How to get the most out of mint

The mint family of plants includes a variety of common garden herbs, including but not limited to peppermint, spearmint, lemon balm, purple dead nettle, and stinging nettle. Plants in the mint family are easy to recognize because they have a square stem and their leaves are arranged in an opposite pattern along their stem (any leaf on the stem will have a partner on the far side that joins the stem at the same place).

Mints frequently contain fragrant oils that have beneficial medicinal effects on the human body. Additionally, many of the plants in the mint family (particularly stinging nettle and purple dead nettle) are extremely nutritious because they pull minerals out of the soil more effectively than many other plants.

Peppermint contains the organic compound “menthol,” which is responsible for that cooling, minty fresh sensation but peppermint oil is also reputed to aid digestion, help with relaxation, relieve headaches, and has mild antimicrobial and antibacterial effects. Making a peppermint tea to get those benefits is as simple as pouring boiling water over fresh or dried peppermint leaves and letting it steep for about ten minutes. It’s a good idea to cover your tea so that the vapors stay more or less trapped in your mug and you can get the full benefit from the tea. Be sure to strain the leaves out; they are edible, but maybe not something you want to be chewing on while trying to enjoy a mug of tea.

Lemon balm contains the organic compound “citronella,” which in addition to having that citrusy smell that gives lemon balm its name is also a natural insect repellent. Lemon balm, similarly to peppermint, can help with indigestion, relaxation, and has antimicrobial properties. Additionally, leaves can be crushed and placed on insect bites to soothe the itch. You can make a tea with lemon balm similar to peppermint, although I would recommend sweetening the tea with some honey or sugar and maybe adding some lemon to enhance its mild citrus flavor. Lemon balm also makes a good garnish in salads, or added into baking recipes or mixed with butter to add a mild floral flavor to the dish.

For more information or ideas on how to use these amazing plants, check out Mountain Rose Herbs’ website.

Enjoy!

Dan, your friendly local Garden Coordinator

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What do I do with all these radishes?

Those of you who signed up for the CSA may have noticed a heavy presence of radishes.

There will probably be more for at least the next couple of weeks. It’s not because I have a particular love of radishes, but they grow quickly, and easily, and also in spite of the crazy weather we’ve had this year they seem to be doing particularly well.

So there will be radishes. The question is, what to do with them?

Here’s a few ideas, some I gleaned from the internet and some I gathered from people I know:

  1. Eat ’em raw with a little bit of salt! The most basic thing is just munching on them like an apple. They’ve got a bit of a kick, but the juicy crunch (particularly from the small ones) can be quite refreshing on a hot day. The other day I was told by a co-worker that as a kid one of his standard afternoon snacks was a glass of chocolate milk and some radishes.
  2. Shred or slice ’em as a garnish! Since they have a little bit of a kick, they can be added to other dishes (like salads, soups, sandwiches, tacos) to add a little bit of crunch and flavor.
  3. Roast ’em! Radishes, particularly the bigger ones, can be diced, seasoned, and roasted in a manner similar to potatoes. This mellows out their spiciness and you’ll end up with something that’s crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, and tastes basically like whatever you used to season it.
  4. Add ’em to a stir-fry! This is more for those who aren’t huge fans of radishes or just want to add some extra vegetables to a dish. The radishes will sort of disappear in the mix if you cook them this way because they’re virtually indistinguishable from a carrot or any other similarly textured vegetable when cooked in this manner.

There are lots of other things you can do with radishes, and it’s fairly easy to find other ideas on the internet because radish-confusion apparently is a common predicament.

Get creative! If you know of or come up with any other good radish ideas, feel free to post them to our Facebook page.

Cheers,

Dan, your friendly local Garden Coordinator

The Easy (and cheap) Way to do Homemade Veggie Stock

My freezer at home perpetually contains two things: a big ziploc bag (for storing vegetable scraps) and at least one jar of homemade vegetable stock made from the aforementioned vegetables scraps.

I use veggie stock as an addition to most of the meals I cook; it’s a nutritious substitute for water when cooking rice or other grains, which absorb the nutrition and flavor of the stock, and a good base for sauces and soups. And the way I make it, it’s almost entirely made out of scraps that I would otherwise be throwing in the compost.

The most basic combination for making vegetable stock is celery, carrot, and onion (known as “mirepoix” in French cuisine) with a ratio of about two parts onion to one part celery and carrot. The good news for making stock is that you can easily use the parts of the vegetables you would otherwise toss out, such as the carrot ends, carrot tops, onion ends, and the base of the celery stalk. I’ll also throw in the tough, fibrous, but still aromatic green parts of garlic and leeks as well as kale stalks and leftover bits of greens. You want to go light on your cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts), though, as those will tend to produce a stank in your kitchen that is hard to get out.

So anytime I’m cooking other stuff, I’ll just save the bits that I’m not using for myself or feeding to our chickens or rabbits, and plop it in the big ziploc bag in the freezer. When the bag gets full, I pull out the slow cooker, dump the veggies inside, cover them with water, add some oil, salt, and pepper, and let it cook on low for a day or so.

At the end the vegetables will look drained and wilty, which they are by that point because hopefully a lot of the vitamins and sugars and oils in them have leached out into your stock. You can then strain out the veggies and toss them in the compost, and you should be left with a dark amber liquid that you can use like you would any store-bought veggie stock. I typically end up with about three to four quart jars full, so I’ll keep one in my fridge for immediate use and toss the rest in the freezer.

When freezing liquids in jars, make sure that you only fill the jars up about 2/3 of the way or you run the risk of cracking your jars as the liquid expands. Or you can use plastic storage containers, in which case you should let the stock cool down before storage so that it doesn’t damage the plastic or leach nasty chemicals out of the plastic into your delicious stock.

Enjoy!

Dan, your friendly Garden Coordinator

Functional Farm Furnishings

I’m a DIY-junkie, and not afraid to admit it. Sometime around college I got the bug that had previously claimed my older brothers, both my parents, and my grandfather, to build and craft and make things.

My college, Warren Wilson College, had a somewhat similar model to what Twin Rivers Charter School is striving towards; we had a work program that all the students took part in, we spent lots of time outdoors thinking and talking about the natural world, and we tended towards hands-on learning whenever possible. My junior and senior year of college were spent working on the campus Landscaping crew, where I was taught by a surly Vietnam veteran named Bruce how to properly build things. His lessons were often interspersed with bizarre colloquialisms that, for reasons of decency, I probably shouldn’t repeat here.

Despite the confusion I often felt when faced with one of his infamous “Bruce-isms,” he was a fantastic carpenter and filled me with a strong desire to continue building things on my own and confidence in my ability to do so.

So last quarter when we were planning out our electives, I realized that I had a strong desire to follow in Bruce’s footsteps (minus the strange off-color comments) and teach our students carpentry. I was a bit concerned, because all of our cuts would have to be made with hand saws (apparently our insurance provider is concerned about minors using spinning metal blades) which becomes fairly time-consuming in a 40 minute period. We managed, but it slowed us down for sure.

However, by the end of the quarter the handful of gentlemen in my carpentry class had built a sturdy, functional work bench that ideally will be around for years to come, a new door for the greenhouse, and a guitar rack for our school’s collection of (nearly) brand-new guitars. We have also started the design process for a chicken tractor (more on that at a later date) for the farm.

Today was our last day of class for the quarter so I asked the students for their thoughts on the past couple of months: what they’ve learned, how they’ve grown, what they enjoyed, and so on.

The students recalled one of the most important lessons in carpentry: “Measure twice, cut once,” and reflected that they now felt more confident in being able to calculate angles and make precise cuts by hand. They also said that they felt more confident in being able to think through a project all the way from the initial design process to the actual construction. Another part of the process we discussed at length was the acquiring of materials; nearly all of the materials for our projects were recycled, either from former construction projects in the school or obtained from BRING recycling in Springfield. In addition to being more cost-effective, recycled materials are more environmentally friendly. Recycled materials can also add a thematic aesthetic to a project; for example, the dividers for our guitar rack were made from old Pulaski handles salvaged from the farm’s stockpile of scrap wood. (Pulaskis, for the uninitiated, are the ax-like fire-fighting tool that grace our school’s logo).

As far as wider life lessons gained from this class, the students had two major lessons to share.

They commented that they had initially had their doubts during the initial stages that our designs would actually work out into anything functional at the end, but they were extremely proud of the finished products that came from our designs. So, things can work out in the end even if you have some initial doubts.

Second, one of the students expressed an increased respect for property. He said that the time and effort involved in making things by hand really gives you perspective on how much work it takes to make anything, and that more students should take the carpentry class to gain that understanding.

I can happily say that I’m extremely proud of these guys, and looking forward to another quarter of working with them (and hopefully others too).

To see a video showcasing the carpentry class’s handiwork, take a look at the Twin Rivers Facebook Page. The students in the class were somewhat camera-shy, so I kept their identities secret as per their request.

Cheers,

Dan

Recovering from Snowpocalypse 2017

This blog has lain idle for some months now; Twin Rivers Charter School and the Laurel Valley Educational Farm have both been busy getting organized for the new year. When there are so many things to get done out in the greenhouse or in the fields, it’s hard to find time to sit at a computer and write about it, but I’ll make more of a concerted effort.

To introduce myself, I’m Dan, the 2016-2017 Garden Coordinator. I spent last year teaching biology at the high school and transitioned into my new role as of this past August. One of my main interests is self-sufficiency through urban homesteading, so getting to work on two acres on the edge of town has been (and will continue to be) really exciting for me.

As the days lengthen and the sunshine gradually returns, it’s time to start getting ready to put plants back in the ground. Despite the insane winter weather this year, some things have survived: primarily brassicas out in the field (kale, cabbage, and broccoli plants), overwintering garlic, and the lettuce and mustard greens that overwintered in the greenhouse. Pretty much everything else, including the oats and fava beans we had cover-cropped last Fall, froze and turned to mush after the repeated sub-freezing temperatures and snow cover that we had in early January.

Luckily, we have a passive solar greenhouse and a small heated greenhouse that I constructed out of reclaimed materials scrounged from various forgotten corners of the farm. With those season extenders, we should be able to get our seeding and planting underway fairly soon so we will have plenty of produce for the 2017 CSA season (details coming soon).

 

Community Supported

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Yesterday Jenaya and Alysha were interviewed and followed around the garden for the local news: I will link to this at the end of this post. But why did I start there and then make you wait? In a bit that didn’t make the news Jenaya was asked about the CSA and she basically knows what it is (duh she helps put together some pretty beautiful boxes every Friday!) but she didn’t know what CSA stands for and upon reflection it occurred to me that this deserved a bit of incite.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is not simply a box of farm produce received weekly (or monthly or what have you), paid for in advance.  A corner of the USDA’s website introduces the concept like this,

“Community Supported Agriculture consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community’s farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production. Typically, members or “share-holders” of the farm or garden pledge in advance to cover the anticipated costs of the farm operation and farmer’s salary. In return, they receive shares in the farm’s bounty throughout the growing season, as well as satisfaction gained from reconnecting to the land and participating directly in food production. Members also share in the risks of farming, including poor harvests due to unfavorable weather or pests. By direct sales to community members, who have provided the farmer with working capital in advance, growers receive better prices for their crops, gain some financial security, and are relieved of much of the burden of marketing.”

CSA is not the value of a box (be it huge and beautiful like ours were last week, or aphid infested like a box of ours that had valid complaints earlier this season).  CSA is a different economic model than the one in the dominant food system.  CSA has a history that is rich and hard to pin down the roots of but has gained steam basically in my own lifetime (since the 1980s).  When members purchase shares they are investing in the farm and sharing in the benefits and risks associated with it.  When crops are attacked by say, flea beetles or aphids, members may see damaged crops or none at all; when farmers are attacked by viruses or life in general, members may not get their boxes; likewise when harvests are plentiful boxes may be filled with much more than current market value of individual items.  CSA is a subtle challenge to the dominant economic system, which is misaligned with nature.

What is different or similar about our CSA and others?  One huge difference is that our farmers’ livelihoods do not depend on farm revenue.  On the other hand, while in the future we hope to have a full-time salaried employee whose livelihood would not depend on farm revenue but would be more tied to it, our own farmers are investing time and hugely underpaid/volunteer labor because we take the community part pretty seriously.  Another difference is that our farm is part of a 501 C3 non-profit and can accept tax-deductible donations (Down to Earth and Lane Forest Products have recently donated much needed supplies).  Our main difference, of course, is that we are attached to a school and youth programs and have been a smaller or bigger part of that throughout the years.  But again that does seem community oriented?  This is witnessed in the news of our future: The Outdoor High School at Northwest Youth Corps is becoming Twin Rivers Charter School.

http://nbc16.com/news/local/twin-rivers-charter-school-joins-eugene-4j-school-district

We all learn something new every day.

Farm Update August 12, 2016

farm diversity section

It seems to have been a long time since this page has had any action.  Rest assured our garden still exists and with the hard work of this summers Americorps members, including two young women from NWYC’s Out Door High School, things are starting to pop.

We are busy filling CSA and NWYC Youth Crew orders, as well as exploring new partnerships.  Last week we had a farm stand at the Whiteaker Community Market https://www.facebook.com/whiteakercommunitymarket/,

Whiteaker Standwhich we highly recommend you go check out, though unfortunately due to the size of our staff we may be at infrequently.

squash in kiva

 

 

Early this week we sold 20# of mixed summer squash and 12 lovely heads of frisee to The Kiva http://www.kivagrocery.com/: we arelooking forward to continuing  work with them.

 

 

beetle death

 

We are also busy fighting flea beetles, with the help of some predatory nematodes, diverse planting and trap cropping, oyster shells, and some sticky yellow paper.  Thanks to Alva and her farming tip, as well as Jaime over at Down to Earth (and Renee and Angel who supplied us with a great deal of much needed starts to help fill up some space).

 

There is much more to say and perhaps I will soon but for now I invite you to come out and see the farm for yourself.  We all learn something new every day.  Or at least check the facebook page which I post pictures to a little more frequently https://www.facebook.com/Laurel-Valley-Educational-Farm-Garden-272515896292341/.

Peace and carrots,

Josh

Hello folks!

Welcome to the 2015 Laurel Valley Educational Farm CSA!  Are you excited?  We sure are, and so grateful you are joining us.  The farm is in full swing, and you can expect Kale, Fava Beans, Radishes, Turnips, Onions, Salad, and a few more surprises for the first week.

To get things started off right, we are inviting you all to a meet and greet on Tuesday, June 2nd, at 4:30.  Come pick up your share and socialize with your farm crew, Northwest Youth Corps, and fellow CSA members.  Feel free to bring a beverage or snack if you desire. If you know anyone who would like to join the CSA, or volunteer or intern in the garden over the summer please bring them along or contact us at garden@nwyouthcorps.org.

In other news, I’d like to introduce Natalie Stameroff- She’ll be taking over for me this season.

Hello Everyone!

I am really excited to be growing for you this season. I have been farming, gardening, and orcharding for more than four seasons and I am ready to head up this beautiful piece of land. I grew up in central California, studied Agriculture, Food, and Social Justice at U.C. Santa Cruz and moved to Eugene in 2012 for a gardening positon. I feel blessed to be in the Willamette Valley again this growing season.

WHEN DO I PICK UP MY SHARE?

You may pick up your weekly share any time between 3:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m on either Tuesday or Fridays, depending on which day you indicated for pick up on your registration form.

FULL AND HALF SHARE MEMBERS: Your CSA subscription starts on Tuesday, June 2rd and continues throughout the season on a weekly schedule. Your last pickup date will be in the first week of October

 

EXTENDED SHARE MEMBERS:  your last pick up date will be Nov. 6th

WHERE DO I PICK UP MY SHARE?

Farm Pickup

 

Our address is 2621 Augusta St.  We are part of Northwest Youth Corps’ campus, located behind Hendricks Park in the Laurel Valley.

The farm is to the north of the parking lot. Walk through the blue gate near the building (It has a sign that says Everyone is Welcome!). You can expect to find Natalie or Isabel at the farm before 4:30 or 5.

Our CSA pickup will be housed in the Blue House- the packing shed next to the herb garden in the center of the blacktop. Your share will be under the awning in a box labeled with your name.

HOW DO I CHOOSE AND COLLECT MY PRODUCE?

Your produce will be sorted into a large box with your name.  It will be individually washed, bagged and/or bundled as appropriate.  We will be striving to use minimal packaging resources. You may take the whole box home, but we ask that you return it.  You can also bring reusable cloth bags or other suitable grocery bags to carry your produce home in.

We will also have a free box.  If you receive produce that you do not think you will use, please take it out and leave it in the exchange box: If you would like more of a particular item: feel free to take it from the exchange box.

If you will not be able to pick up your share please let me know at garden@nwyouthcorps.org and we will save it for you.

 

WEELY UPDATES

I will send out a weekly letter that gives you updates on the farm, volunteer opportunities, lists of expected crops for the next week, some recipes to try out, and any group wide communications.

QUESTIONS?
We greatly appreciate your feedback, so please don’t wait until the end of the season to tell us how it’s going.  We grow for you!

Have a great Summer!

Isabel-Francis-Bongue

Hello Folks, Merry spring!

Are you still looking for a CSA? Well now is the time to join the Laurel Valley Educational Farm CSA!  We are looking forward to a great year and hope you’ll enjoy the bounty with us.

This year the CSA will run from June 1st – Oct. 2nd (18 weeks total), with an extended season option that will continue until Nov. 6th( 23 weeks total). 

Full Share: 350$      Half Share: 210 dollars.

Extended option- June 1-Nov. 6th (additional 5 weeks)-440$

The Laurel Valley Educational Farm is a Non-profit educational farm that serves at-risk youth and is within the city limits- making it the most local CSA around.  This CSA helps us to cover our operating costs, and is also one of the most affordable ones in the area.

This year, we’ll be doing a weekly pickup at the farm in the Glenwood neighborhood.  If there is a demand, we may also open up a pick up spot in west Eugene.

In order to pay and join please take a moment to fill out and read our terms and registration, and mail with check to  Northwest Youth Corps  at 2621 Augusta St, Eugene, OR.  Please write CSA in the memo.  You can also pay in person with cash or card.

If you have any questions or would like to negotiate a payment plan, please talk to me as soon as possible.

 

Remember folks, we have limited space and would like to fill it sooner rather than later, so act as soon as possible!  Registration for the CSA will close in May.

 

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Hello Folks!  It may be February, but spring is in the air, and here at the Laurel valley educational farm, we are now accepting CSA members for the upcoming season.  We’ve begun the work of sprouting, planting, prepping the field in preparation for the 2015 season- and have been very much enjoying (and slightly worrying about) our early spring.   We are looking forward to a great year and hope you’ll enjoy the bounty with us.

This year the CSA will run from June 1st – Oct. 2nd (18 weeks total), with an extended season option that will continue until Nov. 6th( 23 weeks total). 

Full Share: 350$      Half Share: 200 dollars.

Extended option- June 1-Nov. 6th (additional 5 weeks)-440$

 

In other news, our first work party of the year will be on February 28th, and we’d love to see you folks there.  We’ll be redoing signage around the farm, doing some spring cleaning and preparing the fields to till.  (We may also be giving away free broccoli and kohlrabi starts to volunteers…)

Can’t make it?  Help us out by spreading the word about us and our mission. Talk to friends and family, wrangle them into joining the CSA or volunteering.    And stay updated!  We’ll be having plant sales, and more volunteer parties as the season progresses.

Buen provecho,

Isabel