Wednesday, June 23, 2010

William and I would like to put out a great wave of appreciation to you, Bluebird Farm’s CSA members, for being such an important part of this farm. We like to think of you- your support and enjoyment of the farm, us, and the food when we are outside trellising the ever-growing tomatoes, picking beans, and sweating behind the hoe. This tangible connection to the food that is grown, harvested and eaten from this farm is a unique situation to have in this moment of conventional industrial agriculture. We have been receiving many thank you’s and notes of appreciation from you all. Let me tell you- we love to hear that! We also want to you to ask us questions, and give us feedback on any challenges or problems you’ve had (quantity, quality, variety, etc)

Our tomato trellises. Everything has grown so much, I guess its time for more photos

Here’s a brief excerpt from my favorite author, Barbara Kingsolver. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a passionate narrative of a year’s journey of food on her farm. “This is why we do it all again every year. It’s the visible daily growth, the marvelous and unaccountable accumulation of biomass that makes for the hallelujah of a July garden…We gardeners are right in the middle of this with our weeding and tying up, our mulching and watering our trained eyes guarding against bugs, groundhogs, and weather damage. But to be honest the plants are working harder doing all the real production. We are management; they’re labor.” I would encourage you all to read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It is a insightful, charming picture of the seasons of life and food on a farm.

Check out their website for wonderful recipes. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

Disappearing Zucchini Pasta

This recipe is from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and boy that zucchini disappears into a delicious cheesy pasta dish. The cheese and zucchini combine together to create a rich flavor. Mmm! Zucchini and squash are those vegetables that you miss when they are gone, but everyone loves to roll their eyes about. The plants can really get out of hand and over produce, but that's a good thing in the vegetable world. There are so many ways to create wonderful meals with zucchini and squash- especially the delicious heirloom varieties. They blend well with creative cooking! Just don't serve it to me plain and steamed!

Week 6

Swiss chard

Bok choy

Zucchini or Summer Squash



Large Shares only


A note on the cucumbers: The dark skinned cucumbers are sweet and delicious simply washed and sliced. However, we have discovered that the lighter skinned with whiter or yellower sections seem to have a bitter skin. Some are very mild, while others are very strong. At first we thought it was the size of the fruit, but that doesn't seem to make a difference. The good news is that peeling the cucumber makes it just as sweet as the others. Our current guess is that the bitterness is a result of the hot, hot weather we are getting.

Hooray to Bluebird Farm’s Insect Hero of the Week; Anchor Stink Bug, Pentatomidae family- our friend the beneficial Anchor Stink Bug feeds on caterpillars and beetle larvae (those squishy larvae love to suck juice from plants) Yet another great insect that would be obliterated by routine, broad spectrum synthetic insecticides that are used in conventional agriculture. The techniques used in organic agriculture help create safe habit for beneficial insects in the garden.

William Lyons and Marie Williamson
Bluebird Farm
4178 Bluebird Dr.
Morganton, NC

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Greetings from the farm,

***Some business first…Quick reminders!*** Please read the email newsletters for tips and information on caring for your veggies and cooking them. Let us know through email if you have your #1 recipes or ideas that you’ve had success with! We love community meal ideas!

Please reuse all of those plastic grocery bags and pack all your leafy greens in them before your place your veggies in the fridge. Tie them shut with a small bit of airspace around the veggie to make a humid “greenhouse”. Leafy greens like lettuce, kale, and Swiss chard should be great for 5-7 days this way.

Basil likes to be placed in a small glass of water on the counter like a bouquet. It DOES NOT like the COLD fridge very much. You may pluck leaves off and zip into a baggie with lots of air. This bag may go into the fridge with some minor cold bruising.

This week’s cucumber is the first, but I have a few notes on it! Some of the cucumbers got too big-they exploded with the rainstorm we got and developed a bitter skin! Our delicious heirloom cucumber variety, Emperor Alexander, (very thick with yellows and greens) developed a bitter skin. PEEL THOSE BABIES REALLY WELL! WOW! Without the skin, the cuke shows off its great flavor! Next week’s cuke’s will not be so bitter if I can help it.

I often say that farming has similarities to gambling. When it comes to money, neither William nor I are the gambling type, but imagine connecting the factors involved in planning, seeding, watering, weeding, biological monitoring, insect encouraging, disease prevention, harvesting, post harvest handling, all of these factors contributing to the growth of the cucumbers in your CSA box. Wow! I might call myself a garden gambler. This time those silly cukes got too big overnight! There are so many connected paths and cycles in the garden and around the farm. In the annual eating cycle, we have cycled back to summer cucumbers. My menus and eating habits change with the season and I welcome that cool, refreshing crunch after a 6 month break. In terms of garden planning, on paper, we hope to produce cucumbers until the first week of October. What actually happens goes back to so many factors and good ole chance. Here’s an interesting seasonal food fact; the common restaurant salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce doesn’t happen very easily in the garden. Tomatoes and cucumbers both love summer weather, and well, lettuce hates hot summer weather. We have started to harvest some of the last lettuce we have in the garden. Hopefully it will hold out with this sizzling hot weather.

Last week we harvested about 20 zucchini and squash. This week the zucchini, “zukes” and squash has produced enough for the CSA. Unfortunately, last week we had a tiny zuke and squash scare- We had squash vine borers, larvae that burrows into the vine’s stem and quickly kills the plants from within. I believe our remedy worked and this week is the beginning of a great harvest.

What’s in your box?

Lettuce- baby heads, lettuce will be out of season soon

Swiss chard

Tat soi- (Bok choy’s mini cousin), stir-fry the leaves whole or you may cut the leaves off of the plant and mix with lettuce for salad

Napa cabbage or Chinese cabbage, this will be out of season soon

Zucchini (straight Gold and Green varieties)

Squash, (Yellow Crookneck, round Scallopini squash)

Scallopini squash


Garlic, Fresh, strong, and flavorful! This garlic is not cured or dried, keep in a cool, dry place!


· Sauté olive oil, onions, garlic, and Swiss chard stems on medium low for about 6-8 minutes. Add squash and zucchini, sauté 4-8 minutes. Add chopped basil and chopped Swiss chard leaves the last minutes. Toss with angel hair pasta and parmesan cheese.

· Basil: Chop and add to salad dressing.

· Extra Basil?: Chop basil and throw into a freezer bag- Save for pesto or toss frozen basil into dishes at the end of cooking to add flavor through the winter.


I have a hard time following a recipe word for word. The other day I served a version of this recipe with bok choy, Muddy Creek Mushrooms’ wonderful shiitake mushrooms, and soba noodles. I thought it was best as cold dish the next day! Feel free to substitute or add other items like mushrooms, Napa cabbage, and pork. I also added garlic.

*use your head of Tat Soi (cousin of Bok Choy)

serves 4

4-5 Tbs. Toasted Sesame Oil
1/2# extra firm organic tofu, drained 15 minutes, sliced very thin
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
1 bunch organic broccoli, cut into florets
3 organic carrots, peeled and cut into rounds on a bias
1 head bok choy, stems cut into matchsticks, leaves roughly chopped

Teriyaki Sauce- you may purchase your sauce or make your own- see steps at end of recipe
Stir-fry steps:

1. In a largish saute pan, heat the sesame oil over medium high heat. Add the tofu and saute on each side for 3-5 minutes, or until golden brown on both sides. Transfer tofu to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside.

2. Return the pan with the sesame oil still in it to the stove. Add onion, garlic, and ginger. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions have softened. Add bok choy stems. When they begin to soften, add the broccoli and carrots.

3. When broccoli and carrots are al dente(tender crisp), add bok choy leaves and stir. Cook for 30 seconds. Then, add the sauce, and just as it begins to thicken, remove from heat. Toss tofu into the pan, stir it all around, and serve with steamed brown rice.


Combine 1 cup water, tamari, brown sugar, garlic and ginger in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

Dissolve cornstarch in 1/4 cup of cold water and add to sauce.

Stir constantly to allow the sauce to thicken.

If the sauce is too thick add a little water or tamari to thin.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Hello CSA members,

As Bluebird Farm has grown and developed it has been one large project after another in expansion and addition. Every week, even every day, brought a totally new project to be tackled-our first chickens, our first butchering, our first sheep, a new walk-in fridge, first planting of each crop, then on to the next first, and the next. But this week we began to see the beautiful cycles of farming. Now, the arrival of a new batch of chickens does not initiate some new adjustments, instead we just prepare and go.

In the garden, summer crops are in the ground and growing. Now our priorities are planting the second succession of the summer crops like tomatoes, cuke, and zuchinnis. Some of our spring crops are done and we clean up the bed, much like in the spring, and prepare for another round of seeds and growth. Also our focus shifts to maintaining the crops we have: namely fighting weeds and insects.

Of course we are always trying to work with natural systems and not fight them. But the weeding and insect killing of the past week can only be described as war. Suddenly potato beetles are everywhere. We are using a variety of physical (spray on clay barriers), manual (hand crushing), and spray methods. Our two first line options for insects are insecticidal soaps and essential oils. The soaps are biodegradable soaps that penetrate insect cells, causing their cell membranes to collapse, dehydrating the whole insect. The essential oil we have been using is neem oil from the neem plant. It is a natural, but powerful, oil that kills insects.

We do try to encourage beneficial insects as well. We are assisted by lady bugs, predatory stink bugs, soldier bugs, and assassin beetles. All of these insects prey on our pest species, helping to keep their numbers in check. Our lady bugs are everywhere and it’s great fun to watch the predatory stink bugs spear and suck the juices from bug larvae. A very good reason to avoid traditional chemical pesticides is that they typically kill all insects-good and bad. Almost always the bad insects will rebound first-this time into a habitat totally devoid of any predators.

A soldier bug eating a colorado potato beetle larva

This week brings another round of greens. You will find kale in your box again this week. We hope you will enjoy it as much as our new neighbor, Mr. Ground Hog enjoys it (sometimes our four legged mammal friends are worse pests than insects). Mr. Ground Hog’s house is approximately 20 feet from the garden and a well worn path is visible. We have been encouraging the beast’s relocation.

Week 4 CSA box


Lacinato Kale
Curly kale

Poc Choi

Chinese or Napa Cabbage

Salad mix-contains a mix of lettuce, mizuna (a mild Asian mustard), and baby kale


Beets-cook the roots and the greens (like the swiss chard-beets and swiss chard are actually the same plant bred for two different attributes)

Storing Your Vegetables

Place all your greens in plastic bags in the fridge when you return home. Greens need high humidity to keep well. A plastic bag will hold in the vegetables natural moisture, keeping it fresh and crisp for up to a week.

Please remember to return your box every week!

Kale Cous Cous Salad (Serves 4 with leftovers)


2 cups Cous cous

1 Bunch curly kale


1 16 oz. can garbanzo beans

8 oz. Feta cheese

Cucumber (available at area farmers markets-ours will be ready in a few weeks)

1 small red onion

1 clove garlic

Lemon juice

Olive oil


Black olives (optional)


Hummus, pita bread, a yummy green salad


Cook cous cous according to directions on box refrigerate while preparing the rest of the dish

Prepare kale by cutting leaves off the stem (this makes for a more tender salad). Finely chop kale. Heat some olive oil and garlic in a pan and sauté kale until tender.

Drain and rinse garbanzo beans.

Dice red onion, cilantro, and cucumber.

Combine cous cous, kale, garbanzo beans, feta cheese, onion, cilantro, and cucumber. Add olives if desired. Add lemon juice and salt to taste.

Serve chilled or room temperature. It is especially good stuffed into a hummus filled pita with a green salad on the side.

Sweet Roasted Beets:

Dice 3-4 beets (nickel sized) and toss with 2 tbl sp. olive oil,1 tsp. basalmic or rice vinegar, 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp brown sugar. Toss with 1 tbl sp of sesame seeds if you wish. Bake on cookie sheet at 350 F. for approx 10-15 or until cooked to your liking.

Look forward to week 5 box with:

Peas-we ended up with a lull between pea crops

The first tasty Summer Squash and Zucchini

And much more!

Have a great week!

William and Marie

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Hello from a hot and humid Bluebird Farm,

This week began with a gully washer-.85 inches of rain in just a few hours on Monday morning. The weather has brought a good mix of rain and sun with a healthy dose of warm temperatures. Some of our spring greens would prefer cooler days, but our summer crops are practically leaping out of the ground, their colorful blossoms teasing our taste buds with the thought of what’s to come.

Not that the flavors at our dinner table have been particularly suffering. Far from it in fact, we have been enjoying the crispness of lettuce, bountiful flavors of Swiss chard, and a great stir-fry made with our Chinese, or napa, cabbage.

We hereby declare the week of May 31st 2010 to be “National Stir-fry and Greens Awareness Week! This week your box will include:

Poc Choi also known as Bok Choy, with crisp juicy stems,

Bok Choy Brassica rapa var. chinensis

Chinese Cabbage also known as Napa Cabbage, with its sweet, mild flavor

Swiss Chard, beautiful color and deep flavors, it’s a great summer substitute for spinach (which hates hot weather) try adding a bit of lemon juice (1 tsp-1 tblsp)

Swiss Chard: Beta vulgaris L. subsp. cicla.
Head Lettuce

Cilantro- It may look a little different- this cilantro has very fine feather leaves, but still tastes the same.

BASIL !!! Wow, there’s a bit of Thai basil, perfect for the stir-frys. Thai basil is the signature to many Thai recipes. Thai basil is more mild and sweet than Italian styles basil, lending its flavor to sweet and sour dishes and coconut sauces. Try adding a bit of Thai basil to the greens. You can also soak basil in maple syrup for a delicious pancake syrup.

Onion- Use the tender green of the onion too.

Sugar Snap Peas- This is the last week of peas, unless the next planting of peas survives the deer and groundhogs.

Cooking the greens:

Remember that with all these greens the stems are just as edible; you just have to cook them a little longer than the leaves. We like to dice the stems to the same size as the onions in our dish and add the stems whenever we start the onions. Poc Choi and Napa cabbage stems are crisp and add good texture to a dish. Swiss chard stems from our Rainbow variety give any sauté dish great color. Try serving sautéed Swiss chard over cheesy Polenta (yellow grits).

Pork and Napa cabbage Stir-fry

Simple Stir-fry

Swiss chard- Try adding some lemon!

Stir Fry Pork and Napa cabbage

* 1 (1-lb) pork- our fresh ground pork or diced pieces of the fresh bacon
* 2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
* 4 teaspoons cornstarch
* 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
* 2 tablespoons rice vinegar (not seasoned)
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 2 tablespoons water
* 2 lb Napa cabbage, quartered lengthwise, cored, and cut crosswise into 1 1/2-inch pieces (10 cups)
* 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
* 1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
* 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves

* Accompaniment: rice


Toss pork with 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, and 1 tablespoon sugar in a bowl.

Stir together vinegar, salt, remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce, and remaining 1/2 tablespoon sugar in a small bowl.

Stir together water and remaining 2 teaspoons cornstarch in a cup.

Rinse cabbage in a large colander. Tap colander lightly, then transfer cabbage to a large bowl with water still clinging to leaves.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking, then add pork in 1 layer as quickly as possible. Cook, undisturbed, until pork begins to brown, about 3 minutes, then turn over and cook, undisturbed, until browned but still pink in center, about 1 minute more. Transfer pork and any juices to a plate. Do not clean skillet.

Heat remaining tablespoon oil in skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then stir-fry garlic and ginger 30 seconds. Add half of cabbage and stir-fry over high heat until cabbage is wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in remaining cabbage (skillet will be very full), along with any water in bowl, and soy sauce mixture, then cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until all of cabbage is tender, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add pork, along with any juices accumulated on plate, and bring to a boil. Stir cornstarch mixture, then pour into skillet and boil, stirring, until sauce is slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Season with salt, then serve sprinkled with cilantro.

Overview of the garden on our leased land at Silver Creek Farm (a nursery farm not far from us)