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Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter July 20 2014

Sarah West

When we open the stall at Hillsdale Farmers' Market this Sunday, Carol will be with me for the 10:00 bell.

The introduction of my longtime friend Jeff Graham was reciprocated in Wednesday's USA Today, with his reflections after his visit.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2014/07/15/voices-ditching-tech-on-the-farm/12657569/

We will see what happens with the great chickpea challenge. It was fun having Jeff and Ruth help at the market and the farm, and I hope I will never have to do a tweet.

Opening the A&E section of the Oregonian on Friday was a less pleasant experience. This once distinguished daily broadsheet has devolved into a flimsy, irregular tabloid. But, for crying out loud, you would think they could get the facts straight on blackberries, a fruit for which the backyard of Oregon is known. Under the title "State's lesser berries win time to shine," the entry for Chesterberry states:

"Developed in 2007, the chesterberry is a close cousin to the blackberry, but the fruit is roughly three times as large. In the marionberry family, chesters come with small seeds and a bitter taste."

Chester BlackberriesThe name of the berry is 'Chester Thornless Blackberry' not chesterberry, though we use the less formal Chester. It is capitalized because it is named after a person. Chester came out of the breeding program at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, in 1968, not 2007 as asserted by the author. Sakes alive, we have been selling them at Hillsdale since the market opened in 2002. It is a blackberry, pure and simple, not a cousin. The Chester, a thornless, semi-erect, plant is from a very different breeding line than the Marion, a thorny trailing type plant. There is no familiar similarity between the two and their different ancestries are reflected in the flavor of the berries. Finally, what is this nonsense about the fruit being bitter?

For some strange reason, the primary blackberry researchers at Oregon State University hold the Chester in very low regard, and this shapes the opinions of people who have not actually tasted the berry. I have had numerous discussions with Chad Finn and Bernadine Strik about Chesters, pointing out that it is a magnificent fruit for the smaller, organic grower and perfect for out-of-hand eating, but they are unshakable in their distain for the fruit. Fair enough, we harbor a similar distain for the Marion which is great for industrial, machine harvest farms but not a fruit where the farmer plans to park the ATV and eat berries for a while and think of shoes and ships and sealing wax. I guess that is why we don't grow it. This year, we have plant more blackberry rows, Chesters of course.

Several years ago Kathleen Bauer posted a good essay about the Chester blackberry, nicely illustrated, for those who want the full and interesting history of the berry:

http://www.goodstuffnw.com/2010/08/farm-bulletin-pt-2-taxonomy-of-chester.html

So this is leading up to the acknowledgement that we will have some of the first Chesters of the season tomorrow at Hillsdale. Not many, just a harbinger, first come, first served.

We will probably have some Imperial Epineuse plums as well. Very hot weather slows down the ripening of fruit, so the last couple of cooler days should help. I won't know until I finish writing this and put on my picking harness. It is going to be a good year for the plums and grapes.

We will have plenty of frikeh, some fine purslane and amaranth greens, as well as some fine examples from Frank and Karen Morton's lettuce collection. Amish Butter cornmeal and popcorn. Next week, the Chester season starts in earnest, so this is the week to pickup preserves. Real estate in the van is limited and we do not cede space to preserves when we can bring fresh fruits and vegetables.

We will see you all tomorrow,

Carol and Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm
Proud Cultivators of the Chester Thornless Blackberry since 1998

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter August 4 2013

Sarah West

Thursday marked Lammas Day, the day of the loaf mass. The mass celebrates the first loaf baked from the new wheat harvest. The wheat harvest was a time consuming effort involving all members of the community, from the elderly to young children, each playing a specific role. The grain could be cut at maturity and raked into cocks like hay, but more commonly wheat and other small grains were scythed just shy of maturity, at the hard dough stage, bundled in sheathes and tied. The sheathes were carefully stacked for shocking. The structure of the shock varied by region and environmental factors. There were round shocks, capped shocks and Dutch shocks for very wet areas. Shocked grain was easier to thresh as it pulled away slightly from the hull as it dried, and had better color. In the more remote regions of the west, barley and wheat were also "hogged off" by turning pigs into the field, pork being easier to transport than grain. The combine eliminated the shock as a form of regional architecture.

For those of us with a background in tree and other woody plants, Lammas growth is the second growth of shoots that takes place in midsummer, sometimes in response to hail or some other damaging event. In our climate it not a problem, we sometimes encourage it with summer pruning, but in colder areas Lammas growth may fail to harden off properly and suffers frost damage.

We are a bit tardy on our wheat harvest, but it is not that we have been loafing around as will be abundantly clear when we arrive at the Hillsdale Farmers' Market this Sunday. Following ancient practice, the market opens with the chime of a bell at 10:00 AM, or thereabouts.

Coincident with the Lammas, Jeff Fairchild, the produce buyer for New Seasons Market visited the farm on the first of August as Carol was making the first round of deliveries to the various New Seasons stores. Josh Alsberg, the Produce manager at Food Front, has also visited us many times. As members of the Coop, we are one his many of bosses, and when he sells lots of our berries, no only do the stores pay us, but we also get a better patronage check. Some deal. Buffy Rhoades of Pastaworks put in her order as well, and we are waiting for her to visit us someday. Fortunately, all of these stores carry the Chesters, so there is no need to get cut short midweek, stuck with a bunch of grumpy Chester lovers bemoaning your lack of foresight. We enjoy working with Jeff, Josh, Buffy and their staff. As they say in fair Gaston, "Chester, it's the blackberry people ask for by name."

We will also have a good supply of Triple Crowns on hand. The season is shorter for this variety, and they are in the top of their form this week.

In addition to the berries, we will haul in our last Imperial Epineuse prunes. Next week, the green-fleshed plums will take over for a spell. This is the likely the last week we will haul in the preserves, popcorn and dry beans for a while. Real estate in the van is getting scarce and fresh fruits and vegetables need the space. We will have frikeh.  Good looking heads of lettuce and the very first Opo fruits of the Ayers Creek Pepo Project will be added to the mix. More on the ACPP later.

Oh yes, a bit of garlic and shallots as well. Carol spends a lot of time prettying up the garlic, limiting how much we can bring to the market. Yes, it looks lovely, but it will soon be stripped of its blushing raiment so another voice might ask why not let the customer decide whether they want to buy pretty garlic, or just rip off the field covering and enjoy its lusty flavor. If you are disappointed because the last pretty garlic has left the basket and your next meal will be a little less satisfying, tell us whether a dull bulb would meet your culinary needs just as well. The author is spoiling for dismissal and will leave it at that.

With affection,

The Boutards of Ayers Creek