Aley Chubeza #189 February 17th-19th 2014

Some Messages – Some Additions to Your Boxes – What’s Missing – What’s New

As previously announced, our excellent baker Manu has a newborn son and is currently on maternity leave. Thus, her baked goods are temporarily unavailable for purchase via our online order system. We will update you on further developments. Wishing Manu and the family many good wishes and some sleep…

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Our flour grinders, Assaf and Arik of Minhat Ha’aretz, have informed us that over the next few months we should expect a shortage of whole wheat spelt flour, 70% and organic spelt semolina. They do have non-organic spelt flour available, but at this point we will not be purchasing it. We’ll keep you posted of any changes.

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The Menachem family, the fruit growers of “Melo Hatene,” do many more things besides tending their fruit orchards. At Melo Hatene they have an apiary, an olive orchard and an olive press, and they also produce a variety of unique and extraordinary products. Beginning next week, you will be able to use our online order system to purchase these exotic additions to Melo Hatene’s fruit assortment: tahini from Ethiopian sesame, ground by antique millstones (super special stuff), and excellent ground coffee traditionally roasted.

In addition, the fruit orders are changing slightly. From now on, the price of a large fruit box is 85 NIS, and a small box is 55 NIS. Also, you may order “surprise” fruit boxes, or specific fruits packaged in kg units (we’re sorry; we no longer can allow half kg orders). If you have an ongoing fruit order, please update it.

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We received a new date supply last week. We apologize to those who did not receive their date order last Wednesday. Please renew your order this week. The sweet and juicy dates await you.

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Honi, the circle drawer, from a book by Devora Omer

Where is Honi when we need him most?

Over the past weekend, Chubeza’s fields got approximately 7-8 mm of rain, a great accomplishment considering the drought of the past couple of months, when even the very scattered showers our country received skipped right over us. And having waited for the rain so anxiously, we couldn’t help but discard all the regular winter complaints, and even enjoyed the heaviness of our muddy shoes, prompting a “who dragged mud into the office” by a smiling Maya (who has been trying, together with Dror, to tame my messy, dirty office since they arrived).

The rains were great, but not enough, of course, and the dry week we anticipate makes me wish I could just post a lost and found ad: “Lost: an old and energetic man, stubborn but full of hope, that can draw circles in the earth and convince the Good Lord to send some rain in our direction.” At this point, it seems like all the disciples of Honi are taking a leave of absence in London, where they are now trying to convince the heavens to shut down the deluge. But we continue to pray and plead that this month will be wetter, that we will receive our own Purim miracle of blessed showers. Some say it may happen the beginning of next week. Let’s keep our fingers crossed tight.

No rain is a huge problem in the long run, of course, as the area’s water reserves dissolve, but for dry farming (without irrigation) it’s a clear and present danger: the wheat and other field crops surrounding us are already yellowing and are shorter than usual. In fields where it’s possible, farmers have been artificially irrigating to try to save the crop. In our field, we solve this problem by using drip-irrigation, which is usually resting at this time of the year. But this year, as time passes and the rain does not come, we use it quite often.

The temperatures are not that high, actually, though during the day there are some sunny warm hours. But still, the days are short, the nights are cold, and the frost continues till the late morning hours, so the winter veggies still feel at home. They bask in the cold of the night, and enjoy the light and warmth of the days, allowing them to grow nicely. Our last winter rounds are being planted as we speak, and we have already begun seeding and planting a bunch of spring vegetables: eggplant, squash, pumpkin and cucumbers are making their first baby steps in the field, under the protection of plastic tunnels that isolate them a bit from the winter outside. The melons are expected to arrive this week, and next month- watermelons!

At the margins of our field and within the beds, the weeds are beginning to party, which is, of course, a festival of beautiful blooms but also a sign that we cannot wait anymore with the weeding. Plus, along with manual work, we need to start cultivating the soil so the weeds do not arrive at the seed stage and plant themselves more comfortably in the field– along with their thousands of offspring. Our amazing Gabby thus fixed an old Aerator and renovated a cultivator which can hook onto the tractor.

קילטור ראשון בח'ביזה לפני עשר שנים...
Our first cultivation in Chubeza, ten years ago

Cultivating is the work of processing the top layer of earth in order to remove the weeds. The trick is not to cultivate too deep, in order not to bring up seeds that are buried deep below. On the other hand, do not cultivate too close to the surface so as to succeed in removing the weeds from their roots. In our case, we cultivate in beds that already have crops within them. We clean the weeds from right to left of the crops, which requires very accurate and professional work at the right rhythm, i.e., Gabby’s work. I can watch him forever as he drives, fiercely concentrating, leaving happy and clean beds behind.

Wow, the field is beautiful these days, with beds heaped with vegetables growing or ripe, alongside empty beds, brown as a chocolate cake, waiting for the spring and summer plants to be inserted. The vitality of winter and the moisture within the earth and plants still exist despite the lack of rain, and the fields all celebrate this happy season. If you’re around, by all means pop in to say hello and bask in the glory of this beauty.

Wishing us all a good week, one that will finally bring some rain!

Alon, Bat Ami, Maya, Dror and the Chubeza team

 

WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Cauliflower, celery, lettuce, tomatoes, snow peas/garden peas, white cabbage /red cabbage/ broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, coriander/dill/parsley, spinach/ broccoli greens, leeks

Large box, in addition: Fennel/beets, sweet red peppers, potatoes

Wednesday: potatoes, fennel, cucumbers, red or white cabbage, parsley, broccoli/cauliflower, snow peas, carrots, lettuce, celery, tomatoes

Large box, in addition: leeks, kale or spinach, daikon or small radish

And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers: flour, sprouts, fruits, honey, dates, almonds, crackers, probiotic foods, dried fruits and leathers, olive oil, bakery products, pomegranate juice and goat dairy too! You can learn more about each producer on the Chubeza website. On our order system there’s a detailed listing of the products and their cost, you can make an order online now!

Aley Chubeza #180, December 9th-11th 2013

Important news!

A change in deadline for updating your order:

After many years of working late nights on the day before deliveries, we have decided to return some sanity into our lives (or at least attempt to do so…). In order to allow us to prepare for delivery day in a relaxed fashion, we have decided to bring up the deadline for changes and updates in your deliveries.

From now on, you can make changes in your next order (add products, comments, cancellations, etc.) by 8:00 AM on the day before delivery! Requests that arrive later than that simply cannot be filled till the following delivery!

Thank you so much for your cooperation!

At last, the Samar Dates have arrived!!!! Life is good!!!!!

Samar dates have made their long (and long-awaited) journey to us from the southern Arava to the Ayalon Valley, and we are delighted to have delectable Barhi and Dekel Nur dates available for purchase. Their price remains at 20 NIS per kg. You are welcome to add these delicacies to your vegetable orders.

 

RAIN!! RAIN!! RAIN!! RAIN!! RAIN!! RAIN!!

The rain finally made a grand entrance, starting at 2:00 AM on Wednesday until Thursday morning when our staff took advantage of a short let-up to plant some newcomers to our field. But after one round of planting, it became clear that this wasn’t a great day to mess with the muddy earth and dripping skies. A new round of leek plants entered the earth Sunday morning, yet at the very end of the endeavor, when each of the planters had only a few leeks left to go, the heavens doused us with celestial buckets of water. We got the hint and hurried into the packing house.

Hurray!!! What fun!!!!

The vegetables are laughing merrily, drinking up the translucent liquids filling the air and the puddles that surround. They are plumping up, refining their taste, storing sugar, sweetness and flavor in their roots, flapping their green wings and asking for more!! (as we are) One of these happy campers is our fennel, fattening up and growing happily. This week he wins the coveted Newsletter Vegetable of the Week designation:

Fennel belongs to the Umbelliferae family (called such because the flowers are arranged in a small, umbrella-like shape), a relative of the dill, coriander, carrot, parsley, celery, anise, cumin and others. The fennel’s origins are in the Mediterranean basin– a neighbor! As it is well-accustomed to our surroundings, fennel grows peacefully and comfortably in many wild fields, and easily takes over abandoned agricultural plots or even the random urban open field. It understands our fickle weather, demands order from the weeds surrounding it, lest they encroach on its territory, and grows in the winter sun, sometimes reaching a height of two meters! The fennel is indeed a strong plant: it successfully endures weather changes, even extreme ones (how appropriate for this winter), and hardly ever suffers from pests, perhaps thanks to its strong scent. When it is big enough, fennel gets along well with the weeds, staking out a territory for itself. Its dominant character is a solid reason not to plant other plants alongside, and to give the fennel its own garden-bed.

Contrary to other cultivated vegetables, the Florence fennel we grow is not very different from its brother, the wild fennel, except for the fact that it is shorter and puts most of its energy into thickening the leaves at its base until they become a sort of white bulb, sweet and juicy, which we can eat. Here too, it is a mistake to think we eat the root or onion of the fennel when in fact we’re eating its lower leaves, which in the case of the Florence fennel are puffy and fleshy. These leaves taste more delicate and sweet than the wild and common fennels, grown to extract seeds.

The aroma and distinctive taste come from a unique phytochemical, anethol, which is the main component of the volatile lubricant it contains (similar to the anise). This phytochemical retards inflammation and reduces the danger of cancer. The volatile lubricant in fennel can also protect from various chemical toxins, in the liver and other organs. Its strong smell can be used to refresh and prevent bad breath (if you appreciate its odor), and it is a component of most natural toothpastes. Those who do not enjoy the smell can identify with the pests who stay far away from the fennel, and with medieval witches, who were scared away by sheaves of fennel and St. John’s Wort hung on the thresholds during the June 24thagricultural summer festivities celebrated in Europe.

But let’s continue to sing its praises……

Plinius Secundas, otherwise known as Plini the Elder, an ancient Roman writer, wrote highly of the fennel. He attributed to it 22 medicinal qualities, including the fact that snakes eat it while shedding their skin and sharpen their sight by rubbing up against it. Fennel is considered an important medicinal plant, one of nine Anglo-Saxon sacred herbs (along with mugwort, plantain, watercress, betony, chamomile, nettle, crabapple and chervil). The oil is primarily in the seeds, which are a major component in Indian and Chinese mixtures.

And a little more flattery: the fennel’s (its seeds, but not only) main claim to fame is as a digestive aid. In India it is served at the end of a meal (in Indian restaurants it comes with the bill, instead of sticky toffee) and chewed in order to help the food go down. Perhaps this is the reason fennel is considered to be a good diet supplement. The leafy bulb is rich in dietary fibers which in themselves contribute to efficient, healthy digestion. Fennel is also recommended for colicky babies. Even I drank the… hmmm, how shall I describe it… strong-tasting brew, composed of fennel seeds and anise stars, to help my babies out during colic times. Young mothers still willing to sacrifice themselves will be rewarded twofold: helping the baby and increasing their own milk. And if that still doesn’t help and the baby keeps screaming, a fennel drink will help his/her throat, relieving hoarseness and coughs…

But the fennel has a dark side as well (depending of course on the full or empty part of the cup…). It is one of the spices composing absinthe, a strong alcoholic liquor made of wormwood, moss, anise, Melissa and fennel. Its anise-taste and green color give it the nickname “the green fairy.” Absinthe has been known to cause hallucinations (or to inspire the muse, depending on who you ask) and was very popular in the 19th century with bohemians and artists, with Van Gogh being one aficionado. Some claim that he cut off his ear under the influence of absinthe.

But let’s forget about hallucinations for a minute, and take a deep breath. If you’ve decided to go out picking wild fennel flowers, you can add them to salad dressings, to soups and sauces. If you chop the flower very thinly (or use a mortar and pestle) and mix with soft butter, you can make a great spread for fish or grilled chicken. The flowers can also be used for décor. The seeds should be gathered immediately after the flowers have bloomed and shed and the seeds are still green and fresh.

TIPS:

  • Fennel oxidizes upon contact with air: sliced fennel should be stored in the refrigerator in a container with water and a small amount of lemon juice.
  • Our fennels come along with their branches and leaves. Don’t dispose of them! Use the stems as a bed for grilled fish in a baking pan or to prepare brine. Use the delicate leaves to flavor cheeses, sauces and butter.
  • Place a fennel branch, for example, on fish as it bakes. The fennel will absorb the fishy odor and replace it with a fragrant fennel aroma instead.
  • If you collect fennel flowers or seeds from wild plants, it is important to remember not to pick them from along the roadside. These flowers absorb toxins from automobile exhaust or from pesticide in weed sprays.

We’re not asking for much this week, only a week of lots and lots and lots of rain.

Shavua Tov,

Alon, Bat Ami, Maya and the Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Coriander/parsley, sweet potatoes, fennel/turnips, tomatoes, Swiss chard/spinach/kale, cauliflower/broccoli, lettuce, cucumbers, carrots. Small boxes only: celery, plus leeks/scallions/garlic chives

In the large box, in addition: arugula/totsoi, kohlrabi, radishes/daikon, dill, green beans/Jerusalem artichoke

Wednesday: spinach/Swiss chard/kale, lettuce, cucumbers, cauliflower/broccoli, cilantro/dill, sweet potatoes, fennel/turnip, kohlrabi/daikon, cabbage, tomatoes, celery – small box only.

In the large box, in addition: carrots, Jerusalem artichoke, arugula, leeks/chive/green onions.

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Fennel recipes:

15 ways to use fennel

Braised fennel

Fennel and cider soup

Chickpea and Fennel Ratatouille

Cheese and fennel muffins

!Aley Chubeza #144 – January 21st-23rd – Happy Tu Bishvat

It’s Tu B’shvat Again!

And the updated, improved “mipri yadeha” is back with us big time, offering a delectable assortment of leather bits, dried fruits, raisins, dates, carobs, and unshelled nuts for 44 NIS per basket.

From this week, you can also order dark and light raisins (Sultanina) from the Tal Farm. The raisins are sun-dried, free of sulfur or any other additive, and are hand-packed by Melissa, available in 200 gram bags or in a 1 kg package. __________________________________________

The Quiet after the Storm

I think I was so shell-shocked and frozen from the storm last week that I forgot to mention some important matters. Now that we’ve defrosted from the cold, thanks to the warm, indulging sun, it’s high time to express our thanks:

To the harvesters in the field, who slopped in quick-mud (sometimes knee deep!), extending their frozen hands from under their sleeves to pick your vegetables.

To the packers in our dark packing house (due to the heavy clouds and frequent power outages), who jumped up and down to warm themselves, and drank endless cups of tea while distributing the vegetables to your boxes.

To our dedicated, loyal drivers: Amit and Shlomi in the Tel Aviv area, who navigated through rain, hail, floods and traffic… To Yochai and Dror, who distributed the vegetables in Jerusalem’s whitening streets. Thanks to them, so many of you had your warm soup and snowmen sporting Chubeza-carrot noses…

Special thanks and “dry up soon” wishes to Asaf and Erik, our flour grinders, whose mill in Hadera was flooded by

rain. Nonetheless, on Sunday I received the weekly text message from Asaf, Shalom Aleichem, how can we help you this week? And when I inquired as to their wellbeing, he replied “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” (Mr. Spock, Star Trek II) We hope Asaf and Erik were able to speedily recover.

And to all of you who supported and encouraged us, who came all the way out here to pick up your boxes, who waited patiently for the boxes and understood the delays and limitations… it’s such a good feeling to be in this together, as we await the next storm.

But till it comes, this was a good week to evaluate the state of the field–the results of the storm, its benefits, its harm, etc. Generally, we escaped major damage from the extreme cold, the winds and hail and of course – the downpours. And we had so much of it! – our refrigerator halted for a few days due to wet circuits, and the awning in our entrance had to be drained time and again, and myriads of puddles and little lakes emerged throughout the field. And yet…

The cauliflowers you’ll be receiving did suffer from the storm: they were planted in a bed with insufficient drainage, and the growing accumulation of water in the earth caused a shortage of oxygen for the plants. They actually suffered shortness of breath. Their leaves went yellow, the cauliflowers got a purplish hue and their development was arrested. The purple hue testifies to distress. A cauliflower turns purple right before it flowers, and it didn’t look like they would get over the trauma. Thus we decided to harvest them small, and place them in your boxes in pairs…similar to how beings were saved in a different flood, eons ago.

Most of the greens in our field are relatively sensitive to these types of storms. Their leaves are injured by the hail and they may freeze and rot from the extreme cold weather. This is why we cover them in agril, a row cover made of unwoven material, similar to baby wipes. These thin, insulating sheets allow sunrays through and are relatively strong. Every evening before leaving the field, we visited the various beds to make sure all the little ‘uns were tucked in up to their ears.

And yet, sometimes the night winds blew off some of the covers, causing some of the greens to become purple or brown. Victims included some residents of the dill bed and various lettuces. With the latter, the leaves were sometimes torn by the hail and winds, causing them to turn yellow and wilt. A week later, some recovery is evident, specifically in the lettuce beds, and possibly just peeling off some of the outer leaves will make them fine. We’ll let them enjoy some more warm sun before deliberating the final verdict.

Our Liliaceae family members, the scallion and leek, do not get covered. Their relatively thick leaves are not threatened by cold weather. Their problem was the hail. It made its mark with white dots on the leaves, as if they’d been shattered by tiny pebbles (a pretty accurate description, except that they were pelted with ice that stoned the field). We’ll let them recuperate and grow some more before reevaluating their condition. But if you find little white spots on the scallion and leek, know they weren’t made by earthly reptiles but by heaven-sent sources.

The most sensitive to water are the spinach and arugula. Their gentle, thin leaves cannot tolerate lack of oxygen in the earth. Some of the spinach beds turned yellow and collapsed, as did the arugula. This means we will bid the arugula farewell for the time being. The spinach will stay with us a bit longer.

Fortunately, we did not experience major floods or soil erosion, and all in all, the water is permeating the earth slowly, as this week’s warm spring sun brings us back to normal. But one other thing the sun does after a heavy rain is to create a thick membrane of dry earth upon the ground. This is mostly visible in empty beds which absorbed much of the strong rain. Sometimes this means we must do some weeding and cultivating in the beds surrounding the plants. Two of the beds where we recently seeded carrots have not been showing any signs of sprouting, and we fear the seeds are finding it hard to penetrate the thick membrane above.   We will try to break it for them and hope this helps.

Sometimes we need to re-loosen beds that had been readied for planting and seeding. Fortunately, we were able to loosen the earth with the para-plough before the storm, getting it ready for spring planting and seeding. We were worried that if we didn’t do so, the plots would get too saturated. Loosening ventilates the area and opens up the earth, allowing large quantities of water to be absorbed and permeate downwards instead of collecting on the upper levels. This preparation proved to be a good call. But now, after the rain, we will need to go over our previous work and loosen the vacant plots to seed and plant in soft earth.

So we will actually be celebrating Tu B’Shvat by planting and seeding. What will we be planting? The first to enter the earth are the spring potatoes, who earned their title from their harvest season, in a few months’ time when spring is in full reign. Alongside them, we plan to plant zucchini and pumpkin. But to do so, we will need to cover the earth with a sheet, warm it up a bit, and then cover the young plants with a plastic sheet to create a sort of hothouse sleeve for the impending cold days. It is important to start early, as the pumpkins take months to grow and ripen, during which time the summer virus season will start. We are attempting to raise them to be strong and hardy enough to fight these threats. The zucchini has already proven that they prefer this way of growing, and we happily succumb to their needs.

After a week of slowing down due to the rain and cold weather, we are basking in these two weeks of nice sunny weather, healing the storm’s wounds and forging new strength into the plants, warming them up, enlightening them, and rejuvenating them with the large quantity of water now in the earth. What perfect timing for the New Year of the Trees!

In the spirit of New Year greetings, may you all grow and not wilt, blossom and not wither. Here’s to renewed growth and a good life!

Alon, Bat Ami, Ya’ara and the Chubeza team, basking in the sun

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes, Romero peppers, carrots, lettuce, potatoes, leeks/ scallions, parsley/dill/ coriander, fennel/daikon–(small boxes only)

In the large box, in addition: Radishes, kale, parsley root, turnip

Wednesday: broccoli, tomatoes, sweet long peppers, carrots, lettuce, potatoes, scallions, parsley/cilantro, fennel / daikon/ radish, parsley root, cabbage or cauliflower-small boxes only

In the large box, in addition: cauliflower and cabbage, beets, kale

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, olive oil and bakery products too! You can learn more about each producer on the Chubeza website. On our order system there’s a detailed listing of the products and their cost, you can make an order online now!

Aley Chubeza #142 – January 7th-9th 2013

When the Rain Comes They Run and Hide their Heads

 … I remember once returning from weeding in the orchard, my hands covered with black dirt. “Mom,” I said, “look how dirty!” I was a kid, see, and this is how kids talk. She looked at me with brown un-sleeping eyes and said: “Mud is not dirty.”

Yehonatan Geffen

These days my daughter Neta and her second-grade peers are discussing the story of Noah and flood– in perfect timing with our tiny country’s own tiny flood. We’re expecting a very rainy week with lots of water descending from the heavens, mixing up heaven and earth, wet and dry, and muddying our field and boxes with lots of brown mud. The meaning of the word Tevet, the Hebrew month we bid farewell to this week, is “that which we immerse in” from the Accadian Tebitu. Pretty self-explanatory, wouldn’t you think?

 We are therefore attempting to prepare ourselves accordingly, and picked Monday vegetables on Sunday and Wednesday vegetables on Tuesday to avoid the very stormy day. Harvesting in the rain is a slow, difficult task. It is hard to advance in the swampy mud, and the leafy bags fill up with water which can later cause the greens to rot. We try to avoid that, but we don’t always succeed. But Sunday and Tuesday were relatively dry here, so this time it actually worked.

The field is full of puddles, and we hope the abundant water in store will be absorbed in the earth and won’t wash away into our vegetable beds. In order to avoid this, we plough open the land with a chisel-plough, a long fork that stabs the earth to make deep notches into which the rain can permeate. In nature, the roots of trees and other plants with deep roots are used as natural “drain openers,” but in a field of annual plants like ours, we need to do this artificially.

In heavy earth, like Chubeza’s, the drainage is even more important. Our earth has a high percentage of clay, which is actually tiny grains which stick to each other when they come in contact with water, creating a sticky, impenetrable dough. This characteristic of our earth to retain water is excellent for agriculture, keeping water and nutrients within the earth and not easily washed out, like in sandy earth, for instance. But in a rainy winter, like this winter has started out to be, it could be a little too much. In the meantime we’re fine, and we hope it continues this way.

What is this rain descending from above, anyway? If you ask the Polynesians, they would tell you these are the tears of Rangi, the sky and the father of all things, mourning the separation from his wife, Papa, the earth. If you ask scientists, they will explain that vapor has condensed into tiny drops that join together to create greater drops. Once they become too heavy, they fall, due to gravity, collecting more drops on their way down. Contrary to all we know, the raindrop is not at all shaped like a drop… raindrops are either round or elliptic, sometimes oblate. They descend to the earth extremely rapidly, at over seven and a half meters per second, a surprising performance for such a little drop which could be as miniscule as only a few millimeters.

In our family, we have a tradition of extreme loyalty to the rain. When it falls, we do not run. We allow it to tickle our nape, to trickle down our ears. Even my little Talia has already learned to put out her hand and let the rain wet it, and that the best thing you can do is lift your face upwards, open your mouth wide, and lick those wet and cold raindrops. Or, you can opt to just sing in the rain.

May we have a wonderful rainy (hopefully snowy!) week. May it be saturating, full of vitality and the power of fulfillment and growth.

Alon, Bat Ami, Ya’ara and the wet Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN OUR WET BOXES THIS WEEK? (please excuse the “bonus” mud we’re providing…)

Monday: tatsoi / lettuce, cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower, tomatoes, kale / spinach, carrots, Dutch cucumbers, potatoes, fennel, leeks, parsley – small boxes only.

In the large box in addition: parsley root, radishes. kohlrabi / eggplants, cilantro

Wednesday: cauliflower, cabbage, potatoes, celery or celeriac, parsley, cucumbers, fennel, kale or spinach, carrots, tomatoes, green onions – small boxes only.

In the large box in addition: broccoli, kohlrabi, daikon/turnips, leeks

Aley Chubeza #134, November 12th-14th 2012

It’s a Date!

We still have some end-of-the-season Dekel Nur dates in stock, but last week we received a brand new delivery of Kibbutz Samar dates.

This time, Gili sent us the Zahidi variety, which arrived just in time to keep us from being bereft of dates, Heaven forbid… We hope to soon receive a new stock of Dekel Nur from this year’s harvest, and, of course, the indescribably delicious Barhi variety.

In the meantime, let’s meet the new kid on the block: Zahidi is a gold-colored, dry, sweet round date, rich in iron and the richest of the other dates in dietary fibers. Alon and I made a scientific taste test, and Zahidi passed with flying colors: sweeter than Dekel Nur, less sweet than Barhi, dry and soft. An excellent date to remember! Order via our order system.

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RAIN! RAIN! RAIN! RAIN! RAIN!

So… someone’s been reading our newsletter, because the weekend most definitely brought with it our first rain. Therefore, this week’s newsletter will be dedicated in its entirety to this precious precipitation.

The forecasters promised rain on Friday, and thus I promised my daughters. My Shachar went to gan clad in a coat, mittens, a wool hat, a scarf, boots and an umbrella, to cajole the rain into making a genuine appearance. The day was cool but sunny, dotted by only an occasional raindrop. But even the rain could not resist Shachar’s pleas (and her apparel), so a joyful, steady shower began. By 7:30 AM, our reporter-in-the-field, Melissa, dispatched this news: “Rain in Kibbutz Gezer, probably in Kfar Bin Nun as well!” At 8:15, I received the next newsflash: “Sun’s out again. It was a nice and refreshing wash-up, but not that serious. Further updates to come, if needed.”

And indeed, we needed updates: at the end of the pleasant Friday, a truly rainy night followed; then a sunny Shabbat, and once again– a stormy Saturday night and Sunday. The adjacent Kibbutz Gezer measured 5 mm of rain on Friday, an additional 18 on Saturday, and on Sunday another 47 mm! What puddly, wet joy!

Chubeza’s field is already spotted with puddles at its corners, and we are enjoying the mud prints we leave in our little office. We’re discovering which rain-suits are already dripping and should be replaced, and remembering what it’s like to maneuver in the rain between work in the packing house and in the fields (requiring decisions and predictions fit for gambling halls in Vegas: Will the rain get stronger or weaker over the next few minutes? Should we go out for another round of harvest, or is it better to go indoors to do packing and other wintery, indoor activities…What are the odds?).

On rainy, muddy days, and for a couple of days after the rain, we attempt to minimize our activities in the field. The earth does not like being handled when it is full of water. Especially our type of heavy soil, which decides to fulfill its artistic dreams when we touch its clumps—it becomes harder and clay-like, preventing the seeds to break through and grow. We therefore try to leave the earth alone and resume the work of planting and weeding only after the water has been more deeply absorbed, and the ground is not as muddy.

This type of rain (temporarily) washes away the gnawing concerns of the farmer: What will this year be like? Will the rain ever arrive? Will winter remember to grace our little country with precipitation in a dry Middle East? And lo and behold, here it comes: great big drops and a nice steady flow, as if someone opened a huge faucet above, deluging us with a great, huge shower. Of course, we can now start worrying whether or not the rain will continue and return soon, but we would rather imitate little Shachar’s actions and simply convince the rain that it had better come! We will soon plant broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce and kohlrabi in beds without irrigation tubes, just to show the rain how we’re totally counting on it to satiate these plants. We really hope it won’t disappoint us……

In two days, it’s supposed to get sunny and warmer again, allowing the field to breathe, absorb its newly-received moisture slowly and moderately, and to store it in reservoirs under the roots, which are stretching out their shoots to drink the water and benefit from its nutrients. Sunny-after-the-rain days are so much cleaner and better. Everything is shiny, and you get the feeling you can actually enjoy the bright weather, as the field has already drunk away and winter has indeed begun.

Leah Goldberg did an excellent job of describing the happiness and sigh of relief in the well-known children’s song whose words drip with rejoicing and relief. If you click on the link you can also listen to the beautiful rendering of the song by Dorit Farkash.

Unfortunately, an English translation does not do credit to Leah Goldberg’s beautiful poetry. But we offer instead these images by John Richard Vernon, from The Beauty of Rain, 1863:

And at last it comes. You hear a patter… you see a leaf here and there bob and blink about you; you feel a spot on your face, on your hand. And then the gracious rain comes, gathering its forces—steady, close, abundant. Lean out of window, and watch, and listen. How delicious!… the verandah beneath losing its scattered spots in a sheet of luminous wet; and, never pausing, the close, heavy, soft-rushing noise…

May we all have a wonderful week, may peace be disturbed only by the sounds of the earth awakening to life, not by the rattle of swords.

Alon, Bat Ami, ya’ara and the Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Lettuce, arugula, carrots, tomatoes, slice of pumpkin, parsley, cucumbers, beets, daikon or turnips, eggplant/red or green bell peppers/zucchini, (small boxes only), scallions (small boxes only).

In the large box, in addition: cauliflower or broccoli, kohlrabi, leeks, sweet potatoes, cilantro

Wednesday: scallion, arugula or tatsoi, slice of pumpkin, radish or daikon, kohlrabi, parsley, cucumbers, beets or turnips, carrots, Swiss chard, tomatoes

In the large box, in addition: eggplants / leeks, cauliflower or sweet potatoes, cilantro

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, olive oil, eggs and bakery products too! You can learn more about each producer on the Chubeza website. On our order system there’s a detailed listing of the products and their cost, you can make an order online now!