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How a food forest grows

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How a food forest grows
This Week's Vegetable Harvest:
  • Crimini Mushrooms - from River Valley Ranch in Burlington, WI
  • Kale
  • 'Merlot' Red Beans - from Bresin Farm in Ottawa, IL
  • Cucumbers
  • Bell Peppers
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes
  • 'Yellow Doll' Watermelon - from Tipi Produce in Evansville, WI
  • Red Onions
This Week's Fruit Harvest:
  • 'Red Haven' Peaches
  • 'Canadice' Red Grapes
  • Blueberries
THANK YOU! We wanted to share a warm thank you to old friends, new friends, neighbors, CSA members and community members for joining us for our last Pizza Night of the season! It was a beautiful evening filled with the smells of wood-fired pizza, the sounds of great live music (with cicada accompaniment), and sights of farm tours and groups spending time together. With your generous donations and support, we are planning projects to benefit the farm and others. Thank you!
Farm Journal
We hosted a farm tour of our "Food Forest" on Sunday and for those that missed the tour, here's a brief update on the project (first highlighted in our mid-May newsletter).
Our Food Forest is based off of a concept to mimic natural ecosystems and nature's patterns with planted native crops. This 3 minute National Geographic video provides an nice introduction to a 25-year old Food Forest in the UK which serves as inspiration for us.
Over the course of several days this spring, our production team planted almost 400 fruit and nut trees, over 300 berry bushes and 3,000 asparagus plants to follow the natural land slope contours of our farmland. This planting was completed by hand, as our mechanical vegetable transplanting equipment is not yet adapted for these types of plants. The diversity in this planting was intentionally vast. The diversity allowed us to learn in real-time about a wide variety of native species and how they would adapt to our clay-based soils.
After being planted, the field was fenced in to protect the plants from our very active deer population. Throughout the summer months, we continued to mow back the undergrowth, weed around each and every shrub and tree, and mulch all of the plants to better retain moisture for their growth.
While some of the specifies took off with significant leaf and stem growth, others languished through the hot days of summer and windy field conditions. We continued to survey the plants weekly to watch for signs indicating stress, as well as signs that would indicate their natural tendencies (e.g., growing taller, growing outwards, etc.).

As one of our longtime mentors once told us, the best fertilizer for your fields are your boots! We take that advice to heart each and every day on the farm. Our team's consistent walking of the field and ongoing observation continued to add towards our knowledge of plants. We notice new things every time we visit field!
Here's an aerial overview of the full planting (the curved beds)
and the species within.
At this time of year, much of our attention is towards winter preparations. The food forest plants are largely native varieties that are well suited towards our Midwestern fall and winters. That said, we still keep a diligent eye on the stability and efficacy of our fencing and pest pressures on these tender plants. We are also planning for additional mowing, weeding, mulching and snow protections of tender trees. Our permaculture apprentice, Karolina, helps to prepare records and resources that we'll consider this winter as we analyze the planting and plan for our next steps for the 2020 season.
In the meantime, we also take time to enjoy being in this space. This planting not only provides us with a new and exciting challenge, but also creates as quieter space where we often hold our "field meetings" amongst the small, potential-filled trees. The field is serene and very different in its feeling from the intensity of our vegetable operation. This longer-term crop encourages us to think in longer time horizons, consider how this planting will evolve over time and dream about the positive impact these little plants will have many years down the road for us all. 
Your farmers,
Jeff, Jen, and the farm crew
Notes from the Farm Kitchen

Deep red with a white hilum, the Merlot Red Bean is two or three times the size of a standard black bean and grown by our good friends, the Breslins. They hold their shape well when cooked and are perfect for Cajun-style red beans and rice. They are perfect in recipes calling for pinto or red kidney beans, like chili, salads, or soups.

This week's red onions (and the first newsletter picture) are a part of this year's successful onion harvest! On an extremely warm early August day, we harvested thousands of pounds of shallots, yellow onions, red onions and sweet onions. While the sweet onions are fresh, the rest of the onions and shallots are now cured. The curing process involves drying the onions within our greenhouse to develop a protective outer skin that allows for months of storage in a cool, dark location.
Recipes from the Farm Kitchen

Red Bean Gingerbread - From Molly Breslin: "Sounds weird – tastes wonderful! It’s simultaneously dense and light, not too sweet. Great for folks who don’t eat gluten or much sugar."

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

To prepare the cake pan: Grease a 9″ cake pan with butter, then line pan with parchment or wax paper cut to fit bottom of pan. Dust with cinnamon or powdered ginger if desired.

To prepare the batter: In a blender, combine:

1 1/4 cup cooked Breslin Farms red beans along with a little of their liquid,
3 eggs,
1/2 tsp salt,
1 tsp baking powder,
1/2 tsp baking soda,
1 tsp ground ginger,
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon,
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg,
pinch of ground cloves, and
2 Tbsp brown sugar.

Blend until there are absolutely no lumps.

Separately, whip until smooth, by hand or with electric beater:

1/4 c honey,
3 Tbsp molasses, and
7 tablespoons butter. Add
2 eggs and whip until smooth.

Pour butter mixture into blender with bean mixture and blend until incorporated.

At this point, the batter should look glossy and smooth and very much like any traditional cake batter.

Pour batter into pan. Thump pan on the counter several times to smooth batter and dissipate air bubbles. Bake for about 45 minutes.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for ten minutes, invert onto a plate, and then turn over again onto a cooling rack. Allow the cake to finish cooling completely on the rack — the longer it cools, the better the texture will be. I usually cool mine overnight, and I find that the flavors of the spices meld nicely that way.

From Molly again: The cake is great on its own, but we like it with honey sweetened whipped cream just dusted with powdered sugar. My mom loves to spoon a little lemon curd on the top for a holiday treat.

Kale, Mushroom & White Bean Stew
Zucchini and Feta Fritters

Next Week's Harvest (our best guess)... cucumbers, apples, broccoli, basil, lettuce, zucchini, grapes and more!

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