Our week 17 share features our bounty of eggplants. We included a baba ganoush recipe in the share, but we have 2 other classic eggplant dishes that we wanted to share. The first is Yu Xiang Qie Zi - a Chinese dish that roughly translates to 'Garlic Fragrance Eggplant'. It is one of our favorites to make, and it is not difficult to make at home. It traditionally uses the long Asian-style eggplants, but eny eggplant will do if you chop it into batons. Check out the recipe here.
The second recipe is the classic Italian eggplant recipe - caponata. This dish of eggplant and tomato, seasoned with vinegar is amazing as a side dish, spread over crusty bread, or even as a main meal. Check out two variations here and here.
Dear CSA Members,
Farming often requires an inventive and improvisational outlook. We carefully plan our planting schedule, crop varieties, and production goals, and still we face uncertainty. Weather, pests, disease, and weeds can all disrupt our carefully made projections. However, one of the skills that this unpredictability fosters in your farmers is resourcefulness.
We have been fortunate this season to not face any major weather or pest related setbacks. We still like to think creatively to bring you interesting and exciting things in your shares. One way we can do this is by foraging. Our land is surrounded by forests, meadows, and many wild plants. These uncultivated trees, shrubs, brambles, and greens can provide vibrant and exciting flavors that you simply can’t find in the grocery store.
Recently we have noticed a number of mulberry trees near our vegetable fields. Some of these were planted by either our current land owner or previous farmers. Many of them are the wild and native Morus rubra, a type of mulberry used by Native Americans and early colonial settlers of this region of the US. Foraging allows us to farm in concert with the natural production of the forest, while also introducing something unique and delicious to your shares. We hope you enjoy the mulberries this week!
For the past few shares, we have also been doing a foraging of a different type. As some of you may know, Billy grew up very near to the land we are currently farming. In fact, his parents often referred to their property as ‘Crooked Fence Farm’ and that was the inspiration for our name! Since we are just down the lane from his parents, we get lots of visits and support from them.
One major way they have been helping us out is with your flower bouquets. Billy’s mother, Charlotte, is an accomplished home gardener, and has cultivated beautiful perennial flowers for many years. Since our perennial flowers are still getting established, Charlotte’s blooms have bolstered your most recent bouquets. Her peonies, roses, lilies, and more have been featured and we are so grateful to have them while our plants catch up.
Finally, we’d like to make one note about this week’s share: it may seem quite heavy on greens. The late spring/early summer growing season is often dominated by greens, and we know that can feel like too much of a good thing sometimes. We are highlighting creative greens recipes in this week’s delivery, and we’ll be posting some more ideas on the blog. And as the summer warms up, our carrots, beets, cucumbers, and squash (and more!) will be making appearances soon. Thanks for eating seasonally with us and we hope you are loving the CSA so far.
Billy, Sarah, & Chesna
Dear CSA Members,
Well, the sun has finally emerged from behind the clouds, but most of the past two weeks have been grey, cool, and rainy. One of our farming mentors once told us: “There is no average weather.” What they meant was we may have a dry June or July that averages out with our rainy May, but the farmer deals with both extremes day to day. Of course, it is the farmers lot in life to contend with and complain about the weather, but this stretch of storms has been challenging.
First and foremost the steady soaking rains make it difficult to work in the fields. Since we are farmers concerned with soil health and sustainability, we are very sensitive to erosion and compaction. Both are exacerbated by soggy conditions, especially if we need to walk in or around our beds. We’d like to stay off soft ground as much as possible, but spring is the time of so much work: planting, weeding, field preparation, and harvesting are all happening at the same time. So, we try to be strategic and work around the heaviest rains, tread lightly among our plants, and if all else fails - try to get our office work done!
Another big problem with too much rain is that weeds love it. Most farm weeds grow quickly and vigorously in the cool and wet conditions of early spring - having those conditions extend into May is tough! The delicate nature of the soil also makes it tough to use weeding implements like hoes and rakes, because these would also compact the soil, or just create some big mud balls. So, for the past week or two, all of our weeding has been by hand!
However, there is a silver lining to most clouds, and of course a cool, rainy, and moderate stretch of weather does some good things for the farm too. This weather has been ideal for some of our spring greens and lettuces, and you will see that bounty in your boxes this week. Cool weather makes for vibrant, tender, and healthy greens, which can be enjoyed raw or cooked. We like to have some dressings and sauces on hand for kale, collards, napa cabbage, and other spring salads. Green Goddess Dressing tastes wonderful on almost anything, aioli can add richness to a simple salad or sautee, and gremolata can add a nice zing.
As always, we strive to give you a diverse, delicious, and exciting box. As we move into the season, don’t hesitate to reach out with questions, suggestions, or any time of feedback. We are your farmers and we’re happy to be growing for you!
Billy, Sarah, and Chesna
Dear CSA Members,
A hearty welcome to the 2017 Crooked Fence Farm season. We are so deeply grateful that we get to share another year of our farm with you. Many of you are returning members, so welcome back! Quite a few of you are new to us this year, and we hope you have a wonderful season getting to know Crooked Fence Farm!
Spring is a season of the new and the novel, and that is certainly true for your farmers this year. So many things have changed, grown, and expanded since last season. In February, Sarah and I got married! We were fortunate to get the opportunity to have our honeymoon in Peru, and we learned so much about traditional and sustainable agriculture there. The Incan civilization had so many interesting and thoughtful techniques for harnessing water, feeding the soil, and making use of micro-climates. We hope to imbue our farming practices with some of these lessons.
Other changes that the spring has brought include some new additions on the livestock side of the farm. On April 6th and 7th our 3 California Red Sheep each had a pair of twin lambs. This instantly tripled our flock size, and now our sheep are happily grazing and cavorting out on our pastures. Look out on our Facebook page and Instagram for some seriously cute baby lamb pictures.
One final note of changes for the new season. Sarah and I were appreciative of all the kind and constructive feedback we received on the first season. We took much of it to heart, and hopefully it is reflected in what we are growing this season. We want to provide many more pantry staples, favorites like carrots, onions, potatoes, etc. and volumes of produce that work better for recipes but don’t overwhelm. We hope you’ll be pleased with what you find in your box each week.
As soon as we returned from our honeymoon, it was time for the growing season to begin. Chesna Mandl, who was a part-time farmer with us last year, has come on full time this season. We are immensely grateful for her hard work, friendship, and dedication to the farm. Our members in DC will see her most Thursdays at Big Bear Cafe.
Speaking of which - more new and exciting news: this year CSA deliveries have expanded. We are still dropping off at our original locations of Coppermine Racquet & Fitness and Parts & Labor, but we have also added Johns Hopkins Home Care and Big Bear Cafe in Washington, DC. We are so excited to have these new spots to deliver our produce to you, and we’re excited to get to know our new members at these locations.
And of course, even with the new growth and changes of spring, some things remain consistent. We want to provide you with the freshest, most delicious, and healthiest produce possible. WE are YOUR farmers - so please never hesitate to reach out with questions, suggestions, feedback, or concerns. Farming is our passion and our livelihood, and we are so lucky to do it for such a wonderful community of members. We wish you a fantastic season of produce, flowers, herbs, and other wonderful farm treats.
Billy, Sarah, & Chesna - The Crooked Fence Farm Team 2017
Well, we have made it to the end of the season! While pockets of warm weather persist, winter is in the air. We find frost on the ground most mornings, and the farm is beginning to go dormant. We are so deeply grateful that you all have joined us on this journey for our very first season growing in Maryland, as new farm owners, and growing for all of you.
Farming is an endeavor that requires humility and gratitude. You are dependent on so many things beyond your control, and reliant on the support, guidance, and trust of others. Without the love and support of our families and friends, the Collins (our landowners), you - our customers, and the broader farming and sustainable eating movement, we could not succeed. So, very simply: thank you all.
Sarah and I feel we would be remiss if we didn’t also reflect on this week’s election. Crooked Fence Farm was founded on respect for the environment, respect for all communities, respect for ourselves, and respect for our workers. Unfortunately, we believe that Donald Trump does not possess or represent any of these values and we are worried for our country under his Presidency. However, farming in an undertaking and profession rooted in hope: every winter you hope that the seeds will once again sprout in the spring, bringing new life and bounty again into the word. As we head into the quiet winter months, we have time to reflect that farming, ethical eating, and environmental preservation are anchored and supported by local community. We are encouraged and grateful to have you, our CSA members, our families, and a community of fellow farmers, and the opportunity to rely on all of them. If you are feeling discouraged or distressed by the political turmoil, remember that change, understanding, and kindness are all cultivated for the long run. We are trying to grow all of these things, in addition to delicious food, at Crooked Fence Farm, and we will always be here for those that seek those things in life.
To turn from the philosophical aspects of farming, we really hope you enjoy this week’s final, double size -- end of season box! Sarah has made some really wonderful door swags from foraged pine boughs and cones on our farm. We hope they can brighten up your home for the holiday season. Sarah’s mother, Sherry, helped us can and preserve some really delicious pepper relish in August, and now we can share it with you at the end of the season. It’s definitely spicy, but the relish has mellowed and deepened in flavor over time, we hope it reminds you of of mid-summer during the winter months. Finally, the box is stuffed with all of the delicious hearty greens and roots of the late fall season. We truly love sharing delicious food with you, and we hope you enjoy this final delivery for the year.
We have made it to week 23 of our first CSA! Next week will be our last delivery and we’ll send you off into winter with a special double box (it will be full of some unique end of season goodies)! It feels unreal that we have made it through our first growing season! The farm is very near to being mostly closed for the winter but we still have around 10 beds in production growing frost hardy greens and root vegetables for our wholesale customers. These plants are still in young stages and will not be ready to harvest for a few more weeks. The vegetables that you are getting this week and next are the last of our fully mature fall crops. We hope you love them! Happy Eating!
This is Sarah, taking a break from the fields to write the newsletter this week! Fall is truly here, and Chesna and I have been very busy bees 🐝🌱 getting the farm ready to endure the pending winter. Here’s a quick snapshot of what needs to be done before we can safely overwinter our new farm:
Clear and/or Cover: Every plant that is still left in the field but is not considered “frost hardy” (able to withstand frosty conditions and still produce delicious food) must be removed. The frost-hardy plants must be covered with a material called “remay” that helps keep the heat in.
Bed Prep: Any beds that do not have plants left in them need to be re-raised and harrowed (which is similar to rototilling). This takes quite a bit of time because we only have one tractor for all of our implements. So, it’s a single woman job 💪.
Cover Crop: Any emptied beds that are fully prepped will then have a cover crop seed directly planted into them. These crops will not be harvested for consumption, but instead will be turned back into the soil to replace the nutrients that were lost over the season.
This week we are highlighting a crop we definitely did not expect to have such an abundance of this late in the season. This favorable warm weather, combined with excellent timing in our planting and a little bit of luck means that we have lots of dill!
We hope you have been enjoying the herb component of the recent boxes, and since our dill has been so prolific, we wanted to throw a spotlight on it this week. Dill is a fascinating culinary herb with many uses and long history around the world. Botanically speaking, dill is a member of the apiaceae plant family. This makes it related to carrots, celery, cilantro, cumin, fennel, anise, and caraway among others. Obviously this is a very fragrant and delicious plant family. All these plants are all identifiable by their distinctive flower pattern - an upright spray of small flower buds that resembles a bowl or upside-down umbrella (thus, sometimes these plants are known as ‘umbels’).
Dill leave and seeds are both used in cooking and there a myriad of applications. Dill leaves are wonderful topping for fish, used in creamy soups like borscht, as the main seasoning in cured Gravlax, and of course in making the classic dill pickle. In Asian cooking, dill is often stir-fried fresh with eggs, or stuffed in dumplings or buns. Dill seeds can be used in place of caraway, toasted as a salad or omelette topping, pressed for dill oil, or they are sometimes even used in natural soap making.
The recipes in your box this week give you two interesting ways to use fresh dill: in a savory and tender biscuit, and in a delicious and earthy pasta bake. Let us know the ways you’ve been using your dill, or if you have any suggested recipes we could share. Enjoy your box this week, and happy eating!
We are now in week 20 of CSA deliveries, and it’s a wonderful time to reflect and look back on the season. The fall is a quieter time of year, days are shorter, evenings are cooler, and the pace of a hectic farming season finally starts to slow down. We’ve been deeply humbled and incredibly grateful for the season thus far, and we’re glad we have a few more weeks to share with you.
Last night, Sarah & I looked over the share pictures for the past 19 weeks. It’s amazing to look back and see the history of the season. We immediately noticed boxes that we were particularly proud of, areas where we could improve, and crops that we’ll want to add into the mix next year. For you our members, one of the joys and challenges of the CSA is not knowing exactly what will be in your box each week; for us the farmers, we fret about consistency while also struggling with production setbacks. Overall we hope that you’ve enjoyed the variety in your boxes, and we as always appreciate your patience as we continue to learn and grow.
Looking forward to the final fall weeks of the CSA, you will see a multitude of hearty greens and herbs. The recent chilly evenings (it’s been in the upper 30s out at the farm!) have snapped our greens into survival mode. They will be heavily producing sugars - a chemical response of the plant trying to go to seed before a killing frost. This means sweeter and more tender greens for you! In your herb bunches this week, you may notice some of your rosemary has tiny lavender/cornflower blue flowers blooming. This is again a response to the cold weather - trying to produce seeds before the winter. In the case of rosemary, we will grow it under row cover all winter, so it has no need to worry!
We are so grateful that you all have taken the journey to eat seasonally with us, try new things, and supported your local farmers. We look forward to these weeks of the fall harvest and sharing as much bounty with you as we can. Happy eating!
Farming can be a daunting and challenging undertaking - our work and troubles can often seem overwhelming and solitary. However, we have repeatedly seen the kindness and generosity of the farming community, both here in Maryland and while we were apprenticing in New York. When we find ourselves in a jam, other farmers are quick to lend a helping hand, loan a piece of equipment, or share a vital piece of hard-won information. This week’s box reflects the generous communal spirit of the farming community in a very specific way.
Sometime in mid-August, we realized that we were facing a crop failure in our winter squash. Weeds, bugs, molds, and the hectic pace of summer work all conspired against us to completely overtake our crops. However, we know how important these crops are to fall CSA shares - everyone enjoys a delicious roasted squash on a cool fall day. We didn’t have enough time to re-seed and replant, as squash are some of the longest growing crops in the field (up to 4 months to reach maturity for some varieties). Instead, we reached out to our farming friends for a solution.
Little Gunpowder Farm is a sustainable vegetable farm in Monkton, Maryland, approximately 20 minutes north of our farm and is a project of Civic Works. The farm managers, Christy Ottinger and Connor Horne, have similar growing practices and environmental conservation goals as us. So, we reached out to them and asked if they had any extra squash that we could supplement into our CSA. Fortunately they had a bounty of squash, and the results are in your box. This week you’ll be enjoying the classic acorn squash, wonderful for baking. Later on in October, we’ll be providing a classic miniature Halloween pumpkin, which can be used as decoration, but is also excellent for pie!
Our relationships with other farmers are always mutualistic and supportive. Little Gunpowder helped us out with squash. They have a large amount of popcorn still on the cob, but no huller. We happen to have a huller, so we were able to lend it to them so they could harvest for their CSA. Sharing tools, information, and even crops is an immediate and meaningful way that small, local farmers can bolster themselves and eachother. We are so grateful to be farming in such a community, and we hope you enjoy this week’s box with the assist from Little Gunpowder Farm!