Week 4 (Chicago Week 2)

List of This Week’s Vegetables!

  • Early onions
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Garlic Scapes
  • Green Wave Mustard Greens
  • White Icicle Radishes and Cherry Belle Radishes
  • Turnips with Greens
  • Orange Oriole Chard
  • Broccoli OR Purple Peacock Broccoli/Kale
  • Snow Peas (mixed varieties)
  • Lettuce Mix
  • Little Bok Choi

What’s the one thing, most essential thing, we control?

Plates of fresh spring vegetables from Scotch Hill Farm – in lovely, imaginative creations – grace their tables.

You’d think Madison’s finest chefs had arranged the harvest of our hard work. Such beauty, thought and care. Is all of that really from our farm!

Yet this handiwork bears names as familiar to us as the ground we worked, the beds we formed, the plants from which this produce came. Megan, Nick, Rhonda, Callie, Karen. Forgive me if I cannot name you all. There are too many to name. 

Dela scrolls along with her Ipad, reading aloud to me your words from the Scotch Hill Subscribers’ Blog, especially, from emails, too. It is each of your voices I hear, though, mingling in my heart and mind with hers. I see your smiles, recall your laughter and pleasant conversation. My heart warms inside.

I think of every dear subscriber who has taken time to come by here, pitch in a little, enjoy this place we love, share a meal and glass or cup of something; or host a delivery point; drop us a line of thanks, appreciation, or encouragement. 

You share stories of the meals, too, special events, celebrations, holidays. We all know food – not money – is the fundamental source of life and health – or death, or ill-health. Yet it is also in its richest gifts the source of social feeling, spiritual and communal life and health.  

What you share with us, what we share together, is in this era the one thing a mass food system and all the big industrial or commercial operations cannot take away from us. It is the one thing they cannot copy, imitate or reproduce more “efficiently,” more cheaply for their own profit.

It is a relationship, a priceless, loving, nurturing relationship. 

Historic traditions of synagogue, church, temple and mosque all related – around food, over food – to people who tended plants and animals, produced crops and livestock, fishers and orchardists, farmers and herders.

From creation stories that honored life, served and protected fertile soil, humanely treated and spiritually celebrated living things, came a vocational definition of ecological identity and relationship.

In this way, I believe with all my heart that each one of you is a farmer. You honor in your community support, in your pleasurable creation and consumption of meals, this relational family, place, set of practices, organic and sustainable products.

I honor you. In our hearts I’m sure each of us here honors each of you. Thank you for being more in this relationship to Scotch Hill what our Earth desperately needs.

Tips on freshness and CSA post-harvest handling

When I’ve watched Dela year after year managing so many volunteers, neighborhood teens, part-time workers through seasonal harvests, I’ve observed how much fresher all root crops and their greens stay when they can drink long from shallow water after harvest. 

Doing this in transit with our delivery points today is extremely difficult and with present arrangements, impossible. Yet each of you can re-hydrate vegetables such as turnips and beets in a little water after you get them home.

All fresh produce needs to be obtained from delivery points as quickly as possible, and gotten home out of the heat of summer as early in the day as possible and home into processing, refrigeration or storage in your kitchen. We do the best we can with as limited help and budgets permit. We cannot thank you enough for volunteer visits. Please schedule a time or times to come visit and help. We’re already 20 percent into the delivery season. Don’t let time and good intentions slip away.


Week 3 (Chicago Week 1)

This Week’s Vegetables!

  • Plato romaine lettuce
  • Loose leaf lettuce mix
  • French breakfast radishes
  • Pink beauty radishes
  • Kohlrabi
  • Hakurai turnips
  • Nasturtiums
  • Spring onions
  • Garlic scapes
  • Bright lights chard
  • Snow peas 

Words are poor representations of the rich ways living things inform us. Vibrant, colorful leaves, stems, flowers – they’re talking to us. They tell us that a patch of ground nourished, rotated, fed, served, protected, supported – is getting what its life needs, that it is healthy.

Soil itself, by its feel, scent, texture informs us of what we’re doing right – or wrong – in the ways we farm. For a string of unusually dry, hot days in June, Scotch Hill’s ground and plants alike were telling us they needed water.

We accommodated, moving sprinklers and long stretches of hoses around to outside beds and drip tape irrigation, mostly within high tunnels.  When we dragged and drifted in after dark after all the other work we’d done in a day (and forgot to turn off the water), someone had to go out in the dark in pajamas, or we woke up to a soggy stretch of soil.

Then the wonderful series of garden rains began, and now a sudden abundance of tall weeds and grasses are speaking volumes to us about the importance of early mulching. We’ve been weeding and weeding, mulching and mulching as best we can. Maybe the tender little plants are talking to you? Can you hear them? “Jenna and Jim, Dela and Tony, Scotch Hill Farm needs volunteer helpers!”

Farmers and their crops, livestock, too, can’t avoid these conversations, these exchanges about vital needs. True conversation demands deliberate openness to information. If growers and what’s grown don’t listen to each other, there can be no health. Untimely death is a given.

Humans in general these days seem locked into one-sided information exchange. Their “discourse” often acknowledges no standard of judgment, which Wendell Berry rightly insists must be health. No priority is given to health of ecosystems and communities, to economic justice. Is that what’s making us all so concerned for the ill-health we see almost everywhere?

When a farmer, a farm couple, a farm family and their communities grow plants and raise animals together for years, generations, a wealth of knowledge amasses from “incommunicable knowledge,” from “association and experience” with living things. Berry describes this sort of information transmitted without human words in “The Way of Ignorance and other Essays,” 2005. We all live it at Scotch Hill Farm.

Fine human conversation over words in our CSA

When a person writes a newsletter weekly for decades and must share new recipes about the same vegetables, often with repeat subscribers, it gets to be as difficult as remembering to turn off the irrigation after a very long day or week at dusk.

Fortunately, our great Scotch Hill subscribers bring a bounty of great new ideas to us all for what to do in spring with so many greens.

Rhonda, a subscriber for seven years and host to our Milwaukee pick up site, knows her way around a share. She posted a photo to our Facebook page of some beautiful Asian flavor inspired lettuce wraps that incorporated the lettuce, asparagus, and radishes from her share.

Callie, who is another member and host to our Fitchburg pick up location, sent us a picture of her first CSA meal of the season: Roasted cod on turnip greens with potato, turnip, and radish hash garnished with nasturtium.

Another long-time member, Megan is the genius behind our website. She has been blogging for us on the site. Last week her post included over 20 different recipes!

For Italian recipes, you can visit the blog of member Karen Ebert. Her recipes on Condividere un Pasto use CSA share ingredients throughout the season.

We are lucky to have such a wealth of culinary creativity in our members. We hope the conversation will continue to grow. Share with us what you’re doing with your produce via Faceboook, send us an email, or better yet, bring a dish to the putluck when we kick off the season on June 27th. 

Week 2

This Week’s Vegetables

  • Nancy Butterhead Bibb Lettuce
  • Iceberg Crespino Lettuce
  • Romaine Plato II Lettuce
  • Asparagus
  • Rhubarb
  • Nastursiums (edible flowers)
  • Two Radish Varieties ( Cherry Belle and Pink Beauty or  Easteregg)
  • Arugula (spicy green)
  • Leaf Lettuce Mix
  • Leeks

Embracing change in 21st  season at Scotch Hill Farm

Each of us brings experiences and expectations to a season of growing and eating from Scotch Hill Farm.

Returning May 11 from 6 months of working in the Republic of Congo, I was struck by how much Dela, Jenna and our oldest son James had done to prepare a rich season of fresh vegetables for you. So many beautiful beds of vegetables were growing, transplanted and seeded. 

I recognized changes in myself, too, as I felt fulfilled – not usurped – in a new role I’ve begun a process of accepting. Sustaining a legacy – a healthful, organic, secure future – for this ground, this place, this food system, and its communities, its children, means eventually a handing-off to younger bodies and souls.

I’m happy to share this joy in my heart to see our adult children, James in garden and field, also Micah and Miranda with baby Charlie, working to renovate buildings into a working goat dairy. I’m happy to sense in their lives and work, with dear Jenna, now, too, the fruit of what Dela and I have ourselves learned, taught and shared from Nature and the Created world.

Our first potluck and spontaneous work event, May 17, brought 7 households from Madison, Brodhead, Chicago and Milwaukee to Scotch Hill. For one longtime subscriber, it was an exciting and rewarding first visit.

When you – our community of support – come to spend time with us, helping grow and eat wonderful food right here at its source, it feeds our souls and spirits at Scotch Hill Farm. Volunteer help each day, each week and month of this season, is absolutely essential if we are to deliver consistent varieties and quality of fresh vegetables to you this season.

When you share in person with us your stories, your thoughts, your lives, it builds and secures relationships necessary, even vital, to sustainability. We outline a calendar of farm events for you on our website each year.

Yet it is the volunteer work visits people make through the week, of a morning, afternoon or evening, that gives us a boost we need as harvest, delivery and packing vegetables is added into the production cycles of planting, transplanting, weeding and cultivating. Not all tasks here are physically demanding. Trellis applications for long rows of pole beans, cucumbers, tomatoes and peas are time-consuming, but not at all strenuous contributions that any volunteer can make.

Many crops need to be mulched with straw or prairie grass, which can save us many weeks of weeding and help keep production labor costs within our small farm’s means. There are inside tasks weekly, too, such as weighing and bagging produce on packing days. Converse with us over some tasks. Meditate and enjoy the quiet at others. Enrich your Scotch Hill Food experience with us.

I looked back through our newsletters from the 2005 11th growing season briefly before I wrote this installment to you. It brought back many memories.

We still had a child showing animals in the county fair. We were raising funds to defend rural waters and wells against concentrated animal feeding operations. We had about 75 subscribers that year, and we were feeding them without hoop houses, specialized tractors and equipment.  And one week we quoted a number of enthusiastic subscriber comments – about the food, about volunteer experiences, about what they learned from us, what they cooked and enjoyed with our produce.

This can be our experience together this year, no matter what the weather, or Nature, or climate change throw at us. Please help us make 2015 another great year.

Other ways to get the most out of our CSA

Dela reminded me this week, too, to make sure everyone of you knows to equip your kitchen with a salad spinner, colanders, paring knives and other essentials to clean, process and prepare your fresh vegetables weekly.

We keep post-harvest handling to a minimum. It can undermine the quality of delicate greens and fragile varieties to spray them off too far ahead of mealtime. It would drive up our production labor costs and your share prices, too. Please be supportive and courteous of our delivery site hosts. Patronize the business site hosts, too; they save us time finding and securing delivery points each season.  Be sure to read the newsletter. Thank you!