We finally got our maple taps in yesterday—and we’re hoping that in this year without a winter we can still expect a spring. All of our maples are Silver Maples, and we tap them only for our own family’s supply of syrup. With Sugar Maples you need forty gallons of sap to get a gallon of syrup (roughly). With Silver Maples, it’s more like sixty gallons to one. We have fifty taps in this year, but don’t be fooled: it’s a low-tech operation involving buckets, long walks through the woods and a home-made stove and sap pan in our tool-shed. However, it’s enough to provide us with almost all the sweetener we use year-round. (Then again, we don’t make dessert very often.)
It’s also Purim today. Usually this is a fun-filled family holiday, but we got a phone call on Monday from Geoffrey’s aunt that his grandpa is in the hospital and they’re not sure when he’ll be able to come home. Geoffrey’s parents flew out the following day and are going to be in Vermont visiting him at the hospital for at least a week, so we’re holding down the homestead without them. There’s definitely four people’s worth of work to do around here, so we haven’t had much chance to celebrate Purim the way I like to. I did bake a batch of hamentashen on Tuesday (for those who don’t know, hamentashen are triangular cookies filled with jam or apple butter traditional for Purim, supposed to represent the ears of Haman, from the Book of Esther. Why his ears? Who knows…). That was nice because we ended up having guests that day—our new friends Kate and Michael with Goat Back Produce brought us over five Speckled Sussex hens to add to our flock. We didn’t give the chickens any cookies, but we shared some with Kate and Michael.
In the midst of the family crisis and seasonal labors, Avodah Farm has been progressing with our growing season more-or-less on track. We’ve seeded our six types of onions and our shallots, and we’ll be seeding our herbs and leeks today. Next week it’ll be time to start the first early-season tomatoes. It seems scandalous to be planting tomatoes when the lows outside still dip into the teens, but they’ll be going in our hoop-house with the hope that they’ll bear their first fruit in mid-July, so they have to get an early start on life. The rest of the tomatoes will be coming along a little later, since most of them will be planted outside, after the last frost. We are starting these early crops in David Van Eeckhout’s greenhouse at Hog’s Back Farm (where we also mooch fast internet from time to time). We did our first farm internship ever at Hog’s Back in 2007, and we’ve worked for David on and off throughout the years since then, watching his children grow and his farm prosper. He’s been Mentor #1 for us and often helped us out over the years, and we’re grateful to continue to benefit from his support.
We’ve signed up several new CSA members, and look forward to signing up more in the weeks to come. We’ve confirmed our Eagan pickup site (hurray!) and we’re working on lining up a fourth site in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis [editor’s note: Forage Modern Workshop is confirmed as our fourth site!]. It’s been really fun being able to know who we’re growing these veggies for, and starting to get some feedback about what folks are really excited to see in their box. Our early sign-ups definitely get more opportunity to participate in our growing process than the folks who sign up once most of the seeds have already been planted—and we appreciate their support and feedback. Our members are a community—you’re the C in CSA—and the relationships we build with y’all is a large part of why we strive to provide higher quality produce than what you might find in a grocery store. We know who’s going to be eating what we grow, and we care about them and want them to enjoy what we send them—not just because they’re our customers but because they’re also our friends. This relationship component is true of most direct marketing models, but the CSA really lets it shine.
In the coming weeks as the sap runs and we start boiling it down into syrup, we’ll also be finishing our hoophouse/greenhouse, moving our earliest plantings back from Hog’s Back and seeding like crazy. Over the next month our seeds will start to grow, and so will our farm and our community of members. We welcome your comments and questions, and we would love to have you visit our farm if you’d like to volunteer or just meet us and our land, and maybe enjoy a cup of apple cider and some homemade cookies.