In This Edition:
Potlatch Pilaf Breakfast Casserole
Methow Valley School District: Lunch Ladies
Bluebird Resumes Seattle Markets on a monthly basis starting March 31st.
New Price lists for Wholesale & Retail Customers
Farmer-Chef Connection Feb 27th
Notes from the Farmer
The chimney smoke is straight up this morning which is indicative of the sustained high pressure February ushered in bringing deep blue skies, white hills and brilliant sunshine. That fast, it seems, winter's grip is weakening. It always amazes me: the suddenness in which winter can arrive and just as suddenly how the gathering afternoon light sends us toward spring. Just last night on a full-moon walk with the dogs, the quiet, glistening hills that echoed with coyote talk seemed at their winter fullest. And the next full moon will be winters' last. Boo-hoo...
Surely there is winter left ahead, but the darker days are generally when we get our snow and cold. Speaking of which, we were beginning to wonder here on the Rendezvous whether or not winter snow was coming when a strong weather cycle hit the Northwest. In that third week of January we got three feet of wonderful, cold snow that we welcomed for a variety of reasons, not the least of which we got in some thigh-deep turns on the Butte above the granary!
January was busy in other ways besides the daily plowing of our driveway and work yard around the granary. Bluebird was very alive with first-of-the -year orders and this past January proved busier than any. Thank you! Although we were somewhat challenged there during the storms to meet freight trucks and ship things in customary speedy fashion , we never had any real delays thanks to our trusty UPS drivers and our brave truckers at Oak Harbor.
Another major plus with the storms of course – previously I said I wouldn't fret about this yet—we banked some excellent snow pack for the spring's soil profile. Once again, we are in very good shape moisture-wise as Mother Nature caught up for a droughty start to winter.
Ready or not, the growing daylight begins to stir up spring planning in this farmer's head and I find myself re-reading soil tests, strategizing crop rotations, and ultimately laying out our spring farming budget, which includes soil amendments, equipment costs, total acreage in grains vs. cover crop; all this after taking inventory of our stored grains. Though the cost of farming is never going down, the better shape we get our soils in as years go by, we aim to slow that cost. We're pleased with how our field are doing, but we always want to keep the improvement happening.
We will be taking on additional acreage this spring and it, like many of our other fields, is long-fallowed ground which means toxin-free but not necessarily productive. As our systems for improvement become more refined - though this, too, is always on-going – we are not afraid of the long-term investment. Did I say farming was a "long-term" investment? Oh yeah...
And so Brooke and I will be attending Tainio Technologies annual spring seminar mid-month in Spokane, as we have most every winter for the past ten. Tainio's informative two day seminar sanctifies the beginning of a new farm season even though we're two months from being on the soil.
I'm certainly in no rush to see winter fade. Lots of skiing to be had ahead, I hope, and we just re-charged our milling-line granaries so lots more grain and flour orders ahead this winter, too we hope. I trust all of you are enjoying the quiet of the season and ideally in good health. Next issue, I'll address some farming improvements and fill you in on the latest from Tainio.
Your farmer, Sam
Bluebird News & Events
We will resume our Seattle Farmers Market Schedule on a Monthly Basis through December. This is a significant transition from our previous weekly schedule - we are hoping that this schedule gives us the opportunity to make our drive and time over the mountains more efficient. Our biggest challenge will be making sure our customers know when we will be there! Please help us put the word out. We will be at U-District and Ballard Markets on the first weekend of every month. Our next three months schedule is as follows:
March 31st: U-District Market
May 5th: U-District Market May 6th: Ballard Market
June 2nd: U-District Market June 3rd: Ballard Market
* remember you can put special orders in under 100lbs for market pick up! Please put orders in a week in advance. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
New Bi- Monthly Delivery Options to the Greater Seattle Area: Susan Spier of the Gabby Cabby has committed to delivering local goods to the greater Seattle area on a bi monthly basis and weekly basis to the greater Wenatchee area. Rates: $10 Minimum to Greater Wenatchee Area / .12 per lb . $15 Minimum to Greater Seattle Area / .17 cents per lb. Please give us a call or e-mail if you have an order that you would like delivered: 1.888.232.0331 or email@example.com.
We have just spent the past month reconciling our annual farming and operating costs and updating our price lists - phew. We have made updates and changes to many of our products and even have added some new products. Price increases range from 5-10%, if you have any questions or concerns please feel free to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Price updates will be in place as of March 1st.
Seattle Farmer - Fisherman Chef Connection is coming up Monday, February 27th. We are looking forward to this annual event and connecting with old and new customers.
Meet the largest hen I have ever known (below). This beauty of a hen lays double yolks and is larger than either of our roosters. She seems to display both male and female qualities. Local chicken expert Jane Gilbertson claims that it is possible for a bird to be both!
Recipe of the Month:
Potlatch Pilaf Breakfast Casserole
Delicious as part of a brunch buffet, or even for dinner, this casserole is a sweet and savory crowd pleaser.Makes 8 sides or 4 main dishes
1 Cup Bluebird's Potlatch Pilaf
2 Large garlic cloves, minced
2 Inch Piece of cinnamon stick
1 Big sprig rosemary, leaves chopped
1/2 Cup Dried cherries
2 1/2 Cups Broth (use your favorite)
1 Teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 Cup Maple syrup (plus more for serving if desired)
1/4 Teaspoon Each: kosher or sea salt, black pepper
8 Breakfast sausage links (use your favorite, meat or tofu based)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a 9x13 baking dish, combine the pilaf, garlic, cinnamon, rosemary and cherries. Heat the broth until it is hot and mix in the mustard, syrup, salt and pepper. Pour the broth mixture over the pilaf mixture, and place the sausages evenly over the surface. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 50 minutes. Remove foil and bake 10 minutes more, or until all liquid has evaporated. Turn the oven up to broil, and broil briefly, just to brown the tops of the sausages. Remove from oven and remove the cinnamon stick before serving. Serve as is, or with additional maple syrup if you prefer a sweeter breakfast.
Customer Profile: Lunch Ladies at Methow Valley School District
Audrey Warden, Laura Wottlin, Kristy Miller Paul, and Tricia Labanauskas are charged with a big task: implementing the national school lunch program in the Methow Valley School District (MVSD). This federally assisted meal program, which in its infancy was simply groups of concerned citizens and charitable groups providing hot noontime meals to schoolchildren who received inadequate nutrition at home, enables public and private schools to provide nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to more than 30 million children in the USA. Participating schools must adhere to federal dietary guidelines and offer free or reduced price meals to eligible children; in return they receive subsidies in the form of USDA commodities such as meats, dairy products, and grains. In the MVSD, implementing the school lunch program means feeding lunch to nearly 400 kids every school day .
The "lunch ladies," as they call themselves, are undaunted. Feeding large numbers of people is something they all grew up doing. Audrey, who has a degree in food nutrition, is the oldest of seven children—a birth order position that nearly always involves a large degree of responsibility in helping run the household. Although she spent almost two decades as a caterer, Audrey was lured into the lunch lady position by the prospect of moving to the Methow from the Midwest. Laura went to a culinary technical college and has extensive experience in restaurants and bakeries, as well as spending many summers cooking for Forest Service and other back country crews. Kristy put her degree in interior design on the back burner to cook for her father’s (longtime Methow guide and horseman Claude Miller) winter sleigh ride operation, which offered Western-style dinners in a heated packer’s tent. She also planned menus and cooked at Jamie’s Place, a retirement home for seniors in the Methow Valley. Tricia, Kristy’s sister, has a similar background in restaurant and back country cooking.
The lunch program at the MVSD is fairly progressive, with several signature elements that set it apart from, and ahead of, other school lunch programs. "We’re one of only a few schools making homemade bread," says chief baker Laura Wottlin. "All of our bread products are homemade and there is absolutely no waste. Leftover rolls become croutons; leftover cinnamon sticks become bread pudding."
"We’re actually cooking the foods we serve," says Kristy. "In many other school kitchens they are unwrapping packages and opening cans and heating up the food." In the MVSD kitchen, everything is made from scratch. "We’re very proud of the food we serve," Kristy adds.
Classroom in Bloom adds an additional and unique boost to the MVSD’s lunch program by providing the kitchen with close to 2000 lbs. of fresh garden produce to use in school lunches. "We love the garden," says Audrey, "and we use absolutely everything they bring us." "The salad bar has been great, too," she continues, "If the kids don’t like the main lunch, they can always visit the salad bar."
The lunches in the MVSD include as many local fruits (such as apples and pluots) and grains as the budget will support. Bluebird’s emmer flour and rye flour are used in the hamburger buns, dinner rolls, the ham sandwich and hoagie buns, and the many other homemade breads that come out of the oven. "We’ve always used whole wheat flour," says Laura, "but now with a little more money allocated to us from the district we’re able to buy local flours from Bluebird Grains."
The lunch ladies face some challenges in the form of community misunderstandings about the federal nutrition guidelines and the perception that the kitchen’s budget is discretionary. "We get paid from the federal government in food," says Laura, "We have to use the food they give us; that’s a requirement of being in the program." Kristy adds, "We do our best to request raw meats [as opposed to processed] and whole foods that we can use to make things from scratch."
Still, despite these challenges, the lunch ladies all seem to love making lunch. "There’s not a better job out there for people with school age kids," says Kristy, and both Laura and Tricia agree with her. "Kids are programmed to complain about school lunches," says Audrey, "but most people who come here are very surprised by the quality of the food." Judging by the number of teachers and staff observed in the lunch line, and the fact that although just under half of the students in the district qualify for a free or reduced price meal yet two thirds of them choose to eat school lunches every day, it would seem that others agree.