Steve’s Weekly Update 6-13-12

Climatology 2012:  Dangerous fire weather conditions continue.  Will we westerners wake up to what has to change in order to reduce fire risks?  Managed grazing of all grasses and serious thinning and reduction of fuel on all forests.  If we don’t do it, nature will take care of restoring the balance and everywhere we see this happen it is not pretty.  Lives are changed forever.  This is a region-wide hurricane Katrina in slow motion.  When will we get the message?

This week’s Cow stories:  Mesa Top cows and Jim Miller Ayrshire project:  The move of some cows to the Bennetts did not happen yet, but is set to happen soon.  We are also in negotiation with one neighbor ranch who a few years ago had to remove cows due to difficulties keeping them watered and to the challenges and costs of fence maintenance.  There are a couple of small family ranches left who have been adversely effected by the cultural changes on the Mesa that have been accelerating in the last 25 to 30 years;  more traffic, fast drivers, and larger properties broken up and fenced, and taken out of agriculture.

The Mesa originally functioned like a great commons.  There were few fences and small herds moved and mingled and ranchers watched out for each other’s’ stock.  Now, along with the fire danger that continues to grow as the “fractionalization” of the Mesa becomes firmly established, the secondary effects: more traffic and faster drivers means that ranches whose cattle wandered, moving freely to grass and water through an open range, are unable to safely function.

I have a good friend who was ranch manager for the large ranch next door to me.  We just bought a horse from him, and came by to drop it off and shoe our other horse.  I asked him to look at the fence we need to build on the neighbor ranch that would be useful to help divide this neighbor ranch into working sections.  We left a vehicle and an observer at the county road and drove up to the fence site.  When we returned, the observer noted the number of cars that had passed, and their high speed.  On a downhill, half mile stretch of straight road, with hills and turns at each end, and barely 2 lanes wide, drivers reached 50+ miles per hour regularly.  It would be dangerous to the cattle and to the drivers to allow cows to range freely along that road.  Fencing the road adds to the cost and delays before the grass can be managed.  In the long run it will make the ranch more manageable and help us keep the grass and forest healthier, but for the moment, it is one more barrier to improvement.

At least in this case we have an understanding and supportive neighbor involved.  His comment:  “the grass doesn’t grow unless it is eaten.  We need cattle out here to reduce the fire risk and help keep the grass healthy.“  I could not have said it better.

This week’s cheese making update:  We have been processing the creamy cheddar (aka Muenster) for this week’s distribution.  Of course we have found that there is a fair amount of variation in the wheels, even within the same batch.   We are tracing these variations back to our production notes, looking for clues.  It is an interesting mystery to figure out what creates the different qualities in the cheese.  We look forward to your comments on your cheese from this week’s share.

This week’s cheese share includes: a variety of artisanal cheeses

Mesa Top Meat (Protein) update:   Sorry, still no pork on the marketplace list yet, hopefully Friday of this week…

We will have ground beef for next week’s distribution.

This week’s Veggie/Share Update:  Mesa Top Farm offers arugula or braising mix, and lettuce this week.  But there is a sad story with the the arugula and mix.  These items were perfect and beautiful last week, but we were not able to fit them into the CSA share then.  Given the nature of the crops, the best move was to hold them for a week.  During that time the flea beetles had a population explosion.  As a result you see a lot of little tiny holes…

One time, in the early years of the farm, I delivered some arugula to a prominent local chef, who commented “this stuff is holy as a prayer” and rejected it.  I could understand why he had to do that: who is going to pay $12.95 for 2 or 3 ounces of arugula that does not look perfect?

In the CSA it is different.  We all want the hard work of the farmers to pay off.  We encourage members to look at the food as if it is the work of our own hands.  In this case we have given a very healthy portion of arugula or braising mix, and we are encouraging you to eat these tasty greens soon.  They will not have a long shelf life.  Look past the beetle holes and enjoy the flavor.  The farmers at Mesa Top have taken some time to clean it up as best they can, but you may still have to do a little cleaning.

The lettuce should be a treat.  We hope you enjoy the peas from Rancho La Jolla.

This is our first week of local fruit.  The apricots from Shiraz ripened very suddenly in the extraordinary heat that has engulfed Southern New Mexico.  And the Northern NM cherries are also a couple of weeks early.  Hopefully there will be ‘cots and cherries for several weeks.

We also include our once a month offering of Mesa Top aged, raw milk cheese.

Membership news:  We received a very thoughtful and fair-minded comment from a renewing member, who reiterated her continuing support for the CSA and also expressed her concern that for the last couple of weeks the food provided in the share did not measure up well to her sense of value.  We really appreciate hearing from members when they have comments like this.  It is particularly true in certain times of the year, when local food is scarcer and the selections are limited, that we have to stretch our supplies.  Sometimes we also feel that we are coming up short.  This is something that we correct as the season progresses.  Long term members will see these highs and lows.

Sometimes also a farmer promises us a certain amount of a product, and is not able to deliver.  Sometimes an item is damaged or partially spoiled when we get it, and in these instances we are sitting there in Thursday morning juggling to make things right.  When these problems are big enough we sometimes go back in and credit the accounts of every member.  But smaller (10%) discrepancies we simply take note and look ahead and correct the situation going forward.  Let us know if you think we are getting too far out of balance, as one member recently did, and we will work out an adjustment with you that is mutually agreeable

Another really big factor in maximizing the share size is the number of members receiving food on a given week.  Our CSA is a simple and efficient operation. We depend on and appreciate our “work share” members and our mutually beneficial exchange of food for space with Kitchen Angels to help keep our costs down.  But our overhead has to be paid for, and the more members we are serving, the less our overhead costs, as a percentage of the share, and thus, the more food we can give per share.

So help us spread the word and sign up more members!  We add $10 to your Farm Account for every member you refer.

Thank you for your investment in and continued support of the CSA .  We appreciate your support!

Steve Warshawer


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