“Every day I see or hear something that more or less kills me with delight, that leaves me like a needle in the haystack of light.” 
― Mary Oliver

Hi Friends & Farm-ily,

Happy Winter Solstice & Happy Holidays to you all! We hope the beginning of December has treated you all well and that you all enjoyed making many delicious homemade meals in the warmth of your kitchen.

So far, the late fall and early winter weather has been fairly mild and favorable for growing winter veggies!  NOAA has been a predicting an “el nino” winter for us through next March as the sea surface temperatures continue to warm bringing warmer drier conditions for the PNW. The recent rains have improved our drought conditions though we still remain in a “severe drought” . On average our nights have been somewhere in the high 30’s/low 40’s with only a few nights in the mid-low 20’s in early December. We’ve also had a few wind storms roll through and our creek/bottom area flooded out just a little but all of this is to be expected (some years it’s been way crazier… freezing rain, snow, the Tualatin river flooding etc). It’s our 4th season growing through the winter months and it definitely helps to have all that experience under our belts as we gain confidence and are better suited to make decisions when we get an unexpected storm, cold front, flood etc.

Working outdoors in the winter has its perks 🧡💜💚💛 And the sweetest, crunchiest carrots are headed to the first week of Winter CSA! 🥕

There’s no better place to grow (in our humble opinion) during the winter months than in the Willamette Valley – our more mild oceanic/marine west coast climate is perfect for overwintering vegetables and when you pair that with a couple of farmers who love growing vegetables it’s a winning combination.  For those of you who are joining us for a winter growing season we think you are the bees knees. You understand that the winter weather is more variable than other times of the year and you have chosen to support the farm and these two farmers through the winter months. Crop losses can happen from a hard freeze, disease pressure, bugs, etc…  and many of these things will be out of your farmers control.  You invest in the farm and the farmers and we do our very best to provide you with organic seasonal produce that is sure to inspire.  We have taken measures to give the Winter CSA the best possible chance at success like building high tunnels, building a pole barn for storage, researching specialty winter hardy crops, etc… All that being said, you have gotten to know Brian and I, and our work ethic over the course of this season (and for the majority of you over several seasons) and you know we will do our very best to ensure you have food on your table all winter long!

Thank you for supporting our farm through all the seasons! We’re so thankful for the season’s bounty and for our member’s support year after year. The one thing that rings true when it comes to our produce and our farm is the assurance of knowing how and where it was grown and who grew and harvested it.  There’s accountability and trust and community. Everything we sell is grown here at Working Hands Farm.  From the field to the barn it’s only been a matter of hours before our customers pick it up.  We see a lot of different companies produce boxes popping up in our social media feed and although they do have their merits (people eating and having access to produce is important!) they don’t have what we do..  Truly knowing your farmer and knowing what farm it comes from, how it was produced, how it was harvested fresh and handled and stored and who is harvesting it. And the fact that it’s only gone a few thousand feet or less from farm to consumer! Thank you for supporting your local farm and economy! We look forward to growing for you all in 2019 and in the years ahead!

Our early Turban garlic varieties are looking good out there. Thanks @filareegarlicfarm for the awesome seed! ✨🌱

We grow better each and every year with the support, encouragement and inspiration that our CSA members bring.  It’s a mutual admiration society around here.

This time of the year that quote, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes” rings true. It’s a different kind of farming in the winter – in the summer we depend on the cooler hours of the day and in the winter we harvest and gather in the waning days with many cozy layers that keep us protected and dry.

We’ve managed to bulk harvest a lot of winter veggies and have a few more crops we plan to get in over the next few weeks (i.e. those ridiculously sweet carrots that we’ve been calling ‘candy carrots’, beets, cabbage etc). Since it’s been such a mild late fall and winter we’ve continued to harvest a lot of crops for the Winter CSA that don’t do well in the super cold (under 25*) i.e. fully mature romanesco, cauliflower, broccoli, fennel, celery which all turn into slime- from freezing and thawing- and withering away.  So that’s been pretty fun to have those crops to include in the CSA shares!  Some of the crops we grow actually taste better when they go through a freeze (turnips, carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, etc) because of all the sugar they create in order to protect themselves from freezing.  To find a balance and to protect some of the more tender crops listed above, before any cold and bitter weather hits we are keeping busy, covering crops, harvesting in bulk for storage and working extra hard to ensure that our winter CSA members have the best possible CSA experience.

We’re crossing things off the winter project list with the help of our employee Rob!  

We’ve also made some major headway on a few projects so far this month!  Rob, our part time employee is also here through the winter months for a few days a week helping out with projects and bulk harvests! While I chiseled away at the CSA Brian and Rob were able to get a few key projects done in the last few weeks: the first – cleaning out and laying weed barrier mat down in our propagation greenhouse. This is really important to help maintain and keep a sterile environment as we start all our seedlings here! Over the years we’ve had some blackberries, morning glory, thistle etc move its way in so they weeded it all and laid down the mat. It looks great in there and we can’t wait to get our first seeds of the season started in January!

Another week they took down debris leftover in a few of our high tunnels and cleared them out for winter transplants (the first crops of late winter 2019 will be coming out of here). Brian will be spreading compost in there in the coming days and tilling/prepping some seed beds for planting. They also spent HOURS covering some of our more tender crops with row cover topped with sandbags (50ft x 200ft.. you can imagine the size!) to protect the crops from the cold when we had a few nights in the 20’s. And just this past week Rob made some huge headway on organizing our tool shed. Farmer Brian helped him finish it up and get everything tucked away for the start of the new season. A little pre-Spring cleaning cleaning. Feels so good to have things reorganized!

We’ve been listening to a few of Jean Martin Fortier’s (the market gardener) workshops, ideas, plans, etc and have been re-inspired to take a fine tooth comb to our systems and start to organize things on the farm so that everything has a place and anyone could find it if they needed to (think: LEAN Manufacturing). While cleaning out the tool shed I think Rob discovered just how many little things (literally) there are in farming… all the tools, and gadgets, equipment and pieces and parts…. we’re like our very own hardware store.  There’s so much to organize and manage! We’re really looking forward to applying this concept more and more over the next year to really get things in ship shape as we welcome more aspiring young farmers to work on our crew and set it up for a successful long haul! We feel really lucky to be farmers and have a successful small farm and now we are looking forward to being a farm where others can have success and careers too!

We also invested in this little program called TEND which is organic farm management software. We’re just starting to dive in now and we’re pretty excited! Most of our information is in excel spreadsheets but this takes it to a whole new level especially for diversified farms! “Tend is an all-in-one platform that allows farmers to plan their crops, keep records, manage daily operations and track sales available on any device connected to the web.”

Winter CSA has been bountiful and delicious!  We look forward to seeing what’s ahead in the coming months!

The Winter Solstice marks the shortest day of the year! On the solstice it will be close to 8 hours & 42min (compared to the Summer Solstice with 15 hours & 41 min of daylight). It is during this darkest time of the year (when you have 10hours of daylight or less) — referred to by Eliot Coleman as the “Persephone period” — that plant growth essentially stops… we’re already getting excited for the longer days ahead!

‘Humans have long had their own way of understanding the changes in day length and its affect on agriculture. Early Greek farmers, whose practical experience added mythical stories to astronomical fact, knew intimately that the power of the sun and the length of the day are the principal influences on agriculture. They created the myth of Persephone to explain the effect of winter conditions. As the story goes, the earth goddess Demeter had a daughter, Persephone, who was abducted by Hades to live with him as his wife in the netherworld. Demeter would have nothing to do with this and threatened to shut down all plant growth. Zeus intervened and brokered a deal whereby Persephone would spend only the winter months with her husband, Hades. Demeter, saddened by her daughter’s absence, made the earth barren during that time. On our farm we refer to the period when the days are less than ten hours long as the Persephone months.’ – Eliot Coleman, The New Organic Grower

‘Rosalba’ Radicchio stealing the show out in the field and Gloucester soaking up the sun after the storm.

Aside from growing winter veggies, we’re just plugging along on the winter projects… cleaning up around the farm, planting for late winter/early spring, harvesting, organizing, building projects, packing and storing,  planning, making financial projections for next season etc.  We’re still chippin’ away at the ol’ to-do list but we’re also taking time to rest and recuperate (thanks to the growing darkness that winter brings).  As we near the holidays and the new year we’ll be spending the longer evenings inside, brainstorming and dreaming about the future and pulling out all of our inspiring seed catalogs to begin our adventure for the 2019 season!

Mark your calendars for January 1st CSA Sign Ups! January marks the beginning of our season as we open up registration for the main season CSA, order our seeds, fill the propagation greenhouse with soil amendments, and begin this exciting process all over again! We have some exciting plans and ideas to make 2019 our greatest growing season yet – so stay tuned!

Happy Holidays!  We’ll see you all in the New Year!

With regards,

Your Farmers

Jess & Brian

dirty hands, clean hearts