Aley Chubeza #101 – January 30th-February 1st 2012

Last week we charged your credit cards for the January vegetable deliveries. You received a nice collection of receipts, so for those who may be confused, here is a brief explanation:
• The bill includes all of January deliveries, including Monday, January 30th. Last minute changes will go into next month’s bill.
• This month you will receive two bills, one for your vegetables and another for deliveries (except for those who pick up their boxes from the field, who will be billed only for the vegetables). Those who receive fruits as well will be getting *three* invoices! We realize that this is somewhat cumbersome, and working on finding a better solution soon.
• While the vegetables and fruits will be charged at the end of January, the additional products from our associates will be charged at the beginning of February.
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In honor of the upcoming Tu B’Shvat celebration, Melissa of Mipri Yadeha offers two festive products:

Tu B’Shvat baskets containing 100% fruit of the country, including, of course, Mipri Yadeha dried fruits, carobs, Samar Brahi dates – 30 NIS per basket

 

Fruit bracelets (Nature’s candies) – -An original, delightful way to celebrate the birthday of the trees of our land. Wear them in good health! – 10 NIS per bracelet.

Please book soon. Orders will be delivered from January 30th to February 2 (Tu B’Shvat).
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Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain

There are so many different aspects to the rain and winter. The rain cleanses everything, saturates the plants’ thirst and fills the vital reservoirs. But then again, it’s so… wet. And when it’s cold and muddy, the wet is even wetter. Over the past weeks, we have been receiving timely rains, blessed rains, cloudy gray days, cold and mud. This week I will continue our winter stories, this time focusing on winter’s wet face.

The rain is a blessing in our near-desert nation.  It transforms the seed into a blossoming reality, fulfills the farmers’ wet dreams (excuse the pun)–as well as the dreams of the goats, sheep and other grass nibblers– and sometimes drives the farmers’ spouses crazy from the gloppy mud tracked into the house daily, despite sincere attempts to remove shoes upon entry. Last week Alon’s two-year-old Emanuel came to play with us at Chubeza,, and when he saw Alon coming into the office with muddy shoes, he insisted that his obedient father scratch every trace of mud off his shoes (only to have them fill up with mud once more the minute he stepped outside…).

Lots of sticky mud is not that great for our vegetable beds. Mud testifies to tight earth with little air, that keeps the water from penetrating. Instead, it accumulates above ground, sometimes causing a landslide. Last year, after we started working in a relative empty field, a major rainstorm swept away our beds—complete with their tiny seeds–to the lower part of the field.

When I worked in California, Joe, the wise and anxious farmer for whom I worked (anxiety is a preferred characteristic for farmers, as opposed to the more risky complacence), would loosen the beds in autumn, leaving them empty and ready all winter to plant the first spring plants. Without such a strategy, we would reach this time of the year anxious and unsure of our ability to plant the seedlings waiting in the hothouse. But sometimes young farmers are too reliant on luck, perhaps because we don’t have enough years of experience to look back on. When I spoke to Alon about this two weeks ago, we kicked ourselves for the sin of complacence–The past two winters were not this rainy, and we’d had no real problem preparing the area over January for the big round of planting at the end of the month. This year, the ongoing rain has created so much wetness that it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to prepare the earth for planting in the near future.

Lucky for us, even though our memories are short and we rely on luck and miracles, we listened to sage advice from wise veteran farmers, like our friend Gaby, our tractor driver (and advice-giver) and farmer who has seen many a-winter in the fields of the Ayalon Valley. In order for the farm to fully enjoy the rain and make it through the saturated season none the worse for wear, Gaby went through the beds with his paraplow. This giant fork-like device attaches to the tractor to slice the earth without turning it over, ventilating and allowing the rain to permeate without accumulating in big puddles that form on condensed earth (like our paths.) When the rain permeates, we only need a few days of sunshine to dry the earth and we dare (actually, Gaby dares) to gently prepare the ground for planting.

The new plants arrived last Tuesday, which was an exceptionally warm and sunny day. On Wednesday, Melissa complained about the heat that she was unprepared for. On Thursday, Gaby came to prepare the beds for planting, although we were not sure when this would commence, as the forecast called for a very rainy weekend starting Thursday. But on Friday, when the rain was still taking its time, we hurried to gather our indulged little plants from the plant nursery inside their comfy saturated clods of Ayalon Valley earth. Gaby continued to assist very diligently. At the end of an action-packed day, in the late afternoon, with perfect timing, the clouds burst open to shower the field and new plants with myriads of glorious raindrops.

It’s still really cold, and despite the beneficial natural irrigation, the plants are in for a slow, gradual assimilation. We feel the effect of the cold on the fava beans, whose pods refuse to fill. The peas, on the other hand, are starting to yielding beautifully, after a few very pitiful rounds at the beginning of the season (which you certainly noticed, as the Madame did not arrive in your boxes), and finally there is a nice-looking bed with reasonable quantities that we hope will grow. But the field has really slowed down. Even the greens, which are protected under agril cloth (thin unwoven material that guards them from the cold) are growing very slowly. This is why there are fewer greens in your boxes of late. The cold weather also impels plants to switch into their survival mode, and instead of putting energy into the leaves, the plant blossoms and its leaves turn yellow (of course, this also has to do with the age of the plant and the fact that the daylight hours are longer).

But the cold does come to our aid in our battle against the pests, specifically the onion fly that was so mean to our onion family over autumn (onions, garlic, scallions and leeks). The garlic beds had been damaged so badly that we feared we’d get nothing from the beds, but when the extreme cold hit us (and the garlic grew gradually), the fly lost his passion, allowing many of the plants to recover. Perhaps it’s the cold, or maybe the fly is just no longer interested in more mature garlic heads, onions and leeks. Either way, we hope we’ll be able to bring you a bountiful crop this year.

So even though our we are wet and it’s cold outside and our boots are heavy and lost somewhere deep in the mud, we join the flowers in their blessing, love the wet caress of the rain, take a deep breath and await the return of the rain this week as well.
May we all have a cold, wet and wonderful week!
Alon, Bat Ami and the Chubeza team
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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES (BESIDES MUD)?

Monday: Red potatoes, radishes or daikon, small broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, Dutch cucumbers, sweet red or yellow peppers, lettuce, dill or    parsley, carrots, celeriac or parsnips or celery (small boxes only)

In the large box, in addition: green or red cabbage, scallions, Swiss chard, kohlrabi

Wednesday: Lettuce, daikon, cauliflower, parsley,
cabbage, sweet red peppers, cucumbers / Dutch cucumbers, kohlrabi or turnips,
tomatoes, carrots, potatoes-red or white

In the large box, in addition: Broccoli, leek, beets

And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers: granola and cookies, flour, sprouts, goat dairies, fruits, honey, crackers, probiotic foods, dried fruits and leathers and organic olive oil too! You can learn more about each producer on the Chubeza website. The attached order form includes a detailed listing of the products and their cost. Fill it out, and send it back to us soon.

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