New Market Displays are a Big Success!

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This is a custom design, and my brain child. I decided I think that TABLES at farmers markets have been overdone! It takes so much effort to decorate a table, so I said, what if I built something to display our produce that didn’t need a table, and a lot of thinking, I came up with these display racks, and me and our farm crew built them! If you’re another farmer, or market vendor looking at these, I’d like to invite you to use the design. I’m not going to try to sell the plans or build them to sell. I think it’s a great idea that I’d like to offer up as a gift to other farmers if you’re interested.

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Gone Solar!!

 The new BIG solar panels!! We’re 100% SOLAR!

The new BIG solar panels!! We’re 100% SOLAR!

We installed a big (ask Paul if you want the technical details) bunch of solar panels! They’re big enough to meet 100% of our electrical needs! To power our walk in cooler, our irrigation pump, our lights, and of course the coffee machine! This is a huge step and something we can really feel proud of investing in!

 The walk in cooler next to the new washing and packing building at the field! 100% solar powered!

The walk in cooler next to the new washing and packing building at the field! 100% solar powered!

Spring Building Brings Summer Structures!

 Building the new washing, packing house in the veggie field!

Building the new washing, packing house in the veggie field!

We did a lot of building this spring! We put up two new 20’ x 40’ hoophouses. One was for our pastured chickens to have a mobile coop, and the second was to be our new washing, packaging house in the veggie field! We also built out all the nesting boxes for the mobile coop, all new shelving for the farmers markets (see another post on that), and we can’t forget the Franken-table that got built too so we had a home for the coffee cups! It was a busy, building spring!

Looking Backwards & Forwards - from 2017 to 2018.

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I love this time of year.  We get to be reflective about what has passed, and start scheming for what lays ahead.  Let me tell you, I have ideas.  Thinking time is my favorite time.  (It's a good break for my shoulders too!)

Top Picks for Awesomeness in 2017: Overall, we had an awesome year!  We were blessed up and down, and here are some of the highlights:

  • Amazing crew!  Wow - we had the best group of committed, smart, and fun folks this year! 
  • Tiny House!  We moved into our tiny house in the winter of 2017, and we've now had our 1 year anniversary of tiny living.  It's quite the upgrade from my 2016 tent!
  • Trip to Europe!  Paul & I were so lucky to travel with research cohorts from Michigan State, to France and Switzerland and learn about their farms and food systems.
  • Warm Welcome into Brookfield and Tosa Farmers Markets!  This was our first year at each of these markets, and the enthusiastic reception from these communities made every week a joy.
  • Working with amazing restaurants, including Cafe 1505 in Mequon and Simple Cafe in Milwaukee.  
  • New hoophouses!  We were able to grow a WAY LONGER season of tomatoes this summer, and now have our cool winter greens in the hoophouses.  
  • Walking tractor! Paul got the farm equipment of his dreams, a brand new BCS walking tractor.  Don't ask me to elaborate - I'll get him to write something for you tractor nerds.

Plans in the Works for 2018. *Ambition disclaimer: I can't promise we'll accomplish EVERYTHING on this list, because winter is the most optimistic of times, but this is the list of things we're working towards for 2018 or beyond.*

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  • We're saying a sad goodbye to our CSA in Fond du Lac, but our friends at Good Earth Farm and Parkridge are picking up the slack and offering great and customizable CSA options in FdL.
  • Bring back as many of those awesome folks from 2017 as possible! 
  • Consolidate our spaces - meaning, move the tiny house, chickens, and washing building to the vegetable field.  (These have been on opposite sides of the street - and commuting, even across the road, isn't ideal.)
  • Give the chickens a new house!  Details coming in another post, but yes, you should be excited too!
  • More on farm fun!  I know y'all love the farm fun, so let's get together out here!  Event schedule & details to come!
  • Keep bringing our best veggies to our great farmers markets in Brookfield, Tosa, and Fox Point!
  • New animals?!  Rabbits, on the way.  A dog, I'm hoping.  Kitten...possible.  
  • I've promised to make more funny videos, and I can't disappoint Jim Gage, so look out world!
  • Use fewer exclamation marks in my writing.   JK, LOL!!!!!!!!

Like I said, sooooo looking forward to this new year.  Like I said also, winter is sooooo too optimistic.  Oh, well!  Wish me luck.

 

 

My Favorite Holiday!

 Three Turkeys...

Three Turkeys...

Oh I can't wait!
Thanksgiving is so close I can almost taste it!  You will likely find it unsurprising that my favorite holiday is the foodiest one of the year.  Since Paul and I started dating, the main event is held at his parents house.  We, of course, are in charge of bringing the produce and the turkey.  This year, I'm so excited to have a turkey from a neighbor farmer and friend, Vanessa at Victory Garden Farm. 

In addition to being our favorite, it's also the best organized.  Paul's mom and I keep a binder of our recipes, timing, successes and failures to reflect on to improve each successive Thanksgiving.  We've learning that soaking your turkey in brine is a huge help to keep it moist.  The ginger squash is always a huge crowd favorite. And this year we need to half our stuffing recipe because last year people were too stuffed.

This is the first time in my life that I've kept records year to year of a celebration like this, and I have to say, for me it really adds something to the fun of it to be able to have such a clear recollection of the years before.  I totally recommend the Thanksgiving binder, especially if your mother-in-law will keep it at her house!

All our love,

Sara & Paul

Fall-tastic!

We LOVE this time of year!  It's our favorite foods, colorful trees, fuzzy slippers and warm woolen mittens.  And, life starts to slow down and we can look around to reflect on the season that's passed.  When I look around this year, I feel so incredibly proud of Paul.  He's an amazingly dedicated farmer with a true passion for this work.  He studies, researches, experiments, and fine-tunes our operation endlessly so that he can rest assured he's grown the best vegetables he possibly can.  We hope you can taste the dedication!  

All our love,

Sara & Paul

 The ghost of carrots past

The ghost of carrots past

A Thanks for All The Help!

  Shared Seasons Pride!    Left: Micaela & Carolyn = CSA pick up day lifesavers and total rock stars!     Right: Mel = newsletter recipe guru and S.S. test kitchen chef & Sara = person least likely to work on Thursday!

Shared Seasons Pride! 
Left: Micaela & Carolyn = CSA pick up day lifesavers and total rock stars! 

Right: Mel = newsletter recipe guru and S.S. test kitchen chef & Sara = person least likely to work on Thursday!

This year, we have had the most amazing help!  We owe a huge debt of gratitude to everyone who has supported, toiled, cooked, weeded, sold, planted, laughed, or guided us this year.

I am always overwhelmed to think about the wonderful people in our lives who lend so many helping hands.  So thank you first to our wonderful family - our parents and siblings are at the heart of everything we do, and of course we couldn't be doing anything without them.  

Thank you to our amazing workershares - who are now our family too because of the amazing years of sharing work and ourselves with each other.

Thank you to our incredible employees - you have lightened our loads and our hearts with your indomitable spirits.

Thank you to all our friends both in and outside of farming for teaching us and adding your own gifts to the farm.

Finally, thank you to all our customers, members, farmers market shoppers, chefs - when you support us, you support the community and our environment, and you are part of creating the world we want to live in together.
                                                                

Enjoy your veggies and have a great week!

Love from your farmers,
Paul & Sara

Shared Seasons Hosts Braise!

 Guests Mel and Brian...

Guests Mel and Brian...

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On Saturday, September 30, 39 delighted guests visited our farm for a tour of our fields and a delish dinner made from our veggies!  Many of you have heard of Braise, which is located in the Walkers Point neighborhood of Milwaukee - chef Dave Swanson was on hand to create an amazing 3-course meal!

It was a gorgeous evening full of fabulous food, conviviality, and a sky full of stars and a waxing gibbous moon!  It couldn't have been more lovely.
 

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Farm Funnies & Friends of Bunnies

Wanted to share some silly pictures of the week, and a sweet story about Lola Rabbit.

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We received the following email this week:

"To the farmers:

Your fabulous women at the Brookfield market provide our backyard wild bunnies with carrot tops weekly. They encouraged me to send you a picture of Lola enjoying the carrot top bounty. Thank you so much.

Best regards,
Terrie and Allen C."


 Wanting to know more we asked the fabulous women who sell for us at Brookfield, and they explained that Lola comes all the way up to their porch to eat our greens straight from Terrie and Allen's hands!  Wow!  Now that's bunny love!!

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  Tomorrow is laundry day!

Tomorrow is laundry day!

Japanese Paper Pot Transplanter

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A really fun thing happened this week, and the story all starts with one of our favorite new farm tools, the Japanese Paper Pot Transplanter!
 

Well, we buy our paper pots from a Wisconsin man, who imports them directly from Japan.  Well, two of the managers of the paper pot company wanted to tour US farms using the product, and low and behold, they wound up at our farm this weekend!  The same day, that a friend posted this video about the transplanter on my facebook page!  (Twilight Zone Theme Music Plays).   

Chicken Tales!

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Last week was too exciting, so here are last week's chicken stories.

1) Never say never!  One of our college friends was visiting the farm during our first seasons, and remarked that we should get chickens.  I replied by saying we'd never get chickens, and likely rolling my eyes.  This dear, sweet friend loves rubbing it in that we have chickens now, and sent me the pictures below:

(2014: Hey Sara, you should get chickens!!)

2) Possum Invasion!  Last week Wednesday, long story short, a possum entered the chicken coop at dusk.  Once I saw it, I started screaming my head off and expected the worst for my feather babies!  But, thankfully, it didn't harm any of the girls, and *graphic details omitted* now the possum is no longer a threat.

Do we wash the vegetables? An update!

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At many points, I've written about how much we wash the produce, mostly because that's one of my (Sara's) main duties at the farm, so I take the cleanliness of our produce seriously! (Or as seriously as I can take anything).

So, you may have noticed our peppers, eggplant, zucchini and cucumbers tend to be a bit sandy, and our basil is downright dirty!  Why?  We've started dialing down the washing on some vegetables in order to help their storage life for you.  We've found that leaving the skin unwashed and dry is actually improving the vegetables quality when it comes time to eat it.  And as for the basil, whoa, that stuff goes bad quickly enough as it is, but once it's washed, use it asap because it's going south!

So, sorry there's a little extra washing to do at home now, but it will pay off in yumminess, I know!

Also, while we do spend loving attention washing your produce, please wash and/or keep your eyes on what you're eating - it's all natural, so 100% of dirt, bugs, and grass are impossible to remove.

Enjoy your veggies and have a great week!

Love from your farmers,
Paul & Sara

  Our pepper plants are going CRAZY! In a good way.

Our pepper plants are going CRAZY! In a good way.

Feel Good About the Ecological Benefits of Buying Organically Grown!

If anyone tells you that the hippie, dippy farm you buy produce isn't changing the world, tell them that this is a good place to start!  The word is out that feeding the world though small, organic farms is possible.  Here are some things we do at our farm, that you can feel really good about!

1)  We don't use petroleum (synthetic) fertilizers.  We add nutrition to the soil with compost, manure, and planting cover crops.  Synthetic fertilizers are a problem because they often run off fields and pollute waterways.

2) We don't use any herbicides or non-organic pesticides.  We use weeding tools and our hands to get rid of unwanted plants in the field.  To manage pests, we mostly use physical barriers (row cover) to keep pests out, and occasionally use organic approved pesticides.  Again, herbicides and pesticides can pollute water. Both strong herbicides and pesticides can create resistant super weeds and super bugs that are a problem for everyone.

3) We don't use GMOs.  We'll leave the detailed debate for another newsletter article, but in the end, we feel that avoiding GMO crops is better for the environment as well as farmers and consumers.

Enjoy your veggies and have a great week!

Love from your farmers,
Paul & Sara

Week 8, it's so great!

Ok, so I can't get over how amazing our new tomato hoop houses are.  Last week was the first week tomatoes made there appearance for CSA this year.  Can you guess when the first tomato made it to CSA in our 2014 season? 

In 2014 the first tomato made it to CSA on August 20th, a full 3 weeks later than we were able to bring tomatoes this year!  And look at these babies growing:

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I hope you enjoy this time of year as much as I do, because I find these vegetables define the tastes of the season for me.  From cucumber salad to zucchini bread I know that the world around me is in the middle of a beautiful Wisconsin summer, and I like to imagine our produce going to picnics, and potlucks, and being shared with friends and neighbors.  

Did you know?  "Komatsuna", roughly translated from Japanese, means "best Shared Seasons week ever"?  True story.  :D  Either that, or BIG leafy spinach monster!  Our Japanese is soooo rusty from having never learned it.  ;)

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Why am I so tired?

It's July!  This week I looked around, let out a deep sigh, and asked the question I ask every year right around this time, "Why am I so tired?"  Then of course, I remembered, it's July!  Why would July be such a busy month for us at the farm?  It's the time when all things at the farm come together - there is still greenhouse seeding, planting, and lots of weeding in addition to all the harvest, washing, packaging, and markets.  In the spring, there's not the same demands of weeding, harvest, and markets.  In the fall, the seeding, planting, and weeding time has passed.  But now, there's everything do to!  

So, when you see me and I say I'm happy but tired, you'll understand why! :)

Enjoy your veggies and have a great week!

Love from your farmers,
Paul & Sara

Out Standing in Our Field

This photo shows our latest planting in the field, including beets, cabbage, greens, fennel, and broccoli.

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It also shows our small, moveable irrigation system.  It's a set of six sprinkler heads on poles that connect to a hose.  Since we've had so much rain, we haven't had to do much irrigation this year, but when the plants are newly planted, we have to make sure they get watered to thrive in their new home.  And did you know that our irrigation is run from the energy from solar panels!?  And that the irrigation water is from an artesian well!?  Yes, our vegetables are grown in a hippie wonderland!  :)

Enjoy your veggies and have a great week!

Love from your farmers,
Paul & Sara

 Another look at the field.

Another look at the field.