A CSA Update

Reader Contribution by Cam Mather
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So here it is, July 10th and I haven’t provided an update about
the CSA in this blog yet. That’s because it has CONSUMED MY LIFE!

I was kind of hoping to start deliveries during the 3rd or 4th week
of June, but because of the insane heat and early warmth, everything is way
ahead of schedule. 

I had decided to provide our CSA members with local, organically grown
strawberries from John Wise. His first strawberries were ready the first week
of June. So suddenly I was forced to start the ball rolling way earlier than
I’d anticipated. 

I must say I was apprehensive about the whole CSA thing, especially the
early weeks. I have never had the pressure of getting produce ready early for
customers. I’ve always done my best for us personally, but if something came up
that distracted me, it was no big deal. But now it was serious. Could I do it?
Would we have enough stuff those early weeks to even make a delivery

As it turned out we did! And I must say, the first week’s basket was pretty

In the first week’s box everyone got strawberries, radishes, garlic scapes,
lettuce, spinach, and a small bag of Michelle’s insanely great granola. She had
baked a huge batch of granola because we were paranoid that we wouldn’t have
enough stuff to fill the boxes in the early weeks. As it was there was plenty
in the first box but she decided to give our members a taste of granola anyway.

Last week was Week 4 and everyone got strawberries, two kinds of lettuce,
spinach, radishes, 1 pound of peas, snow peas, basil and zucchini. Michelle
encloses a list of what is in each box. She’s been providing recipes and getting
great feedback from our members. Michelle is a very organized person and she
made up labels for each box to indicate which members don’t want which items.
Since we have Full and Half Members, this allows us to make sure everyone is
getting the correct stuff.  

 I’m really happy with how it’s coming together. Michelle has been doing the
deliveries and has been getting positive feedback from our members. We decided
that since most of our members are located within our local village, it’s just
as easy for us to deliver. We’ve been able to pack everything into our Honda
Civic so far but I’m not sure how that will work later in the season when we
switch to bigger boxes as more and bulkier (i.e. corn) items are ready. 

We thought about organizing a pick-up location and asking everyone to come
and pick up their box each week. The downside to using a pick up location is
that some people won’t be able to get there early and the vegetables will have
to sit in the heat. We have had nothing but brutal heat since June. So we start
picking on Wednesday night, and then finish the picking early Thursday morning.
Everything’s washed and packed and on its way by 9 a.m., so it’s at the peak of

The kitchen looks like a produce warehouse for a couple of hours every
Thursday morning. It’s pretty cool. 

I must say the boxes look awesome all lined up ready to go. Healthy, organic
produce, delivered locally and grown sustainably. All the water has been pumped
by solar power! 

Pumping water has become one of the key ingredients to the success of our
garden. We are experiencing the drought conditions that are affecting much of
North America, and it’s a royal pain in the butt. We have no choice but to
focus on watering. While I should be focused on weeding and succession
planting, I can’t because if I don’t water, we’ll have no vegetables to
deliver. The only advantage of a drought is that it slows down weed
germination, but that is a small consolation. Weeds will always germinate and
grow, there are just fewer of them during a drought. 

We’ve had two very light rains recently which weren’t enough really to make
a difference, other than to soak the top couple of millimeters of soil where
the weed seeds are. 

Our CSA has become an infinite source of satisfaction. I’ve had a great buzz
on since that first delivery, but I’m not always sure whether that’s my
personal self-actualization or exhaustion. 

The sun is starting to light the sky by 4 a.m., and I’m usually awake by
then. By 5 the rooster is crowing and the ladies want to be let out of the
chicken coop, so I’m often in the garden by 5:30. With the brutal heat this
really is the only way to get stuff done. I stop for breakfast then get back
out to the garden for as long as I can. By noon I try to move most of my work
in to the shade to get out of the sun but with moving irrigation lines and solar
pumps, etc. etc. I still seem to spend most of the day in the sun. I almost
always wear long sleeves but my hands and forearms have never been browner. 

I’m exhausted and ready for bed by about 8 p.m., but of course the sun
doesn’t go down until after 9, which means that I might as well stay up. Oh,
and the chickens get up and go to bed with the sun, so they certainly aren’t
ready to meander into the coop until after 9 p.m. They remind me of kids out
playing on long summer nights, reluctant to come in and leave their playmates

I long for the winter. I long for those cold December days when the sun
rises late and sets early. Oh sure, I need the summer in order to grow food,
but running a CSA on our scale there aren’t enough hours in the day or calories
on my plate to accomplish what needs to be done. Michelle has been baking pies
to use up some of the raspberries and blueberries that are in the bottom of the
freezer. They are delicious and I don’t worry about working off the calories.
Bring on more pies!  

All photos by Cam & Michelle Mather.

For more information about Cam or his books please visit www.cammather.com