favorite gluten-free pasta, add a little of the cooking liquid from the pasta to loosen up the sauce, if you wish.

Recipe from


Know Your Produce: Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes are the beginning of what would be the garlic plant’s flower; if they’re left on the garlic plant, less energy goes towards developing the head of garlic underground. So, by harvesting these scapes, you cooks get an early taste of the garlic to come down the road, and the bulbs can keep developing.

You can use scapes just like you would garlic; their flavor is milder, so you get the nice garlic taste without some of the bite. Use them on top of pizza, in pasta, and as a replacement for garlic in most other recipes.

Store: Store garlic scapes in a plastic bag in the crisper section of your refrigerator. Store away from your fruit, because garlic is generous with its fragrance, and you may not appreciate biting into a peach and tasting…garlic. Garlic scapes will keep up to two weeks if kept in an airtight container.

Prep: Wash under cool water when ready to use.

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Time to Prune

Last year, we “top worked” some Comice pear trees in our orchard—36 to be precise. We saved 12 of these trees to pollinate the Buerre Bosc pears. I planted the orchard five years ago, but the Comice pears have not performed well and seemed unhappy in our microclimate. The Bosc pears, however, took to the microclimate like a duck takes to water. So this winter, I cut some scion wood from the Bosc pears and am going to “top work” the last 12 Comice pear trees. Last year, we grafted the Comice pears over to Conference pears and four Asian pear varieties. The picture in this article is Stephen cutting off the “nurse” limb we left to stabilize the tree from the aggressive pruning.


Top working is a term that refers to grafting a new variety onto an existing tree. In a sense, you are working on establishing a new “top” for the tree. It can save a few years in establishing a new variety  and  lots of dollars.  “Top working” makes sense if you are happy with orchard layout, irrigation tree spacing, and if the new variety is compatible with the existing root stock.

Nurse limbs are designed to allow the tree to funnel energy to the new shoots that have been grafted onto the top of the “stump.” It works well because the “nurse” limbs are lower and the tree begins to put energy into building a new top. In the following spring we come back through and select the best of the grafts and cut off the “nurse” limbs.

Grafting is the process where one variety is grafted into or onto another tree. As mentioned earlier, it can really speed up the process of getting back into fruit production by 2-3 years.  It is a relatively straitforward process, but you need to be ready to do it when the weather is right, towards the end of April. You also have to gather the scion wood in the dead of winter and store it at near freezing to keep it dormant.

Scion wood is the wood that is grafted onto the existing tree. We typically use a 4-6 inch piece of wood with 3-4 good buds (buds become the future branches). Amazingly, as the main tree adopts the grafts, they will grow 2-4 feet over the summer. And now we are selecting the best “grafts” from last year to grow the new tree.

If all things go as planned, we should see a small crop next year of Conference pears and a larger crop of Buerre Bosc pears in two years from the “top worked” trees this year.