Monday, January 27, 2020

BGF News - January, 2020-Vol. XLIII, No.3


What’s up on the farm?

Precipitation in the past month: Rain/Ice: 0.4"
                                                             Snow/Sleet: 18"



Boy were we spoiled by the December/early January weather! It was warm enough the second week of January that we were able to set fence posts to protect the mulched strawberry bed from marauding chickens! Seemingly, winter returned to the farm and we are feeling bit whiney about it. The dogs and alpacas don't seem to mind too much as long as there is plenty to eat but the chickens are pretty offended and don't really want to leave the coops in the snow. In protest of the weather, egg production has decreased a bit which we don't mind at this time of year with lower demand for egg sales. 

Chicken sledding party
We did manage to sneak away for 5 days to visit family in Colorado earlier this month. It was a great chance to take a breather and focus on something else for a change. Huge thanks to Jill's parents and our farm crew who took over the care and feeding of the farm, making it possible for us to go. Naturally, the weather took a turn while we were away so their jobs were made much more challenging.

Since returning home, the weather has driven us indoors for the majority of the hours of the day, so we are attending to the many annual tasks that this time of year brings. Website updates, farm crew meetings, seed inventory, placing seed orders and planning garden maps for the 2020 growing season are all on the to-do or recently done lists. Seed sowing hasn't started yet, but by the next newsletter it should be underway. Fiber work has just ramped up for the year and there will be LOTS more to come. Our fiber customers were so amazing this past season that our stock is very low. More spinning, more dyeing!


OK, enough talk about winter, let's think ahead to spring and the upcoming CSA season. Now is the time to sign up for the 2020 Summer CSA. Renewal emails have gone out to our veteran members and we will hold spots for them until February 14th, at which time we will open any available spots to new members. If you are a veteran 2019 CSA member and didn't receive a renewal email, please let us know ASAP and we'll get you the link. We wouldn't want you to miss out on the beautiful bounty of produce that we are planning for this season. If you would like to become a new member of our CSA or have questions, shoot us an email to mail@bluegatefarmfresh. com and we'll get you rolling.

We continue to do our bi-weekly VegEmail deliveries. Harvesting for these sales can be a bit tricky as we have to closely follow the weather forecasts to ensure we can harvest in a timely manner. With unheated high tunnels, the crops may be safe under their row covers, but if the air temperature isn't above freezing, we can't harvest. Then, in extreme cold, there is the challenge of getting the harvested crops down to the packing shed without freezing. We sometimes have to harvest several days ahead of a delivery and then transport the crops to the barn in our market coolers on a sled. It all makes for some interesting logistical gymnastics.


Remember, if you can't wait until spring for farm-fresh products, you can place a VegEmail order every 2 weeks  and we will deliver them to Des Moines, Knoxville or you can pick them up on the farm. Eggs, fresh produce, popcorn, jam and herbs all rotate through our availability list until the start of the farmers market season. If you want to receive the VegEmail announcements, just fill out the form here: Mailing List and be sure to indicate which delivery location you prefer.


Is a weekly newsletter not enough for you and you want to read more about our daily adventures or see pictures of the farm?  Follow us on Facebook at Blue Gate Farm and/or share your recipes, experiences and questions with other BGF members at Blue Gate Farm Community.


That’s about it for now, if you have any questions or comments be sure to let us know. 
Best from the farm,
Jill & Sean (and Indigo, Luci & Sky)



Sunday, December 29, 2019

BGF News - December, 2019-Vol. XLIII, No.2

Wishing you a Happy, Napa New Year! 


What’s up on the farm?

Precipitation in the past month: Rain: 0.65"
                                                             Snow: 1.5"

It seems like every year the holidays sneak up on us at an ever increasing rate. This year again,  November was a rough month. It was unseasonably cold and we lost most of the fall field crops due to those frigid temperatures. Then the day before Thanksgiving, we had a windstorm that destroyed the brand-new (6 week old) cover on High Tunnel #2. Luckily, our friends, family and farm crew rallied around us yet again and with many hands, we got the cover replaced the first week of December. Even though the crops were exposed to some tough conditions, both high tunnels continue to produce beautiful, tasty produce for our indoor farmers markets and VegEmail sales. 















Speaking of, our next VegEmail sale will be 1/7/20 with order forms going out on Wed the 1st.

Between vegetable deliveries we are getting some seasonal tasks done like mulching the garlic and strawberries, cleaning up the packing barn, updating to the 2020 farm calendar, shelling popcorn and spinning & dyeing fiber. In the next week it will be time to dive into the stack of seed catalogs and get our orders placed for the upcoming season. Then the farm maps need to be updated and winter farming conferences and meetings attended. So much indoor work to do, now that winter has made it's return!

The new laying hens are well settled in and laying LOTS of eggs!! Given our warmer daytime temperatures recently, the chickens are spending lots of time outside in the sun (and mud). 
The alpacas too are enjoying the extra dose of sunshine. We've moved them to their winter location (closer to the house (and electricity for their water heaters) but they still have full time access to The Big Pasture. They weren't too sure about the move, but have now settled in.

Percy inspecting the winter set up for the alpaca shed.

Next month we will start sign-ups for the 2020 CSA season. Returning members who sign up and pay during the month of January can take advantage of our Early Bird Special and take $20 off their membership fee. More details to follow on that in a couple of weeks.


For now we wish you all the joys of the season and a bright new year!

That’s about it for now, if you have any questions or comments be sure to let us know. 
Best from the farm,
Jill & Sean (and Indigo, Luci & Sky)


Tuesday, November 26, 2019

BGF News - November 2019-Vol. XLIII, No.1



Precipitation in the past month: Snow: 5.5"
                                                            Rain: 0.95"

What’s up on the farm?


Welcome to our November newsletter. We will publish these on a monthly basis until the start of the CSA season in June. Our goal is to give our members, customers and friends a window into our world on the "back-side" of the seasonal calendar. So grab a hot beverage, sit back and join us for a little tour of the farm this month.

Our November newsletter from 2018 opened with the information that we had already had 20" of snow, which makes our little 5.5" so far this year seem a little more palatable, even if it is still significantly above normal.  We are thankful for many things this year, and less snow than last year is just one of them.


We are thankful for a time to slow down a bit. Not that a farm every really rests, but November is usually the time that the pace on the farm really starts to ease. The regular farmers market season is done, the full-time crew is off and the field crops are mostly out. Somehow, even though all these things are true for the most part, it doesn't feel as "slow" as years past. The weather  has been a major contributor to this departure, in fact, likely THE major contributor. It has been unseasonably cold and snowy for November (again). The overnight record low of 3° on November 12th wiped out all of the remaining field crops, even with row covers installed.  We were able to get some of the turnips and the last of the carrots out right before it got so cold, but everything else was a loss. The high tunnel crops are well tucked in, but we didn't plan on needing them so soon, so many of them aren't ready quite yet. 

We spent a few hours in the past week clearing all of the row covers and hardware from the fields, since they are no longer needed. We also got the garlic planted and part of it mulched. Now we are waiting for another dry spell to be able to move big bales of straw to finish the mulching. 

Speaking of the high tunnels, we are thankful that the big tunnel is recovered and nearly finished, with just a few small details to complete. The small tunnel is still limping by in post-tornado form, but the crops inside don't seem to be offended by the conditions.


Storm recovery continues on the house. We are VERY thankful that the exterior structure is done and the siding replaced. Most of the insulation in back in and part of the drywall and painting are done. There is still plenty to do and it will be nice to have our house back in order over the winter.


We are at the mid-season mark for the indoor winter market. The November market was the first at the new location in HyVee Hall. There were some transitional challenges, but it was a great market overall and we look forward to a smoother process for the December markets on 12/13-14. 


We've also started our VegEmail season deliveries every 2 weeks to Des Moines and Knoxville. We will continue to do these sales every two weeks until the start of market season, with an extra week in between for the Christmas Holidays. Our next delivery is 12/3 and the order form for that will go out in the next day or so. If you aren't receiving the VegEmail order form and you would like to, just fill out the form here: 

VegEmail Sign Up

Last week marked our annual "freezer camp" when we cycle our old laying flock out for younger birds. Due to greatly increased demand, the processed stewing hens sold out almost immediately. We were so surprised by it, we didn't even manage to set any aside for home use. Ah well...next year. The chicken coops have been moved to their winter location and we spent yesterday morning cleaning the coops with the crew. It isn't anyone's favorite job but it has to be done. The replacement flock arrived today from the Amish farmer who starts our birds . The new ladies look great and are already laying, so we're hoping for a minimum of interruption in our egg availability. We were thankful to have a full week of "vacation" from chicken chores, but are also glad to be back in the egg business. 


Most of all we are thankful for the privilege of living here on this beautiful farm, raising tasty, healthful produce. We couldn't do it without our amazing family, customers, members and community supporters. So we are thankful for you! May your Thanksgiving be filled with a bounty of delicious foods shared with the ones you hold dear.

Is a monthly newsletter not enough for you and you want to read more about our daily adventures or see pictures of the farm?  Follow us on Facebook at Blue Gate Farm and/or share your recipes, experiences and questions with other BGF members at Blue Gate Farm Community.

That’s about it this month, if you have any questions or comments be sure to let us know. 
Best from the farm,
Jill & Sean (and Luci, Indigo & Sky)


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

BGF News - October 15, 2019-Vol. XLII, No.20

In this week’s box:


Baby Choi
Butternut Squash
Carrots: Asst.
Chard: Bright Lights Mix or Kale 
Daikon
Garlic: hardneck
Lettuce Bouquets or Head Lettuce: Muir, Kiribati or Magenta
Onions: Cipollini
Sweet Peppers: Assorted
  
For those with the Egg option [Full shares]: one dozen free-range eggs (asst. colors)
For those with the Herb option: sage, lemon thyme & chocolate mint

Featured Recipes:  ** indicates a BGF favorite 


Welcome to the final delivery of the 2019 Summer CSA. It is hard to believe that twenty deliveries have gone by so quickly. And yet again, spring seems like a long time ago. The freeze Friday night finished off all the warm season crops including field tomatoes and peppers. We started clearing the spent crops from the field today and will get most of them out later this week. Luckily we were able to get all of the new fall crops covered before the temperatures dropped and even kept most of them on through the gusty winds over the weekend.
Installing row covers
Clearing spent crops














We are still trying to get the last of the high tunnel crops sown. This has been delayed by the regular rains and the fact that the big tunnel is still "topless" since the tornado. We have been making slow progress on the repairs there and just on Monday got the first new end wall plastic in place. Now we just need some windless days to get the other end and then the top on. It did finally dry out enough in there today that we were able to sow salad mix, spinach, arugula, beets and tatsoi.
The view from the top of the high tunnel

Amid finishing up the 2019 season, the work for 2020 is already beginning. The crop mapping for next season is underway. This is an important first step, because we will plant garlic in the next couple of weeks and we have to know where it fits into the rotation. The crew was able to take advantage of last week's rain and prepped most of the seed garlic. Now we just need the soil to dry out enough that we can prep the beds and get it planted and mulched.

Final Delivery Note: Today is the final delivery of the 2019 CSA season. Thank you for joining us on this Veggie Adventure. We hope you have enjoyed the journey! Starting in November, we will publish a monthly newsletter updating you on the current goings-on around the farm. We will start sign-ups for the 2019 CSA season in January. Special thanks to our delivery hosts, Peace Tree Brewing Co. and the Grand Theater for giving us a home away from home.

VegEmail Sales:  Starting the first week of November we will send out an email with a link to an order form that lists all of the produce/products that we have available for sale that week. If you see things you would like to purchase, just fill out the order form and then meet us that following Tuesday at Peace Tree in DM or the Grand Theater in Knox. Payment is due at the pickup. We will do it (nearly) every 2 weeks from Nov to the start of market in May (though we are planning to take New Year's Day off). If you were a member of the CSA in the past year or ordered during the Jan-May VegEmail season earlier this year then you are on the email list. 

If you can't wait until November to get your fresh produce, we hope you'll come visit us at the Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market. We're there every Saturday until the end of October.

Here's the schedule:
October 15-  Final CSA delivery
October 26- Final Farmer Market
November 5-  First VegEmail Sale
November  22-23 DM Winter Market
December 13-14 DM Winter Market

A little detail on your produce this week:


Carrots: Remove the leafy green tops, leaving about an inch of stems. Refrigerate dry, unwashed carrots in a plastic bag for two weeks or longer. Peel carrots or scrub carrots well with a stiff brush just before using. Trim off any green spots, which can taste bitter. When slicing or chopping carrots for cooking, be sure to make all the pieces relatively the same size; this will ensure an evenly cooked dish. Greens can be added to soup stock for flavor.

Daikon: Trim the radish greens and roots. Peel if you like (though not necessary). Daikon will last up to 2 weeks stored in the fridge in plastic bag or wrapped in damp towel in fridge.  Their greens should be stored separately.

Peppers:  Place whole, unwashed peppers in a plastic bag, seal, and refrigerate for a week or more. Rinse peppers just before use. For sweet peppers, cut around the stem with a small knife and lift out the core. Slice down the side to open it up and then cut out the inner membranes. Store unused portions in a sealed bag or container in the refrigerator.


 Winter Squash:  Store winter squash in a cool, dry, dark place with good ventilation for up to a month, depending on the variety. Once squash has been cut, you can wrap the pieces in plastic and refrigerate them for five to seven days. To make it easier to prep winter squash for your recipe, try the prebaking method: pierce the squash to allow heat to escape while it is in the oven, then bake the squash whole at 350° F until it is just barely tender to the poke of the finger, 20 to 30 minutes. This softens the shell and makes cutting and peeling much easier. 


A few other details: All of your GREENS will keep best if stored in a plastic bag, with the top folded over and placed in the produce drawer of your refrigerator.  


** NOTE: You will notice over the course of the season that some box contents listed above say "Perhaps one of the following..."  These are items that we can’t harvest in sufficient quantities for the whole CSA to receive at one time.  We do track who gets what and we will do our best to ensure that everyone eventually receives each item.  On some items this may take several weeks, so please be patient.

Is a weekly newsletter not enough for you and you want to read more about our daily adventures or see pictures of the farm?  Follow us on Facebook at Blue Gate Farm and/or share your recipes, experiences and questions with other BGF members at Blue Gate Farm Community.


That’s about it this week, if you have any questions or comments be sure to let us know. 
Best from the farm,
Jill & Sean (and Luci, Indigo & Sky)



Tuesday, October 8, 2019

BGF News - October 8, 2019-Vol. XLII, No.19

In this week’s box:

Acorn Squash: Thelma Sanders
Arugula

Beets: Mix
Cherry Tomato Mix:  one last taste of summer
Choi: Joi
Eggplant: the final hurrah!
Leeks
Lettuce Bouquets or Head Lettuce: Muir, Kiribati or Magenta
Sweet Peppers: Assorted

and perhaps one of the following: (please see **NOTE  after "A Little Detail..." below)     
Beans: Carson (yellow) and/or Provider (green)

For those with the Egg option [Full & Half  shares]: one dozen free-range eggs (asst. colors)
For those with the Herb option: lemongrass,  rosemary, parsley 

Featured Recipes:  ** indicates a BGF favorite 


early morning arugula harvest
Well, historically speaking, our first average frost date is October 10th, and it looks like nature is keeping her schedule tight! After a week of lots of rain, we are now scrambling to get a myriad of tasks done before the forecast freeze this weekend. The crew has been working on clearing the irrigation system so that we can install low tunnels and row cover on the crops in the field. We're letting the warm season vegetables go, but we have lots of cool season crops still growing so we'd like to protect those. We've made progress on the repairs of the big high tunnel, but I don't think we'll get it completely recovered before the  cold rolls in, so we may resort to row covers there as well. Sean has been pushing to get the wall & floor repairs done on the house, so that we can get it insulated again. There is just a general scurrying all over the farm.


Final Delivery Note: as next week is our final delivery of the 2019 CSA season we want to give you a couple of bits of information that will make everyone's lives easier. First, please do your best to remember your empty box, that way you won't be stuck with an empty box sitting around your house all winter. We will pack your produce for the final delivery into plastic bags so you won't have to worry about returning that box either.

VegEmail Sales:  Starting the first week of November we will send out an email with a link to an order form that lists all of the produce/products that we have available for sale that week. If you see things you would like to purchase, just fill out the order form and then meet us that following Tuesday at Peace Tree in DM or the Grand Theater in Knox. Payment is due at the pickup. We will do it (nearly) every 2 weeks from Nov to the start of market in May (though we are planning to take New Year's Day off). If you were a member of the CSA in the past year or ordered during the Jan-May VegEmail season earlier this year then you are on the email list. 

If you can't wait until November to get your fresh produce, we hope you'll come visit us at the Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market. We're there every Saturday until the end of October.

Here's the short version:
October 15-  Final CSA delivery
October 26- Final Farmer Market
November 5-  First VegEmail Sale

A little detail on your produce this week:



Beans: Fresh beans are an easy "store."  Just leave them in their plastic bag and keep them in the produce drawer.  Can last up to 2 weeks.

Beets: Cut off greens, leaving an inch of stem. Refrigerate the unwashed greens in a closed plastic bag and use with your chard mix. Store the beet roots, unwashed, with the rootlets (or “tails”) attached, in a plastic bag in the crisper bin of your refrigerator. They will keep for several weeks, but their sweetness diminishes with time. Just before cooking, scrub beets well and remove any scraggly leaves and rootlets. If your recipe calls for raw beets, peel them with a knife or vegetable peeler, then grate or cut according to your needs baby/young beets usually don't need to be peeled.

Leeks: Loosely wrap unwashed leeks in a plastic bag and store them in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator. They will keep for at least a week. Cut the leek about 1 inch above the white part, where the leaves begin changing from dark to light green. (Save the unused greens; they’ll give great flavor to your next vegetable stock.) Fan the leaves under running water to dislodge any dirt collected there, then pat thoroughly dry. You can julienne a leek by cutting it lengthwise, or slice it crosswise.

Peppers:  Place whole, unwashed peppers in a plastic bag, seal, and refrigerate for a week or more. Rinse peppers just before use. For sweet peppers, cut around the stem with a small knife and lift out the core. Slice down the side to open it up and then cut out the inner membranes. Store unused portions in a sealed bag or container in the refrigerator.

Tomatoes: always store whole tomatoes at room temperature, out of direct sunlight. A light "squeeze" is the best test for ripeness. Once cut, store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.


 Winter Squash:  Store winter squash in a cool, dry, dark place with good ventilation for up to a month, depending on the variety. Once squash has been cut, you can wrap the pieces in plastic and refrigerate them for five to seven days. To make it easier to prep winter squash for your recipe, try the prebaking method: pierce the squash to allow heat to escape while it is in the oven, then bake the squash whole at 350° F until it is just barely tender to the poke of the finger, 20 to 30 minutes. This softens the shell and makes cutting and peeling much easier. 


A few other details: All of your GREENS will keep best if stored in a plastic bag, with the top folded over and placed in the produce drawer of your refrigerator.  


** NOTE: You will notice over the course of the season that some box contents listed above say "Perhaps one of the following..."  These are items that we can’t harvest in sufficient quantities for the whole CSA to receive at one time.  We do track who gets what and we will do our best to ensure that everyone eventually receives each item.  On some items this may take several weeks, so please be patient.

Is a weekly newsletter not enough for you and you want to read more about our daily adventures or see pictures of the farm?  Follow us on Facebook at Blue Gate Farm and/or share your recipes, experiences and questions with other BGF members at Blue Gate Farm Community.


That’s about it this week, if you have any questions or comments be sure to let us know. 
Best from the farm,
Jill & Sean (and Luci, Indigo & Sky)