Aley Chubeza #286, April 4th-6th 2016

Pesach’s just around the corner! Note that during the week of Chol Hamoed (Monday, April 25 and Wednesday April 27), there will be no deliveries.

If you wish to increase your vegetable boxes before the holidays, please advise ASAP.

Open Day at Chubeza:

In keeping with our twice-yearly tradition, we invite you for a Chol HaMoed “pilgrimage” to Chubeza to celebrate our Open Day.

The Pesach Open Day will take place on Wednesday, April 27, the 19th of Nissan, between 1:00 PM-6:00 PM. The Open Day gives us an ideal opportunity to meet, tour the field, and nibble on vegetables and other delicacies. Children have their own tailor-made tours, designed for little feet and curious minds, plus activities and a vast space to run around and loosen up.  (So can the adults…)

On the Open Day, we also set up a produce stand where you can purchase all you need to replenish your vegetable supply.

Driving instructions are on our website under “Contact Us.” Please make sure to check this out before heading our way.

We look forward to seeing you!

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Tamar, a dear friend and longtime Chubeza member, sent me this invitation to a unique exhibition opening at the Shtilei Har plant nursery in Abu Gosh next week. The exhibition includes nature photos and beautiful poetry written by Tamar. I highly recommend your taking the opportunity to give yourself a gift of a few hours of joy and delight during this labor intensive season. See additional details here:

tamar-show

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Allowing Nature to Take Its Course

This week I want to share with you the dramatic events that having been taking place in the field over the past few weeks. At first or even second or third glance, the field looks peaceful, but if you take a close look, a very close look, using a magnifying glass perhaps, a bloody battle of life and death appears before your eyes. The warring combatants are tiny aphids, parasitic wasps, ladybugs, and of course the green habitants of the field, our vegetables and the neighboring weeds.

The frenzied, changing weather of the past month and a half granted ideal growing conditions for the vegetables. On one hand, we had surprisingly warm weeks followed by heavy rains that watered the earth. This combo caused a growth spurt for many vegetables, as well as the weeds. But its influence was not confined to the plant kingdom alone. The insects in our field have their own say, of course. The aphids, for example, understand the combination of moist and warmth to be an invitation to reproduce and start sucking away at the sap of our plants. The abundant weeds also contribute to the aphid reproduction, and thus at the beginning of last month, we found ourselves facing a serious aphid problem that afflicted the radishes, baby greens, cabbage, cucumbers, coriander, kale, lettuce and many other vegetables.

Upon discovery of the aphid attack, we began to fight back by treating the problem with pyrethrum-based pest control – a concentrate produced from a specific type of chrysanthemum that is lethal to aphids (in addition to other bugs). Yet several days after our attempt at extermination, we began to realize that a defensive event of a different sort altogether was taking place on the beleaguered Chubeza field: instead of the thousands of live aphids, we started seeing “aphid mummies” and understood that unrelated to our activity, the parasitic wasps were now assuming command. We decided to cease all action and allow nature to take its course. Those plants that were lost could not be saved, but those that could muster the strength to fight and overcome the enemy would find the wherewithal to survive. So now is the time to explain the details of the combat strategy (or pest control at its best):

Aphids are tiny bugs (up to 10 mm), usually green or black, sometimes grey. Our problem is that they feed on the sap of the plants, the liquid within the plant tissue. They suck out the sap with their unique proboscis, inflicting great damage upon the plants. Especially since the aphids tend to make the party a family affair. At times thousands of teeny weeny aphids can be sucking away at the sap of one plant, leaving it depleted and sad. Of course, we cannot send you an aphid-contaminated plant, so everybody (except the aphids) loses. The good news is that aphids have a few fierce natural enemies, among them the parasitic wasps and the common ladybug.

The parasitic wasps are tiny wasps which use the aphids as a nursery for their babies. When the wasps meet the aphids, they paralyze them and lay their eggs within the unwilling aphid hosts.  The eggs hatch inside and the larvae spin cocoons which swell the aphid’s body. The adult wasp then exits the aphid body, leaving behind a hard brown shell called an aphid mummy. Happily satiated, the wasp rests until a new parasitic wasp emerges, yearning for its own offspring and ready to battle another aphid. In plant nurseries (net houses/hothouses), the farmers usually distribute natural enemies raised in labs to battle the aphid pests. But this cannot take place as a preventative measure, for without aphids, the wasps cannot live.

Here’s a wasp larva emerging from an aphid mummy:

So the field taught us a lesson in nature’s balancing act: when the quantity of aphids goes out of control and takes over the field, parasitic wasps come forth to save the day, doing their jobs and leaving behind many larvae pupating in the petrified aphid mummies. In this particular Chubeza battle, some of the crops were saved, while others had already been damaged beyond repair. Following the advice of Momi, our pest control advisor, we decided to recruit the biological “natural” exterminators from our fields to defend our nurseries. Kale was one of the afflicted crops, but because it was so aphid-infested, the parasitic wasps took over and left an impressive mummy community in their wake. So we gathered kale from the field and spread it among our hothouse cucumbers that were also infested with aphids. We placed the leaves in the shade, as the aphids gather at the bottom part of the leaf, protected from the sun, and we wanted to provide similar conditions in our experiment. We decided to give up on the poor coriander which was also infested with aphid mummies, but we used its potential by harvesting it and disbursing it throughout all the tunnels. At the same time, we conducted a small experiment with a few kale leaves we placed in a covered bucket which we left alone for several days. Within 4-5 days, almost all the parasitic wasps had emerged and a new defense battalion was ready for action.

Once again, we got a glimpse of the tremendous power of nature and realized how important it is to let this power take action. When we purchase parasitic wasps, we buy several hundred to distribute throughout our plant nurseries. By contrast, the natural extermination in the field produces tens of thousands of parasitic wasps. Thus when we brought the kale and coriander into the nurseries, we provided our own homegrown defenders, and so many more of them. They were accompanied by ladybugs that we found in the artichoke bed, at every stage of development: bugs, larvae, pupae. They, too, were taken into the nurseries in order to bring some of the natural abundance present outside into the isolated nursery space. The ladybugs help us fight the aphids as the latter is the ladybug’s favorite dessert. They love noshing on aphids at any given opportunity. Here’s a link to a live look at this meal.

The natural activities taking place in the field, as evidenced in the vast abundance of valiant parasitic wasps and ladybugs, was satisfying and fascinating for us to follow. We felt a little like parents proud to discover how well their child has done in face of a challenge in sports or at school. A feeling that we must be doing something right as farmers if our field acts naturally to overcome the chaos that erupted. It gathered up strength, did what it could and restored equilibrium. We realize that farming is a forceful interference in the natural course of the piece of earth upon which our field resides, and it’s so nice to see that we haven’t undermined the natural forces within it. When they are called to action, they march in tune with the hum of nature, solving the problem much better than we could have.

Five days ago we dispersed these advantageous bugs throughout Chubeza, and now we anxiously await the results over the coming week. We’ll let you know.

And some more pleasant festivities of nature: Mazal Tov and much happiness to Ruthie, our devoted Wednesday volunteer who was rewarded with a new grandson last week. (What fun to have a grandma like Ruthie!) Our loving wishes for you to enjoy many years of grandchildren-spoiling!

In the meantime, wishing you a naturally good week, balanced and productive,

Alon, Bat-Ami, Dror, Yochai, and the entire Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Romaine/curly leaf lettuce, dill/parsley/cilantro, tomatoes, Swiss chard/kale, cucumbers, potatoes, fava beans, leek/fresh onions, fresh garlic, beets, small boxes only: zucchinni/artichoke.

Large box, in addition: cabbage/cauliflower, radish/turnip, celeriac/parsley root, baby greens (mesclun mix).

Wednesday: zucchinni/artichoke/potatoes, fava beans, leek/fresh onions, fresh garlic, beets, Romaine/curly leaf lettuce, parsley/cilantro, tomatoes, Swiss chard/kale, cucumbers, celeriac/parsley root. a gift: dill/nana (mint).

 Large box, in addition: carrots, cabbage/cauliflower, radish/turnip/kohlrabi.

 

And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers: flour, fruits, honey, dates, almonds, garbanzo beans, crackers, probiotic foods, dried fruits and leathers, olive oil, bakery products 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 #256, August 10th-12th 2015

Pick, Pick, Pick, Talk a Lot, Pick a Little More

Last week I began telling you about the experience of harvesting our field, now bursting with produce, and this week we’ll complete our virtual (and literal) field trip. This Newsletter graduates to Chubeza’s fine motor skills department, utilized to reach the various pods dotting the bushes. We’ll begin with the one that towers over the crowd:

Miss Okra, aka “Lady Fingers” does not treat the harvesters in a ladylike manner at all! Its branches and leaves contain etheric oil, causing anyone who rubs against them to break out in an itchy rash. Which is why okra is only harvested with gloved hands and long sleeve-covered arms, and it’s harvested quite often and over time. We tend to the okra bed every other day to escape the wrath of the long-finger-nailed lady. Harvesting okra is time consuming: the pods must be searched for among the branched, tangled foliage, and then picked at a pace of one-pod-at-a-time. (Each pod needs individual TLC.)

Okra belongs to the Malvaceae family (like our beloved Chubeza), and struts big, beautiful yellow flowers with intense purple centers. But despite her majestic bearing, okra is one of the few crops that does not require us to bend on our knees to harvest. The bushes grow tall very quickly, even reaching the height of 3 meters! At some point, they are taller than we are, and we bend the flexible branches downward to reach the pods.

Our veteran pod is of course the Green Bean. Harvesting Mr. Bean is an exceedingly slooooooooooow task. Beans, too, require individual attention, combing through the bush and slowly harvesting the pods one by one. At some point, the task becomes meditative, and among the bean bushes one can overhear discussions regarding matters of the utmost importance (politics, faith, relationships, childbearing, lunch, and more). Sometimes in the heat of the discussion we need to remind ourselves that we are here, under the scorching sun, holding onto the pails in a crouching position because we are in the midst of bean harvesting. Beans? Oh, right, those pods wagging before our eyes. Back to work it is…

“Crouching position” applies to the bean bushes, not to be confused with the beans we grow on stalks via trellising. The latter is much easier to harvest, with no need whatsoever for bending. The two different types of beans have different yield patterns: the bush-grown bean (like the bush-grown tomato) ripens at once. Usually we can produce two harvests at once, and for the final harvest we simply tear out the whole bush and strip it of its last pods. The trellised bean (again, like the trellised tomatoes) ripens over time and gradually. It yields furiously for a week or two, but before and after that growth spurt, it still manages to give a nice quantity of produce on the average. Sometimes, after the peak of bean harvest where we pick and pick and pick and it never ends, we take a breath of relief when the quantity tapers off. Once again we can look to our left and right or up at the blue skies and do something other than focus on bean bushes for entire days on end…

Last but not least of the summer pods is the Thai bean, sister to the black-eyed pea, which creates a harvesting experience not unlike that of the North Thailand jungles. Thai beans grow by trellis. We plant two rows per bed with 60 cm in between. They are very happy with us and grow well over the trellis. Once they outgrow the pole, these critters start spreading over to the next row’s pole, thus creating a natural arbor of bean thickets. It would be nice if this little dwelling were man-size, but the poles are short. In order to sit in the bean house, one must get down on all fours and begin crawling through an entangled maze, clearing away branches and performing all sorts of complex acrobatics. We’re talking about a real maze. If you manage to look up, you will not be able to see the sky. On terribly hot days, it’s not that bad to reside within this shady bush…

Whereas the okra harvesting rewards those of us who were blessed with height and can reach the pods towering above, in the case of the Thai bean, it is the diminutive harvesters among us who can crawl more easily through the Thai jungle. Of course, beyond harvesting the main thicket created between the two rows, we harvest the outskirts with ease. All we have to do is scout the long green-almost-black snakes and harvest those which have reached the thickness of a pencil. In China, they are sometimes left to harvest even longer, almost to the point of drying up, in order to use the seeds. At that point, these beans can reach the staggering height of one meter apiece! At Chubeza, pencil length is more like 30 cm.

And now, permit me to make an abrupt change of route from the little pods individually harvested and filling up the buckets very slowly while emitting a fragrance of green freshness, to the extreme opposite: chubby, heavy balls of sweet sensual fragrance, each one weighing something like half a bucket of pods. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce our beloved melons. Twice a week we comb through the beds, taking in the intoxicating fragrance of ripe Galia melons, greeting the green melons peeking at us from among the bushes, promising them we’ll return shortly as they sit there and ripen. We also check in on those that have changed their color to yellow, paying close attention to them, gently pressing their bottoms (that dot on the other side of the stem) to ascertain that they’re still flexible. I love harvesting melons, enjoying the detective work employed to make sure the melon has reached its peak of ripeness and sweetness: the changing color, the flexible edge, the strong scent. But by far, the most important sign of a ripe melon is the way the melon responds to its harvest. When we instruct new workers on harvesting Galia melons (the technique differs from melon to melon), we stress the cardinal rule that they cannot use force. Once the level of sugar in the fruit has reached its peak, a rift is created between the stem and fruit, preventing other nutrients to penetrate the melon. If the melon is ripe, it’ll easily snap off the plant. If a mere tug is not enough – well, the melon is simply not ripe, still suckling its nutrition from the plant and still needing it. Let him be, give him a few more days. When he’s ready to let go, he will do so with ease and we’ll all benefit from our patience.

When harvesting melons, we sometimes encounter sooty mold on the plant. Sooty mold is a disease of the leaves which soils the plant and makes it look as if it’s met the exhaust spewed from a great big truck. The disease, transmitted by whiteflies, causes the leaves and melons grow black, sometimes to the point of withering or rotting. When you harvest the melons and touch those leaves, the soot comes off on your fingers, which instantly turn black as if they’ve just replaced a flat tire. This disease is prevalent at the end of the season, when the plants are older and weaker. At this point, we don’t treat it anymore, only harvest the ripe fruits as quickly as possible, and allowing the plants to reach their peaceful demise just a little blacker than they began their lives.

In all our harvests we sometimes encounter vegetables that aren’t suitable for marketing: peppers scorched by the sun, tomatoes perforated by birds, elderly beans or ant-ridden corn. When we find a melon sitting on the ground, instead of the plastic cover, it’s usually somewhat rotten on the bottom. Sitting on the wet earth softens the skin, allowing the earth dwellers to reach the flesh and speed up decomposition. Sometimes ants celebrate the unexpected breach. We meet such a melon with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it’s disappointing to find a melon that looks great, then lift it and discover that soft rotten area on the other end. But then again, this means a great refreshing melon-half dessert for lunch… just in time to end an exhausting, albeit insightful discussion over the bean bed.

So sometimes it’s not that bad to find a (half) rotten melon…

Wishing you a cooler, refreshing week,

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

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Eggplant/zucchini/potatoes, parsley/mint (nana), basil/spinach, butternut squash/spaghetti squash, tomatoes, corn, leeks/ scallions, red bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers. Small boxes only: Thai beans/okra.

Large box, in addition: Onions, pumpkin, coriander, okra.

Wednesday:  Red bell peppers/potatoes, cucumbers, basil/spinach, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, Thai beans/okra, mint (nana)/coriander, eggplant, butternut squash, corn, leeks/ scallions/garlic chives.

Large box, in addition: Onions, pumpkin, parsley.

And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers: flour, fruits, honey, dates, almonds, garbanzo beans, crackers, probiotic foods, dried fruits and leathers, olive oil, bakery products 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 #255, August 3rd-5th 2015

Asaf and Arik, the Minchat Ha’aretz fresh flour grinders, announce an August spelt flour sale. Here are the details (Hebrew):

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Pick a little (talk a little) – Part 1

For the past month or more at Chubeza, all we do is pick, pick, pick. The last of the summer plantings have been completed, and it’s early yet for autumn planting. From time to time, we do need to pay attention to wild weeds that must be cleared, or to some disease or pest that requires punitive action (green, of course), but most of the day we’re bent over the bushes harvesting ripe fruits and vegetables for you. Even in scorching heat…..

We thought this would be a good time to invite you to take a peek at the world of our harvesters. How does the harvester feel? What does s/he see? Smell? Taste? What makes them happy? What upsets them? Which is the least loved harvest and which is the most popular? Over the next two weeks, you get to read the dark secrets (and true confessions) of a harvester. For your eyes only…

Our fields are bursting with produce these days, and our hands filled with harvest chores. It’s always great harvesting veggies that are also fun to nibble on while we’re at it. In Chubeza’s first year, when we still planted small beds for each vegetable, the nibbling actually endangered the quantities of yield… This year, however, even if we hold daily tomato wars, eat pasta with tomato sauce for lunch and feast on salsa all night, we’ll still be able to fill up your boxes with generous quantities of several varieties of tomatoes. As newbies in the farming industry, we learned everything from experience, all at the mercy of our hands, backs, and flesh. In time, the plastic carts where we placed the yield which we had to bend over and pick up as we moved along made way for pails with nice handles which we carry – no need to keep bending over. The bare arms and hands which got cut and dirty and itchy and rashy now wear protective gloves. We alternated growing crops by trellising and by hugging the earth. We changed and adapted the planting schedules and learned the proper frequency for every vegetable and fruit, as well as their individual ripeness signs.

And here you have it, harvest meetings, and the pondering of a harvester as s/he tends to the young ‘uns:

Squash and pumpkins belong to the fast and furious variety of plants. If you happen to come upon a tiny squash still attached to a flower in full bloom on Sunday, chances are that upon your return a week later you will encounter a huge monster squash the length of a baseball bat, and overweight at that. In order to harvest squashes when they’re just right (not too big or not too small), we must visit the squash bed almost every day and harvest the right guys. A good candidate will generally be judged by its thickness (rather than its length) and usually be connected from behind to a withered flower. Chefs and gourmet food lovers who use the flowers are actually using a tiny squash still connected to a big flower in bloom. Aside from the bending down required due to its short demeanor, the squash is basically welcoming to the harvester: though the plants are thorny (aside from the thornless yellow and green zucchinis), their open and systematic growth where the fruit is placed makes harvesting simple. As the plant grows, it expands outward, growing more and more flowers which in turn become individual squashes.

Unlike their disciplined cousins, the open field cucumbers are hippy swingers, the kind who wear their hair in dreadlocks and haven’t used a comb in years. Now imagine yourselves trying to harvest cucumbers in a dreadlock bush… I’m presuming that’s how the little Lilliputians felt when they tried to pick nits out of Gulliver’s head: stop every few steps, bend down over the plant, open the leaves and search for the ripe cucumbers by their size. In order to pick them when they’re not too oversized, we climb Gulliver’s head every other day. Today we have four to five cucumber beds for every planting round, but over time we have become more efficient in harvesting them. Currently it takes us approximately one hour with three people in the cucumber bed. The fakus is similar to the cucumber in its growth habits, but by virtue of its being longer and stranger-looking than the cool cucumber, the fakus is more easily identifiable in the jungle of growth.

The greenhouse cucumbers are a different story. We grow them on a trellis, i.e., standing high atop strings that make the plant nice and tall, allowing light to reach all its various parts and making it grow diagonally as opposed to horizontally. Growing by trellis is a labor-intensive endeavor where attention is demanded for each plant. First we must tie the strings to the top of the metal poles and connect them to each plant. Then, there is the weekly maintenance of coiling the plant and trimming the side branches. A tremendous amount of work. On the other hand, harvesting is super easy! No need to search or bend over – the ripe cucumbers are hanging right there, before our very eyes. Just like that.

One of the difficulties in harvesting cucumbers is that their green color make them hard to distinguish among the leaves and branches. In that regard, however, their salad partners are made of totally different material. The extrovert tomatoes stand out in the bush, blushing away against the green backdrop and very easy to harvest. Some of our tomatoes are trellised while others grow on a low bush, but they’re all relatively undemanding to harvest. The pails fill up quickly, so the hard work here is leaving the rows over and over again to empty the heavy, overflowing pails. Now we all harvest with gloves, but those of us who remember harvesting bare-handed can’t forget the oily greenish residue left on our hands after coming in contact with the plant. This accumulates and becomes very dark, almost black, and sometimes it burns or itches, even leaving a burn mark. A cool trick to get rid of this “tomato seraph” is to slice a tomato and rub its juice on your hand, lathering it with the juice, then washing your hands. The grease and dirt simply disappear! Tomatoes from the supermarket or even the shuk are usually harvested while they’re still greenish, and they redden over the next few days till they assume their places on the supermarket shelves. The idea is to increase their shelf life, but then you pay the price of flavor, as the sugar level does not reach its peak and they’re still somewhat bitter. We harvest the tomatoes right into your boxes, which is why we can afford to pick them when they’re bright red, and leave the orangish-pinkish ones on the vines till they redden up a bit.

Our peppers are also harvested when they’re nice and red, but we start harvesting them when they’re still young and green. Harvesting peppers also takes care of thinning out the bushes. In an ideal world and perfect field, it would be nice if we could thin out the flowers on the pepper bushes, removing two to three flowers and allowing the bushes to turn their energy towards further growth and  branching out. The first flowers will usually appear in the center of the plant, and after they are thinned out, more will appear in the periphery. We don’t usually manage to thin them out when they’re still flowers, which is why this is done while we harvest the green peppers. We harvest a few fruits from each bush, attempting to pick them from the more crowded areas in order to allow breathing space for the rest. Upon ripening, the green fruits turn red, first one cheek, then the other till a red blanket envelops the entire fruit. This whole process takes approximately three weeks. Now when we harvest the peppers, we remove the thin agril layers spread over the beds and select to harvest only  those peppers which have turned completely red. At the end of the harvest, the bushes remain with green peppers and half-red peppers awaiting their turn until they’re red and ready.

The third member of the summer nightshades (tomato-peppers-eggplant) is judged by its size and not color. We prefer to harvest them medium-sized (300 gr, 20 cm long) and not wait for huge fruits that have surpassed their peak. In order to see if it is ready, you measure the eggplant by its size but also give it a gentle squeeze to see how soft it is. An unripe eggplant will be hard and will not “respond” to the pressure of your fingers. A ripe eggplant will be lithe, but not soft. It is important to us to harvest them medium-sized, as we grow eggplants without any trellising or support, and if they’re too big their weight is liable to bend the bushes, make them grow crooked or even break.

And last but not least, the star in your boxes and a unique fella in the field: corn! Corn belongs to the Gramineae family, which is why it has a unique look reminiscent of a great big blade of grass or a stalk of grain. This stalk is actually the inflorescence of the corn, and the cobs themselves appear halfway between it and the earth. As the corn grows, little “piggies” appear (small branches emerging from the base of the stem), and it’s important to remove them in order to allow all the plant’s energy to focus on the main stem. When the silk on top of the cobs dries out, we know the corn is ripe. During this season, when their hue changes from green to dry, the gong chimes and we start the race against the birds and the ants. The latter wish to climb on the corncob and penetrate the leaves, while the birds simply want to take little nibbles at the edges. When we first start harvesting, these pests are not as harmful, probably since they’re less active earlier in the season. At that point we take our time and harvest the corn over a few weeks. During this season, the corn ripens faster due to the heat, and the competition between us and the birds and animals forces us to harvest the corn all at once to prevent the corncobs from drying up and being harmed. Upon arriving at the peak of its sugar and juiciness, the corn begins drying up and turns milky and starchy, as the sugar begins turning to starch. Usually each corn stalk will grow two cobs: a bigger and smaller one. We try to fertilize it well in order to arrive at two largish-sized cobs. Harvesting the corn is particularly joyful. As opposed to most harvests, here you can actually stand, put out your hand and break the cob off the stem. Pretty soon, the pail fills up with chubby, inviting corncobs, and it may surprise you, but corn is also a great nosh: fresh corn off the plant is sweet and soft and juicy and can be eaten blissfully. No need to cook it. Believe us, we have tried once and again, and we love it!

That’s it for now! Next week we’ll share the joy of harvesting pods and melons, maybe even some spices, if there’s room…

Wishing us a quiet, peaceful week, focusing on tender emotions of love and acceptance. Keep cool and drink up!

Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Yochai and the Chubeza harvesters

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Eggplant, coriander/mint (nana), lettuce/spinach, pumpkin, tomatoes, onions, leeks/ scallions, Thai lubia/okra, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes. Small boxes only: red bell peppers. Special gift: tomatoes

Large box, in addition: Zucchini/corn, acorn squash/butternut squash, basil, parsley.

Wednesday: red bell peppers, cucumbers, lettuce/New Zealand spinach, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, okra, basil/cilantro/nana (mint), eggplants, slice of pumpkin, onions, scalions/leek/garlic chive.

Large box, in addition: zucchini/corn/spaghetti squash, yard long beens/butternut squash, parsley

And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers: flour, fruits, honey, dates, almonds, garbanzo beans, crackers, probiotic foods, dried fruits and leathers, olive oil, bakery products 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 #159 May 20th-22nd 2013

 Blackbird Singing in the Dead of Night

Last Thursday, due to the school holiday, I was fortunate enough to host five sweet little girls in our field (three of them were second-generation Chubeza). We took a stroll in the cucurbitaceae beds, beginning with the smaller family members (the cucumbers) and concluding with the larger ones (the big pumpkin). We loved figuring out who was hiding under the leaves in this bed or that one. When we reached the melon and watermelon beds, the girls noticed metal arcs spread the length of the bed like thin gates, under which the plants grow. I suggested maybe the gates are used as goals for soccer games between the melon and watermelon teams, but they didn’t seem to buy that, and requested the truth and nothing but the truth. I thought perhaps you’d like to know the reason as well.

We grow our vegetables in an open field, where they are less-protected from the surroundings. This is, of course, a wonderful advantage, as their natural integration in the outdoors creates a balance where useful carnivores insects devour harmful insects (the vegetarian kind), thus allowing the plants to withstand the hardships. The air is laden with all sorts of fluttering creatures who buzz in and out of the flowers to pollinate them, and the combination of different crops contributes to the fertility of the earth, to disease prevention, and to damage and affliction control. Best of all, the field is beautiful in its varied hues, sizes, colors and shapes.

And yet, our plants are still domesticated and human-cultivated. And just like us, with all our love for nature and the outdoors, they need protection from the great outdoors where there are always others interested in sharing them, taking a bite, stinging, inflicting or just landing on them and depositing a vegetable virus as a souvenir.

During wintertime, the onion fly is active and not at all put off by the pungent aroma of the onion family. On the contrary, the onion and leek are excellent beds for the female fly to lay her eggs, and for some years now we have been bitterly disappointed by the bulbs over the winter. This year we received good advice, and covered the young bulbs with thin agril cloth. There were fewer fly bites, and the light material enabled the crops to grow, so when they reached the thickness of a pencil we removed the veil and rejoiced at the fact that we would finally be able to enjoy the onions this year (hopefully you did too!).

Summertime is a lively, vigorous season, and the pace is fast and rhythmic. The insects do not rest for a moment. They want to woo, suck, and procreate, and do not notice if they drop off some hitch-hiking viruses on our tomatoes. The blackbirds in our field are smart, and they can figure out where we planted our watermelons. They wait patiently as the melons fill up with sweet nectar and then they pounce. In the past, we could tell which watermelons were ripe and sweet by the telltale blackbird pecking.

Which is why our watermelons were covered, exposed, and now will be covered once more under camouflage. When they were young, we covered them (along with their fellow squash, melons, cucumbers and fakuses) to protect them from the various flutterers who spread viruses and diseases that could bring them down. The arcs scattered along the bed held the thin cover over the young plants. Now that they have matured, we removed the cover in order to allow the pollinators to reach the beautiful yellow flowers and fertilize them. Now, when the green watermelons are already rounding out and filling up in the fields, it is time to cover them once again, hiding them from the greedy eyes and beaks of the blackbirds (though Alon maintains that the blackbirds are clever enough to still know exactly where they are.)

In defense of those crows, I really must say that somehow, probably unintentionally, they help us to face other pestering, dangerous birds, the mynas. The common myna is an intruding bird who was first brought to Israel for research and display, but escaped from captivity and quickly spread out all across the central part of the country. They cause tremendous damage to orchards and vineyards. When Hilaf, the Karmei Yossef fruit farmer, sees the mynas in our field he is horrified. And yet, we haven’t been hurt by them (tfu tfu tfu), perhaps thanks to their competitors the crows, who keep them mellow by devouring their eggs and chasing them away from food sources.

Here are the two: to the left, Mr. Crow, to the right, Ms. Myna.

Photo by Lior Almagor, www.tiuli.com

 

Photo by Amir Balaban, www.nrg.co.il

 

 

 

 

 

 

Together with you, we wish our lovely watermelons the wherewithal to reach full maturity and sweetness, and hope the blackbirds find a nice piece of cheese to stick their beaks into and forget about us….

May we have a good week, bereft of pecking and annoyances,

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

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 WHATS IN THIS WEEKS BOXES?

Monday: Lettuce, beets, parsley, tomatoes, scallions/chives, garlic, cabbage, cucumbers/fakus, Swiss chard/spinach, potatoes, zucchini, dill

In the large box, in addition: carrots, leeks, coriander

Wednesday:

In the large box, in addition: