Pruning Musings (and what we’re up to this year)

Thinning Apples

The tree says:

Years of broken branches
at your back, cut into the harvest,
knowing that even sweet juice
grows too heavy to carry.

The clipped ones ping
against the ladder steps.
Green marbles, red
marbles, underfoot.

My hand aches, wielding
the shears. Woodpeckers chatter,
circling the trunk of a plum.
Cluster after cluster, cut down to one.

This is your way too, this abundance
that requires trimming.
Let me teach you with my body
ow much can be borne.

I wrote that poem last June during apple thinning time and I’ve been thinking about it this week as I’ve been up in the apples again, pruning out branches. Both pruning and thinning used to be emotionally difficult tasks: I was worried about cutting the wrong limbs, about taking off too much fruit. Years of watching the branches grow spindly and tangled, bending, sometimes breaking under the weight of fruit clusters crowding under the darkness of too many leaves cured me of my reluctance. Now, these are simply physically difficult tasks, though a certain type of feeling work is still involved.

In “The Holistic Orchard,” Michael Phillips writes, “Pruning a tree properly (or a bramble or a fruiting branch) requires empathy. You project your mind into the buds before you and feel how additional sunshine and room to breathe will allow a chosen branch to become fruitful . . . Feel the warmth of the  sun. Stretch out into this newly freed space. Be the bud. Understanding how to prune correctly involves consciously crossing the line between species and feeling what it’s like to embrace photosynthesis.”

And so I go into the orchard with my pruning tools: nippers, loppers, folding pocket saw, branch saw. I choose my tree; I say hello; I ask what I can do to help it be strong and fruitful. I walk around the tree and feel into the answer, imagining the now-bare branches full of leaves and fruit. I read the tree’s history in the shape of its body: multiple trunks reveal neglect in formative years, circular pruning scars show where large branches were removed, stubs across the top of a branch indicate over-pruning ignited upright growth that was eventually cut back, and here, finally, fruit buds stud a limb that was allowed light and air and space. What story will this tree and I write together in the coming years? I look for places where a few cuts will open up the room we need in order to work together fruitfully. Sometimes this means removing a branch because it will allow me ladder access to the interior of the tree to thin the fruit clusters in June and to harvest in September. It used to be hard for me to make these cuts: it felt selfish to remove limbs for my convenience. Now, I realize that if I am to be an effective partner to the trees, I must meet my own needs in this partnership as well.

Why is this such a hard lesson, in the orchard and in life? It’s common sense that to be effective in my work, I need the same spaciousness the trees need; otherwise my life becomes tangled with tasks that I don’t have the energy to bring to fruition and the weight of too much responsibility leaves my body vulnerable to breakages of all kinds. I know these things. And yet despite good intentions, again and again I find my to-do list spilling into the margins of the day, taking up the time I need for sleep, for food, for relationships, for art and music, for solitude and deep dreaming. When my body and my mind are overburdened, I become reactive, my days governed by the next impending deadline instead of the joyful direction of my heart.

And so, this Spring I am walking into the orchard of my life with a different set of pruning tools. Eight years ago Harvest of Joy Farm started out with just six CSA memberships and I began work at Kalamazoo College in my role of Writing Center Director. Since then, both the farm and my responsibilities at the college have grown in wonderful ways. I am blessed that my days are filled with work that I love and people I love to work with. And I feel especially blessed by the ways that my work as a teacher and my work as a farmer have intertwined as I’ve had opportunities to host students on the farm and to invite them to forge deeper relationships with the land and the people who produce their food.

During the coming year, a group of my colleagues at the college will be drafting a proposal for a program to offer students additional opportunities to study food and farming systems through a lens of sovereignty and social justice. I’m excited to have been asked to be a part of this project, which will include academic courses and hands-on experiences working in our local community and abroad. The conversations I’ve had with students as we’ve crouched over the garden beds transplanting cabbages or thinning carrots have helped me understand how deeply disconnected most people are from the sources of their food and how little agency many have over their food choices. I hope that this program will not only help students understand our food system better, but will also build capacity for more people to grow their own food and/or to access more food that is grown locally.

I don’t yet know how much time and energy my involvement with this program is going to require and at the end of the day, too much fulfilling work is still too much work. So we are suspending our CSA for the coming year in order to make sure that the branches of my life don’t get overloaded to the breaking point. And we are also going to use this year to explore possibilities for shifting our business focus to supporting local gardeners through offering seeds, plants, and gardening classes. It’s possible that we will resume our CSA in 2020. We are also considering opening a farm stand that offers transplants and in-demand seasonal crops instead. This coming season, when we have excess produce or plants available for sale, we will simply post a notice on this blog and on our Facebook page and folks can contact us directly if they’d like to buy some.

Michael Phillips has described pruning as a type of “time travel.” In his DVD series “Holistic Orcharding,” he demonstrates thinking across the years of a tree’s life. “I’m standing here this year,” he says, “but I’m also standing here next year. I’m also standing here two, three, four years from now because I’m thinking about how the tree is going to grow, how that progression of fruiting, weighing down of the branch, a new shoot coming in and filling that space takes place . . . I as a pruner have to be thinking about what’s going on not only this year but in the years to come.” This growing season, we’ll be doing the same as we think about how to prune and shape our business so that in years to come, our lives can bear more delicious fruit in the forms of healthy food, healthy ecosystems, and healthy community relationships.

Apple tree, before and after pruning:

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Harvest Party & Potluck October 20

Join us as we celebrate and give thanks for another year of hard work and good eating!

When:  October 20, 3pm until dark. Hayride around 4pm; Potluck & bonfire around 5:30.

Where:  1141 124th Avenue, Shelbyville, MI.

Bring a dish to share. We will have paper plates and plastic-ware, but you are welcome to bring your own table service if you’d like to help us cut down on disposables.

For more information, call 616-510-4487 or email

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CSA Newsletter: Week 14, 2018

Our newsletter from Sept. 13:

Dear CSA members,

This is going to be a brief newsletter, since this morning’s harvest ran into my normal newsletter-writing time! Which is maybe just as well, since it will make me keep it together and not get too sappy over the end of the harvest season. In short, we’ve really enjoyed growing your veggies this summer and talking with most of you each week. This will be your last weekly share of the season, but we hope to keep seeing many of you out and about or even here at the farm if you’d like to stop by and play in the gardens with us this fall as we clear beds, plant cover crops, and prepare the soil for winter. We also hope to get some work done in the orchard this fall, taking down trees that are no longer productive and spreading wood chip mulch between the remaining trees to provide nutrients and a place for beneficial soil microbes to grow.

We are happy to have some freshly-pressed cider for you today! This cider is a mix of Pristine, Gala, and Honeycrisp apples and it is unpasteurized and preservative-free. That means it’s not going to keep as long as the cider you usually find in the grocery store. Because it is so perishable and we needed to press it a few days ahead of CSA distribution (because of my teaching schedule), we went ahead and put it directly in the freezer so that it will have the longest shelf life possible once you get it home. Cider keeps really well in the freezer, so if you don’t plan to drink it right away, go ahead and put it in your freezer when you get it home. If you plan to drink it this week, you’ll want to keep it in the refrigerator.

I was hoping we might have some winter squashes for you today, but when I checked them this morning, they didn’t seem like they were curing down very well. So I decided to give them a few weeks to see whether they cure or not. If they do cure down, we may have a few for you at the harvest party on October 20! Fingers crossed for that.

Instead of squash, though, you’ve got potatoes today: two types, a blue potato that is delicious baked and a fingerling that is a good roaster. This recipe from is very similar to the way we roast fingerlings, though I don’t usually slice them in half or put chives on them.

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

Ingredients: 1 pound fingerling potatoes, sliced lengthwise; 2 tablespoons olive oil,1 tablespoon minced garlic, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, black pepper, 2 teaspoon chopped chives

Preheat oven to 400°F (204ºC). Heat a large oven-proof skillet on a stovetop over medium heat. Once hot, add the olive oil. When the oil is warm, add garlic and saute until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add sliced fingerling potatoes and stir until coated with the oil. Sprinkle in salt over the potatoes and stir to combine. Transfer skillet to the center position in the oven. Cook until the potatoes are lightly golden and fork tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Season potatoes with black pepper and garnish with chives. Place roasted fingerling potatoes in a large bowl and serve hot.

With the cooler temperatures, the kale is regaining some of its lovely flavor and the red peppers are super-sweet. A friend gave me some locally made feta cheese recently and I combined all three in this recipe by replacing the spinach it calls for with kale. It turned out really good.

Spinach, Red Pepper, and Feta Quiche

Ingredients: 1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour; 1 tablespoon olive oil; 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter; 2 cups packed fresh spinach leaves; 1 tablespoon cold vegetable shortening; 2 large eggs; 1 1/2 tablespoons ice water plus additional if necessary; 1/3 cup heavy cream or milk; 1/3 cup sliced sweet pepper; 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preheat oven to 425°F. In a bowl with a pastry blender or in a small food processor blend together flour, butter, shortening, and a pinch salt until mixture resembles meal. Add water and toss until incorporated, adding additional water if necessary to form a dough. Pat dough onto bottom and one half inch up sides of a 7 1/2-inch tart pan with removable fluted rim or a 9-inch pie plate and bake shell in bottom third of oven until set and pale golden, about 7 minutes.

While shell is baking, in a large skillet sauté pepper in oil over moderately high heat, stirring, 1 minute. Add spinach and sauté, stirring, until wilted and tender, about 1 minute. Remove skillet from heat and season spinach mixture with salt and pepper. In a small bowl whisk together eggs and cream. Sprinkle feta over bottom of shell and arrange spinach mixture on top. Pour cream mixture over spinach and bake quiche on a baking sheet in middle of oven 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350°F. and bake until set, about 10 minutes.

This makes a very thin quiche—the filling will only come about halfway up your pie shell. I like a thicker quiche, so I usually increase the amount of vegetable filling that I use and I add more cheese, an extra egg, and a little more cream. Sometimes I add a sprinkling of dried tomato pieces into the vegetable mixture as well.

We hope you’ve enjoyed your shares this season. We really appreciate all of your support, encouragement, and understanding when things don’t go to plan! We love this work and all of you who make it possible.

Blessings, John & Amy

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CSA Newsletter: Week 13, 2018

Our newsletter from Sept. 6:

Dear CSA members,

Whew, summer isn’t going down without a fight, is it? I have to confess that I’m really looking forward to the cooler, less sweat-inducing temperatures of Fall! I wish all of you headed back to school either as teachers or as students smooth transitions into your Fall schedules. I started back at Kalamazoo College this week, so I’ve at least had air conditioning for parts of my days, which has been nice. John, on the other hand, has been spending extra hours in the gardens getting today’s harvest ready. I think he’s ready for some cooler temps as well.

We’ve been trying to get in an hour or two of apple picking most days this past week—the apple crop is the most abundant I’ve seen in years! The fruit is far from cosmetically perfect, but it sure is tasty and should make some nice fresh cider for you. We have an old-fashioned hand-crank cider press that we hope to get cranking soon so maybe you’ll find some cider in your shares next week. Remember that next week is your last weekly share distribution! We’d appreciate it if you brought back any plastic tubs you may have so that we can store those for next year. (We’ll have boxes and bags for you to take your produce home in.)

A few of you have asked about our honeybees, so I wanted to give you an update on the hives. You may remember that earlier this spring, we split our single honeybee colony into three colonies by moving frames of brood that had queen cells started in them into two new hives (along with nurse bees and pollen and honey for them to eat). Both new hives successfully raised a queen bee, but then for some reason, one of the new hives lost their queen mid-summer. So we currently have the original colony (which is quite large) and one new colony (which is still pretty small). We’ve held off on taking honey from the larger colony thus far because we wanted to see whether we will need to give some of their excess honey to the small colony to get them through the winter, since they may not be able to gather enough food for themselves. I’m hoping that we can check on both colonies this weekend to make a determination about whether we can pull honey this year or not.

The eggplants have been so lovely! Big thanks to Hannah for introducing me to the idea of stuffing eggplants hasselback style. I cobbled together a couple of different hasselback eggplant recipes this week to make the one below—it was really good and tasted very much like eggplant parmesan.

Hasselback Eggplant Parmesan

Ingredients: 1-2 cups John’s roasted tomato sauce (see Week 11 newsletter); 3-4 small eggplants or 1-2 larger eggplants; Olive Oil; Fresh mozzarella, sliced; Pesto; Fresh sliced tomatoes; Bread or breadcrumbs; A couple of tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese; Chopped fresh basil

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spread sauce in a baking dish. Make crosswise cuts every ¼ inch along each eggplant, slicing almost to the bottom but not all the way through. Transfer the eggplants to the baking dish and place on top of the sauce, cut side up. Gently fan them to open the cuts wider. I filled every other cut with pesto and then alternated tomato slices and mozzarella slices in the rest of the cuts. (Some recipes call for alternating pesto and mozzarella and skipping the sliced tomatoes. Other recipes call for alternating mozzarella and tomato slices in the cuts and tucking basil leaves in next to them instead of using pesto. Other recipes have thinly sliced garlic in the cuts as well. Obviously, this is a recipe that you can adapt to your liking!)

Once I stuffed the eggplant, I drizzled olive oil over it, covered the dish and baked it for about 45 minutes, until the eggplant was tender. While the eggplant baked, I made some breadcrumbs by cutting up a couple of slices of bread into ½ inch squares and toasting them in a dry sauté pan until they were a little crispy. Then I threw them in the food processor with some grated parmesan, some basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil. I pulsed the blade a few times until all of this was mixed together and coarsely chopped.

Once the eggplant was cooked, I took the cover off the baking dish, scooped a little of the sauce over the eggplant, then sprinkled the breadcrumb mixture thickly over the eggplant. Then I stuck it under the broiler for a couple of minutes until the breadcrumbs browned up and the parmesan melted. We scooped more of the sauce over the eggplant as we ate it.

While tomatoes and peppers are still in season, it’s a great time to enjoy some fresh salsa. Here’s a simple recipe from I wish we had cilantro to give you today, but that’s one crop we’ve been struggling with this year. Our early cilantro bolted quickly and our late crop had an encounter with a rabbit. This recipe is still good without the cilantro, though.

Pico de Gallo

Ingredients: 3/4 pound tomatoes (about 2 medium), seeded and finely diced (1 1/2 cups); 1/3 cup chopped cilantro; 1/4 cup finely chopped white onion; 1 small fresh jalapeño, finely chopped; 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice, or more to taste; 1/2 teaspoon fine salt, or 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Season to taste with additional chile, lime juice, and salt. Refrigerate up to one day.

Happy eating! And remember to put October 20 on your calendars for our Harvest Celebration!

Amy & John

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CSA Newsletter: Week 12, 2018

Our newsletter from August 30:

Dear CSA members,

I guess the weather decided to make up for the lack of rain earlier this season by giving us a good series of thunderstorms this week! I woke up Tuesday night to strong wind and rain and lay in bed worrying about the sweet corn blowing over and the tomatoes cracking. The sweet corn did blow over some and the tomatoes did crack some, but the corn was ready for harvest anyway and we found plenty of minimally cracked tomatoes for you as well as the split ones.

I feel so grateful for the abundance this time of year even as it is difficult to keep up with, in the garden AND in the kitchen. I guess that sort of overwhelm just comes with trying to eat seasonally in a climate in which winter limits our growing season. John has been busy stocking our freezer with tomato and roasted veggie sauces. This weekend I think we are going to make our annual batch of tomato soup for canning. I’ll share our recipe. You can reduce the quantities for making a small batch just for dinner.

Tomato Soup

Ingredients: 1/4 bushel or about 35 medium-sized tomatoes; 1/2 dozen onions, chopped; 2 stalks celery, including leaves, diced; Chopped green pepper; 1/2 cup flour; 1/2 cup butter; 1/2 cup brown sugar (I usually use less than this—the tomatoes are pretty sweet on their own); 1/8 cup salt; herbs and spices of your choice

Blanch tomatoes, then dunk in ice water to cool. Slide off skins and chop. Cook together with the other veggies for 20 minutes at a soft boil. Stir to prevent burning. While the veggies are cooking, mix together the flour, butter, sugar, and salt. Add this to the vegetables, stir, then bring to a boil. Pour into sterilized jars and seal. Process 15 minutes in a water bath canner.

We hope you enjoy the sweet corn this week—we have been jealously guarding it from the raccoons for the past month with an electric fence that we have been checking every single day! It only takes raccoons one night to wreck a perfectly good corn patch, usually the night before you planned on picking it. One pest we have not been able to eliminate from the corn is earworms. Those are the caterpillars that you’ll find inside the husk, snacking on the corn kernels and messing up the ear tips. Earworms are one reason that you don’t find a lot of organically grown sweet corn on the market. I have yet to find a good organic method of controlling them. I even tried spritzing the top of every developing ear with Bacillus thuringiensis (a bacterial toxin that only affects caterpillars) a few weeks ago hoping that they would ingest it on their way into the ear and that would kill them, but it didn’t work. The good news is that they probably haven’t damaged that much of the ear (and we are giving you lots of ears in case one or two is badly damaged). Take a knife and flick them off the cob, then break or cut off the part of the ear they were eating on, rinse it off, cook, and enjoy!

When we were in Ithaca, New York last summer, we were introduced to a slightly more decadent way to eat sweet corn, a Mexican recipe called elote. Here’s a recipe from

Elote (Mexican Corn on the Cob)

Ingredients: Olive oil or vegetable oil, for grill; 4 ears of corn, husks pulled back, washed and tied; 1/4 cup Mexican crema or mayonnaise or sour cream; 3 tablespoons crumbled cotija cheese or feta; 1 tablespoon ground Ancho chile pepper; 1 lime, cut into wedges; Handful of cilantro leaves, for garnish

Turn your grill to high heat. Brush the grates with olive oil or vegetable so the corn doesn’t stick. Place the corn on the grill, rotating them every 30 seconds or so to ensure even cooking/charring. Cook until the corn is browned and lightly charred. Transfer corn to a large serving plate. Top each cob with a tablespoon of crema, a liberal sprinkling of cotija cheese and a few pinches of Ancho chile pepper. Garnish the plate with a few wedges of lime and cilantro leaves.

If you’d like to make an Elote Salad, cut the kernels off the cob. Transfer them to a bowl. Add the Mexican crema, cotija cheese and ancho chile pepper. Toss the entire thing together and salt to taste. Feel free to adjust any of the seasonings further. If you’d like, you can finely chop the cilantro leaves and fold those in as well. Serve with lime wedges.

If you don’t want to go to the trouble of making elote but you want to try some different flavors on your corn, try making a compound butter by putting a room temperature stick of butter (or half stick if you are just one or two people) in the food processor with the herbs or spices of your choice. Think chili powder, cumin, lime, parsley, basil, cilantro—whatever flavors you like. Whirl it all together and then spread it on your hot corn or freeze the butter for using later. Or, even simpler, do what I did last night—I spread a thin layer of homemade mayonnaise (SO much better than store-bought) on my corn and then sprinkled it with some home-dried chimayo chile powder. So good.

Just a reminder that as long as the plants hold up, we will have two more weekly CSA distributions this year and then on October 20 we will host our harvest party potluck where you can come out to the farm to share in some food and fun to celebrate another season with us.

Enjoy!   Amy & John

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CSA Newsletter: Week 11, 2018

Our newsletter from August 23:

Dear CSA members,

First, I apologize for not getting a share reminder email out to you this morning. I tried several times, but for some reason, I kept getting ‘failure to send’ notices. I’m not sure why, but I’ll try to figure it out before next week.

I hope you all do remember to get your produce, because we’ve got some lovely vegetables for you! We sent melons into Kalamazoo for the pre-boxed shares last week and this week those of you picking up on the farm will get yours. Melons are such a touchy crop, with about a day (if that) between being unripe and over-ripe. We’ve been picking them every day this week and keeping them in the cooler for you. I hope yours are as good as the ones we’ve tried!

Cucumbers and zucchinis are nearing their ends and eggplants slowed way down this week too. But tomatoes are on in full force. John has been busy making cracked tomatoes into juice and sauce. Here’s his recipe for tomato sauce, which can be modified to include other vegetables like zucchinis and eggplants if you have some of those you need to use up from weeks past.

John’s Roasted Tomato Sauce

Ingredients: Tomatoes, Olive Oil

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Core and then halve tomatoes. Lay them with cut side up on an oiled cookie sheet. Bake 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the tomato. Take tray out of the oven and pour off liquid. Reserve the liquid. Flip tomatoes over and bake for another 30 minutes. Cool slightly, then run tomatoes through the food processor, adding reserved liquid to make the sauce whatever consistency you desire.

After you’ve made the basic sauce, you can add to it whatever herbs and spices you’d like. If you’ve got extra zucchinis, eggplants, or peppers languishing in your refrigerator, you can roast them up in the same way as the tomatoes (brush their tops with a little olive oil when you stick them in the oven) and then blend them up with the tomatoes to make a roasted veggie sauce with lots of flavor. You can use it fresh or freeze it for winter use. It also makes a great base for enchilada sauce if you add some garlic, chili powder, and cumin.

We struggle to grow good onions and other members of the onion family, since the onion maggot flies so often get the best of them. Red Marble Cipollinis seem to be one type of onion that isn’t so attractive to the flies and we actually managed to get a bit of a harvest off of them this year. They are a small, firm onion that is nice sliced thinly into salads. But I like them best caramelized or roasted, which brings out their sweetness.

This recipe from From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce is what I am planning to do with my cippollinis and beans this week!

Green Beans with Caramelized Onions

Ingredients: 1 lbs snap beans; 1 Tbsp butter; 1 medium onion (maybe 2 cippollinis), thinly sliced; ½ cup stock; ¾ Tbsp sugar; ½ Tbsp red wine vinegar; salt & pepper to taste.

Cook beans (boil in salt water or steam) until crisp-tender. Drain, then immerse in ice water. Drain again and let stand to dry. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in onions, cook slowly until just caramelized. Boil stock until reduced by 75%; stir in sugar and vinegar. Stir in onions. Simmer until slightly reduced. Combine onions and beans; heat through. Season to taste.

The peach jam in your shares was made by our mom, Carolyn Buskirk, with peaches from our orchard. Because the peach trees are old and we don’t have the time and equipment to adequately control the fungal diseases that peaches are so prone to in Michigan, the peaches have an even smaller “ripe but not rotten” window than the melons! Because of this, we aren’t selling or putting fresh peaches in your shares—they would start to mush by the time you got them home. Instead, mom picked a bunch of them and immediately processed them into jam for you. Isn’t she nice?

My go-to green for fresh salad this time of year is kale. A month or so ago a visiting friend told me about a trend of “massaged” kale salads, where people are rubbing dressing into the kale one leaf at a time. I suppose if you want to get really intimate with your salad before you eat it, you could do that, but here’s a faster version for massaging your kale:

Massaged Kale Salad

Ingredients: 1 bunch of kale leaves, removed from stems & torn into bite-sized bits; 1 Tbsp olive oil; 1 Tbsp lemon juice or your favorite vinegar; ½ tsp salt.

Place kale in a bowl, toss with the oil and salt. Massage the kale with your hands, roughing it up a bit in order to break down some of the tougher plant fibers. Toss in the lemon juice or vinegar. You can let the kale sit for an hour in the fridge to soften even more or top with your favorite salad toppings and eat right away.

Enjoy!   Amy & John

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CSA Newsletter: Week 10, 2018

Our newsletter from August 16:

Dear CSA members,

We scurried around yesterday to get part of the harvest done ahead of today’s predicted rain, but it looks like we might not get wet today after all. I’d just as soon we did get a storm—the plants could sure use it. The most time consuming part of harvest this week was bean-picking. I know we are giving you a lot of snap beans at once! We meant to stagger our bean crops so that they would ripen several weeks apart to stretch out the season and not overwhelm you. But our first planting of green beans didn’t germinate well, so we went ahead and inter-sowed yellow beans in the spaces where the green ones hadn’t come in. Then we ordered a different variety of green beans to make sure we’d have enough to share with everyone. Even though we planted that new variety several weeks later than the first, the heat brought it along quickly and now both plantings are in full production mode. Whenever we pick beans we think about John’s Dad, who died in 2009 and who loved to pick beans. John’s got a lovely photo of him sitting in a bean patch, smiling delightedly. So, Hal Edgerton, we dedicate this bumper bean crop to you! Wish you could be here to lend a hand in the picking.

The good news is that there are so many simple, tasty things to do with fresh snap beans. I like them just barely steamed, so that they are heated through but still crisp and bright green. A little butter or oil and salt—yum! John’s favorite way to eat snap beans is in a spicy marinated salad. Here’s his recipe:

John’s Snap Bean Salad

Ingredients: 1 lb snap beans, stems removed; 1 tsp minced ginger; 1 or more cloves garlic, minced; 4 Tbsp olive oil; 1 ½ Tbsp balsamic or red wine vinegar; 1 tsp mustard; 2 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce; 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil. Optional: chopped scallions or shallots; red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper to taste.

In a small bowl, whisk together ginger, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, mustard, tamari, and toasted sesame oil. Steam or blanch beans until just tender. Drain, then put beans in a bowl big enough to toss them in the marinade. Add marinade, toss, cover. Eat immediately or refrigerate for several hours to let the flavors mingle and soak into the beans.

I’ve been enjoying reading our CSA member Sarah Hayes’ vegan food blog,! Here’s a bean salad recipe that she posted last year that I want to try. It sounds fresh and good.

Lemon Basil Wax Beans with Chickpeas

Ingredients: 1 lb. trimmed wax beans; handful of cherry tomatoes halved; 1 cup of chickpeas (if canned, rinse well); 18 basil leaves, chopped (mine were all different sizes, use more or less depending on your basil love); 2 cloves garlic; 3 Tblsp minced red onion; 1 Tblsp lemon juice; 1 tsp olive oil; 1/2 tsp salt; 1/8 tsp pepper

Steam trimmed beans until tender. Drain. Place in bowl. Add chopped basil, tomatoes and chickpeas. Whisk remaining ingredients in small bowl. Pour over bean mixture and toss gently.

Beans are one of the very few vegetables that I like frozen. And they are super easy to freeze, so if you know you won’t be able to eat all of yours fresh, you might consider throwing a bag or two in the freezer. As with all bean recipes, the key is to not overcook them. Just barely blanch them in boiling water (1-3 minutes, so they are heated through but still crisp), then plunge them into ice water to cool. Pack them in a freezer bag, suck the air out, and throw them in the freezer to enjoy this winter!

Before the cucumbers totally disappear, I wanted to share with you one of my favorite summer salads that uses lots of things from your shares today:

Tomato, Cucumber, and Feta Salad

Ingredients: Tomato; Chopped Fresh Basil; Cucumber; Feta Cheese. Optional: Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, Salt.

Chop cucumber and tomato into bite-sized pieces. Mix together in bowl with crumbled feta cheese and basil. Eat plain or drizzle with olive oil and vinegar and salt to taste. Especially good if chilled a bit before eating.

Another popular summer salad involves mozzarella rather than feta cheese:

Caprese Salad

Ingredients: 3 tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices; 1 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices; 20 to 30 leaves (about 1 bunch) fresh basil; Olive oil, for drizzling; Coarse salt and pepper. Optional: balsamic vinegar.

Layer alternating slices of tomatoes and mozzarella, adding a basil leaf between each, on a large, shallow platter. Drizzle the salad with extra-virgin olive oil and/or balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper, to taste. I sometimes make a little less fancy version by getting those little fresh mozzarella balls and throwing them in a bowl with chopped tomatoes and basil instead of messing with the layering.

Enjoy!   Amy & John

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CSA Newsletter: Week 9, 2018

Our newsletter from August 9:

Dear CSA members,

It seems like the weather this week is trying to make up for July’s dryness! We’ve had a couple of nice rains, which we’re glad for even though they interrupted some of the work we had planned for the week. This is the time of year and kind of weather when all of those little weeds that I didn’t get around to managing a month ago are suddenly as tall as I am and going to seed. I’ll be working hard to get on top of those this week before they scatter their seeds and sow next year’s crop of weeds. We manage weeds in a few different ways. Early in the season we do some strategic tilling to knock down young weeds on the perimeters and in the paths of the larger gardens (in the smaller gardens we rarely or never use mechanical tillers). We also cultivate around crops with hoes and pull weeds by hand if they get too big for hoeing. We drop the weeds in place as mulch and let them decompose to feed the plants and we spread additional mulch in the form of old hay or straw to keep the soil moist and cool around the plants. In beds where we are finished harvesting, we sometimes use tarps to smother the remains of the plants and any weeds that have sprouted between them. After all of the plants are dead, we remove the tarps and either leave the plant residue in place as a mulch or remove and compost it, depending on what we plan to do next with that bed. Before winter settles in, we hope to have most of the garden beds cleaned up, composted, and mulched or cover cropped. Doing this soil care work this year means an easier start to next year; but it also means that we have to begin now and work steadily at it for as long as we can.

I did find some red tomatoes for you this morning! This variety is called New Girl and it is one of my favorites because it is just so darn reliable. With all of the rain we had this week, many of our ripening tomatoes are cracking pretty badly. But not the New Girls. They may not have the intense flavor of an heirloom, but they hold up under conditions that render other tomatoes useless. We do have lots of heirloom varieties planted and, if conditions hold and late blight holds off, I expect they will be ripening in a couple of weeks.

A few of you have asked about cooking eggplants, so I thought I’d share some eggplant recipes with you today. Eggplants are an interesting fruit, in part because they have been domesticated into so many different shapes, colors, sizes, and even flavors. There are tiny round eggplants, long skinny eggplants, fat teardrop shaped eggplants, purple eggplants, pink eggplants, green eggplants, sweet eggplants, and bitter eggplants. According to “The Seed Garden,” edited by Lee Buttala and Shanyn Siegel, the ancestors of eggplants are found throughout Africa and Asia. They believe that eggplant may have been domesticated twice (at least), once in India and once in China and write that in both of these regions there is evidence of people eating eggplants for at least 2,000 years. My history with eggplant is not quite that long! Eggplant was not a plant that my family grew when I was a kid, nor was it something that we ever ate. I’m not even sure any of us knew there was such a thing as an eggplant back then! I don’t remember when I had my first taste of eggplant, but I sure do like it today.

Ratatouille is my favorite summer meal. I love the flavors and textures and also how versatile it is in using up lots of late-summer veggies, including eggplant. Here’s a version of ratatouille from the Moosewood cookbooks:


Ingredients: 3 Tb olive oil; 2-4 med cloves garlic, minced; 2 cups chopped onion; bay leaf; 1 medium eggplant, peeled and cubed; 1 1/2 tsp salt; 1 1/2 tsp basil; 1 tsp marjoram or oregano; 1/2 tsp rosemary; 1/2 tsp thyme; 2 medium zucchini, cubed; 2 medium bell peppers, cut into 1-inch chunks; 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes (with juice); black pepper; fresh minced parsley (optional); sliced olives (optional); fresh parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

Heat olive oil in a deep pan. Add garlic, onion and bay leaf and saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add eggplant, salt and herbs and stir. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes until eggplant is soft. Add zucchini, bell peppers, black pepper, and tomatoes. Cover and simmer for about 10 more minutes, or until zucchini and bell peppers are tender. Top with grated parmesan cheese and/or other goodies to serve.

So that’s a guideline, but I never make ratatouille exactly the same way twice. You can easily vary the vegetable quantities and swap out the herbs to your tastes and to what you have on hand. Sometimes I use fresh tomatoes instead of canned and sometimes if I need to use up frozen tomatoes from last year, I use those. I never peel my eggplant (because I’m lazy) and I often will throw in a jalapeno pepper or some red pepper flakes for a little extra zing.

Baba Ganoush is another dish I make using eggplant that I often vary depending on my mood and what I have on hand. Here’s the general idea:

Baba Ganoush

Ingredients: Eggplant, Tahini, Garlic, Lemon Juice, Olive oil. Optional: Salt, Parsley or Cilantro, Chili Powder, Cumin, Olives, Chickpeas

Some people like a smoky flavor in their baba ganoush and so char the eggplant skins over the flame on their gas oven, under the broiler, or on the grill before roasting them. If you like smoke, do this first. If you don’t want the smoky flavor, skip it. Then, cut the eggplants in half and place cut side down on an oiled baking sheet. Roast in the oven at about 375-400 degrees F until the eggplant is soft. Cool, scrape the pulp out of the skin and place it in a blender, food processor, or bowl. Add tahini, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt to taste and blend or mash until smooth. I’d start with a couple tablespoons tahini, one garlic clove, the juice of half a lemon, and a drizzle of olive oil per eggplant and go from there. It’s not traditional, but I sometimes like to add some chickpeas too, for protein and a denser consistency. Add any of the optional stuff you like. Go nuts.

Enjoy!   Amy & John

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CSA Newsletter: Week 8, 2018

Our newsletter from August 2:

Dear CSA members,

August already! This week’s share marks the half-way point of our distribution season. We hope you’ve enjoyed the produce thus far. This morning as I was looking up recipes to go with your veggies, I stumbled on a Facebook post from a farmer friend in New York state. She shared that it has been such a tough year for them, with awful weather resulting in so many lost crops, that she is ready for the season to be over and done with. I felt so sad for her, because I too have felt that way at the beginning of August, exhausted and heartbroken that even with my best efforts, the season didn’t produce the bounty I was hoping for. Those are the Augusts when I wonder if it makes sense to plan for another season or if I should till all the gardens under and plant wildflowers.

I’m feeling very grateful that I don’t feel that way this year—at least not this week! Despite a challenging beginning to the year and those weeks of extreme heat that made everything less fun, I’ve felt a lot of satisfaction in our work this year. Of course there are crops that haven’t turned out the way we hoped they would, but I feel good about what we’ve grown and how we’ve grown it. Next Spring might seem a long time away, but we are already starting to plan and prepare by sowing cover crops and spreading mulch on beds where we have harvested out early season crops. This helps keep weeds from taking over and also gives the soil a chance to replenish itself by building up healthy microbial populations that will break down organic matter and make nutrients available to next year’s crops.

Tomatoes are starting to color up! I hold to my prediction that next week will be the first tomato harvest. I can’t wait! A few of the plants are starting to show signs of early blight, but that’s pretty normal this time of year. As long as late blight doesn’t show up, we should be good with tomatoes. The cucumber and zucchini plants are starting to look a little weary from producing so many fruits, but they still have abundance to offer you this week. A couple of you shared recipes with me for using up your over-abundance of cucumbers, so I wanted to pass those along in case other folks need some help dealing with all of the cucumbers!

From Zinta and

Cucumber Spread

Ingredients: 1 medium cucumber (peeled and cut into chunks); 3 green onions, chopped; 1 (8 Oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened; 1 tsp. worchestershire sauce; 1/8 teaspoon garlic salt

To make in the food processor: Place prepared onions in food processor. Add chopped cucumber; cover and process until coarsely chopped.  Add cream cheese, worchestershire sauce and salt. Cover and process until smooth or a little chunky. Transfer to a medium bowl and refrigerate overnight.

If preparing by hand, finely chop the cucumber and the green onions.  In a medium bowl combine cucumber, green onions, cream cheese, worchestershire sauce and salt.  Beat with an electric mixer until smooth.  Cover and refrigerate overnight for flavors to blend. Serve on a toasted bagel or crackers . . . or cucumber slices!

From Sarah and

Cucumber Salsa (Dairy Free)

Ingredients: 2 cups cucumber, peeled, deseeded and chopped; 1 jalapeño, finely chopped; 1/4 cup red onion, chopped fine; 1/4 cup vegan sour cream (recipe below); 2 Tblsp minced fresh cilantro;1 garlic clove, minced; 1 tsp lime juice; 1/4 tsp cumin; 1/4 tsp salt

Directions: Place all ingredients in bowl, stir to combine. Chill until serving.

Vegan Sour Cream Recipe

Ingredients: 1 12.3 oz package silken tofu; 2 Tbsp Lemon Juice; 1 Tblsp apple cider vinegar; 1 Tbsp green onion, finely chopped; 1 garlic clove, minced; 1 tsp salt; 1 tsp garlic powder

Directions: Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

The basil plants are starting to flower so I thought this was a good week to cut them back and fill your shares up with basil so that you can make pesto with the garlic that’s in your shares as well. Or you could try this recipe from Jennifer and

Paleo Tomato Basil and Beef Soup

Ingredients: 30 ounces Diced Tomatoes, Canned; 1 cup Coconut Milk, Canned; 1 tablespoon; Coconut Oil; 1 cup diced Onion; 3 teaspoons minced Garlic; 1 teaspoon Salt; 1 cup Chicken Broth/Stock; ¼ cups chopped Basil, Fresh; 1 ½ cups cooked Ground Beef

Add diced tomatoes and coconut milk to a blender and blend until smooth. Heat a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add coconut oil and saute onions until translucent. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Pour in tomato/coconut milk mixture, salt and chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer 10-15 minutes. Mix in fresh basil and cooked ground beef. Cook until heated through.

Enjoy!   Amy & John

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CSA Newsletter: Week 7, 2018

Our newsletter from July 26:

Dear CSA members,

What a lovely harvest morning this has been, with sunny skies and a cool breeze ruffling through the plant leaves. We had lovely weather for camping last week as well. We enjoyed four days away from the farm camping along the northern shore of Lake Michigan and exploring the dune and swale ecosystem around Big Knob State Forest Campground. What amazing resilience dune plants must possess! They get periodically drowned or buried in shifting sand, endure extreme onslaughts of wind coming off the lake, and must handle both frigid winters and beating sun in the summer. You would think such conditions wouldn’t be so hospitable to life, but we saw an incredible diversity of plants and animals, from silvery grey pitcher’s thistles to jewel-green leopard frogs to bald eagles fishing the shoreline. One of our favorite hikes found us bush-whacking up and over some low dunes, where we found a sheltered hollow full of milkweed in bloom and wild gooseberries in fruit. The milkweed plants were covered with dozens of Monarch butterflies! Some of them were brightly colored, as if they had just hatched from their cocoons. Others were duller and a bit tattered, as if they’d been cruising the beach in a stiff wind for a day or two. Several were mating and we found lots of stripe-y Monarch caterpillars snacking on the Milkweed plants as well. I don’t know if you’ve ever smelled milkweed flowers, but they are as sweet as perfume and the hollow was filled with their scent. I had never eaten a gooseberry before, so I sampled a few of the wild ones. Super yummy! I suspect gooseberry bushes are going to go on our planting “wish list” for next year!

Speaking of yummy things, we’ve got a few for you today. We came back to the farm pleased to see that it had finally rained while we were away, which helped the plants recover from the extreme heat of a couple of weeks ago. Of course, there is a flip side to everything—wet weather favors disease pathogens such as tomato early blight and downy mildew in cucumbers. I do see a few signs of downy mildew showing up in the cucumber vines, but overall the plants still look pretty darn good. Weather depending, I predict that ripe tomatoes are a couple of weeks off, but the plants have a really nice set of green fruits right now. I did notice that “someone” had left some teeth marks in a few of the lower hanging cherry tomatoes, so we’ll have to keep an eye on that.

I love these Red Norland potatoes. They are so tender and flavorful that we like them prepared really simply. Here’s one of our favorite ways to fix them:

Red Potatoes with Parsley

Ingredients: Red potatoes, Parsley, Butter or Coconut Oil. Optional: Garlic, minced.

Cut potatoes into chunks and steam or boil them. While they are cooking, chop parsley. When potatoes are tender, drain them thoroughly. Heat butter or coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. If you are using minced garlic, add that and cook briefly, then add potatoes and toss to coat. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, mix in parsley and serve. Salt & pepper to taste.

Last summer we traveled to Ithaca, New York, to visit some of John’s friends. While we were there, we ate at the famous Moosewood Restaurant. We own several of their cookbooks and often turn to them for inspiration for seasonal meals. Here are a couple of their suggestions for using your abundance of cucumbers.

Cucumbers Vinaigrette

Ingredients: 2 medium cucumbers; 1/4 c cider vinegar; 1 Tbsp sugar; 1/2 tsp salt; 2 tsp chopped fresh herbs; 2 Tbsp finely sliced scallions or chives; Ground black pepper to taste

Slice cucumbers into 1/8 or 1/4 rounds or half moons. Put in bowl with chopped scallions. Whisk together all other ingredients in a separate bowl, then pour over cucumbers and scallions. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to use.

Sichuan Noodles

Ingredients: ½ pound linguine, or soba or udon noodles; 1 cucumber seeded, peeled, seeded and sliced into thin crescents; ½ cup finely chopped scallions; Mung bean sprouts (optional)

For the peanut dressing: 1/3 cup peanut butter; 1/3 cup warm water; 2 tablespoons soy sauce; 3 tablespoons vinegar (rice, cider or white); 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil; 1 teaspoon Chinese chili paste with garlic (or substitute a minced garlic clove and cayenne pepper to taste)

To cook the linguine, bring a large covered pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare the cucumber and scallions. In a small bowl, stir together the dressing ingredients. When the water boils, cook the noodles until al dente. (If you think it’s easier to eat, break linguine in half before cooking it.) Drain the pasta and toss it with the dressing, cucumbers and scallions. Garnish with mung bean sprouts, if you wish. Serve warm or chilled. The noodles absorb the dressing over time, so if you made the noodles ahead, or are serving leftovers, taste them and stir in a little water, and maybe more vinegar, soy sauce and chili paste as needed.

Enjoy!   Amy & John

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