Thursday, April 5, 2018

A visit from Iowa Ingredient

Last summer we hosted the production team from Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Ingredient" for a program they were doing on cucumbers. When they called, I warned them that on a chemical-free farm, cucumbers suffer from an insect-induced death sentence. The day that they called, we had about 300 row feet of cukes growing, but that could change at anytime and they would die nearly overnight. They took the information, did some research and decided to include that as part of the segment.  Here's the piece that recently aired...


It was poignant to see this on our public tv station a couple of weeks ago, as it was shot last summer before we lost our beautiful Blue. There she is, featured right at the beginning of the video supervising everything that happened on her farm, as always.

Friday, March 30, 2018

BGF News - March, 2018-Vol. XXXIX, No.3


What’s up on the farm?

Precipitation in the past month: Snow: 6.5"
                                                            Rain: 1.25"

Well, we very nearly missed getting a March newsletter out, but we are sneaking one in at the last minute! Every year I am amazed at how quickly the seasons morph from the relatively sedate pace of winter to the raucous dance that is spring on the farm.

Got my spring "dancing shoes" on!



Garlic sprouting through the straw mulch












So now here we are, firmly entrenched in Mud Season and making every effort to work our way through the chores of Spring. Outside, the soil and temperatures are still too cool and wet to do much work in the fields, other than sowing some oats and clover for cover crops, though the garlic doesn't seem to mind. In the high tunnels, we've started clearing the winter crops and prepping the beds for spring. The new crops of kale and chard are sown in the big tunnel with other spring greens soon to follow. 

In the sunroom nursery, things are starting to get serious. The allium (onion family) crops are the most cold tolerant, so they have moved out to the small high tunnel to harden off and make space for more tender seedlings. The sunroom shelves are loaded with herbs, broccoli, cabbage, chard, kale, peppers, eggplant, garden berries and lettuce. This week we will start more lettuce, herbs, cabbage & broccoli as well as tomatoes.

The nursery...waiting on warmer days.


March also marks the end of "fiber season" on the farm. Most of Jill's yarn and fiber work happens over the slower winter months. It is the time to dye, spin and knit to get stocked up for the farmers market and other fiber sales. It is also the annual Heartland Fiberpalooza fiber festival, which we have attended since its beginning 7 or 8 years ago. It is a great opportunity to get ourselves organized for the coming season and also to hang out with some of the fiber friends that we only see once or twice a year.
BGF fiber and Mom's GloryBe photo cards

One of the coolest things we got to do this month was participate in the release of a new Peace Tree beer that was "born on the farm." Last fall, Joe (the brewmaster) captured wild yeast here at the farm, which (rather miraculously) fermented into the most amazing beer. Talk about local foods! If you want to try it, it is available on tap at both the Des Moines Branch and Grinnell under the name "Spontaneous."

Beer, eggs & veg, all "born on the farm"

Speaking of local foods, let's chat about the CSA. There is still time to sign up for the 2018 Summer CSA. Veteran members should have received sign up information last month, so now we are opening all remaining slots up to new members. If you are interested in the 2018 CSA season, you can read more about it on our website athttps://www.bluegatefarmfresh.com/about-csa . If you are ready to join us for the upcoming season of veggie-adventures, you can get sign-up information here: Blue Gate Farm CSA Sign-up

If you can't wait until spring for farm-fresh products, we continue to do our VegEmail deliveries all winter long. Every 2 weeks you can order from our list of available products and we will deliver them to Des Moines, Knoxville or you can pick them up on the farm. Eggs, fresh produce, stewing hens, popcorn and herbs all rotate through our availability list until the start of the farmers market season. If you  aren't receiving the VegEmail announcements, and you would like to, just fill out the form here: Mailing List and be sure to indicate which delivery location you prefer.

And finally, we just attended the annual vendor meeting for the Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market. It is hard to believe that market opens in just 5 weeks!! Guess we'd better get busy!


Is an occasional 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 Luci & Indigo)

Sunday, February 18, 2018

BGF News - February, 2018-Vol. XXXIX, No.2


What’s up on the farm?

Precipitation in the past month: Snow: 17.0"
                                                            Rain: trace

Our winter weather roller coaster continues this month, we got 17" of snow last week, then this week it was 50° and the snow is mostly gone. Yesterday it seemed like we had winter and spring in the same day with unexpected snow early and "flannel shirt weather" in the afternoon.  But seasonal swings are totally fine with us. That warm up following the snow let all the wonderful moisture seep right into the ground, banking it for the growing season and these freeze/thaw cycles do wonderful things for opening up our soil and providing better growing conditions for our crops. So bring it on!

It feels like this is the real start of the 2018 season. We started interviews for the farm crew this week and are thrilled that 3 of our veteran crew members are returning this year. That means we will be on the lookout or 1 more full-time person to join the BGF family. If you know of anyone who might be interested, please send them our way. This past week also marked the start of the growing season for us, as we started sowing seeds for our allium crops (onions, leeks & shallots) as well as a few long season herbs and edible flowers. These will be followed shortly by a long list of spring transplants like: broccoli, kale, chard, cabbages, lettuce and much, much more. Our cats, who live in the sunroom/nursery can't decide if they like this time of the year or not. We tend to spend a lot more time in there, so they love the extra attention, but it means they have to share the heat mats with the plants, which they aren't so crazy about.
The germination mats seem to be working just fine.


Since we're talking about this season's crops, let's also chat about the CSA. Now is the time to sign up for the 2018 Summer CSA. Veteran members should have received sign up information last month, so now we are opening all remaining slots up to new members. If you are interested in the 2018 CSA season, you can read more about it on our website at https://www.bluegatefarmfresh.com/about-csa . If you are ready to join us for the upcoming season of veggie-adventures, you can get sign-up information here: Blue Gate Farm CSA Sign-up

If you can't wait until spring for farm-fresh products, we continue to do our VegEmail deliveries all winter long. Every 2 weeks you can order from our list of available products and we will deliver them to Des Moines, Knoxville or you can pick them up on the farm. Eggs, fresh produce, stewing hens, popcorn 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.

And finally, a big happy birthday to Indigo this month. He sure was a cute little guy 4 years ago!




Is an occasional 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 Luci & Indigo)

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

BGF News - January, 2018-Vol. XXXIX, No.1


What’s up on the farm?

Precipitation this month: Snow: 3.0"
                                        Rain: 1.0"


Happy New Year to everyone, just a bit late.  We hope your holidays were happy, merry and bright! 

It has been an interesting winter already. The extended mild fall weather did much to lull us into complacency, but the -22° that we got down to over New Year's Eve brought us right back to reality!
Full moon rising over the high tunnels on New Year's Eve (-22°)

 Then we saw -20° again last week...brrrr! It was enough to freeze up every water hydrant on the farm which we've never seen before. These conditions are hard on everyone on the farm, 2-leggers and 4-leggers alike. Chores take at least twice as long and have to be done many more times a day to ensure the animals all have water to drink. Eggs have to be gathered 4-5 times a day to make sure they don't freeze in the coops and it takes FOREVER to put on enough insulated clothing to go out and do these activities! Especially when the crazy boy-dog insists on playing frisbee in sub-zero temperatures in the snow! Boys!! Huge thanks to our crew members/neighbors the Heartsills who did farm chores for us during part of this time, so that we could make a short trip to visit family in Colorado!
Don't let him fool you, he was pouting because he only got one treat.
While we still have plenty of winter left, we did get our first preview of spring (mud-season) earlier this week. Temps were as high as 50° and then we had thunderstorms! While the January thaw is very common, the 1" of rain is not. Luckily the ground had thawed enough that it didn't appear we had much run-off. Given how dry we were last season, we will take every inch of moisture we can get!
The ladies enjoying some frozen high tunnel arugula
Speaking of spring, the preparations have already begun for the upcoming season. Most of the seed orders have been placed and are on their way to us. Next up are the supply orders that includes things like: potting soil, pots, flats, packaging and CSA boxes. In about two weeks our winter "lollygagging" will come to an end, as the seed sowing season begins. First up will be onions, leeks, shallots and long-season herbs.
Let's talk some more about those CSA boxes! Now is the time to sign up for the 2018 Summer CSA. Renewal emails have gone out to our veteran members and we will hold spots for them until February 1st, at which time we will open any available spots to new members. If you are a veteran 2017 CSA member and didn't receive a renewal email, please let us know ASAP and we'll get you rolling. 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.
A rainbow of farm-fresh goodness!

If you can't wait until spring for farm-fresh products, we continue to do our VegEmail deliveries all winter long. Every 2 weeks you can order from our list of available products and we will deliver them to Des Moines, Knoxville or you can pick them up on the farm. Eggs, fresh produce, stewing hens, popcorn 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.
Packing VegEmail orders
Is an occasional 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 Luci & Indigo)
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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Napa Navidad!



There is a bounty of big beautiful Napa cabbages coming out of our high tunnels right now. So this year we will definitely be celebrating Napa Navidad!


We also have them available during our bi-weekly, winter VegEmail sales. We will be doing these sales every two weeks (with a couple exceptions) until next spring.

This round is for pick up on Tuesday, December 19th, from 5:00 – 6:00 pm in Des Moines, Knoxville or on the farm.


Available products include:

Eggs, Arugula, Napa Cabbage, Carrots, Chard, Daikon, Garlic, Kale, Lettuce Bouquets, Red Onions, Tapestry Popcorn, Turnips, Butternut Squash & Stewing Hens

 
Just click the link below and order away! If you have any questions or issues with the order form, just let us know.
https://goo.gl/forms/QjuDMjC0zQshd3Vi2

Please submit your order form by 10pm on Sunday, December 17th.
Payment by cash, check or credit card to be made at time of delivery.

Just a reminder we are at Peace Tree Brewing Company-Des Moines Branch near the back door and at the Grand Theater in Knoxville.
At both locations, look for Sean or Jill inside.

Don’t need anything this round? Our next delivery is planned for Tuesday, January 2nd.



There are lots of easy ways to use Napa. It is a traditional ingredient in kimchi, which I love, but I also use it as a mild-flavored salad green, in soups, to add some crunch and vitamins to beans and rice and as an alternative to european cabbage in nearly any recipe. Need some specific inspiration? Here is one of my favorite quick, easy and perfect-on-a-cold-night, comfort foods.

Sausage Egg Roll in a Bowl

Monday, December 11, 2017

VegEmail!


 Did you know that we deliver farm-fresh eggs and produce all winter long? It's true! Through our VegEmail program you can custom-order our products every two weeks (Nov-April), to be delivered to Des Moines and Knoxville or picked up on the farm. In fact, our next delivery is coming up on December 19th from 5-6pm at Peace Tree Brewing Company-Des Moines Branch and at the Grand Theater in Knoxville

If you would like to receive the announcements and order form for these events, just sign up on our mailing list below and they will appear right in your email box. If you are too far away to get our produce and would just like to receive our farm newsletter then the "Not Local" option is the one for you.

Subscribe to our mailing list

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Never fear, we will not share your information with any outside entity. Also, if you do sign up and later decide it isn't your thing, you can easily unsubscribe by clicking a button at the bottom of the email.

 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

BGF News - October 24, 2017-Vol. XXXIII, No.20

A "little" cold weather collard harvest to finish out the season

In this week’s box:

Arugula
Carrot Mix
Collards: Champion
Garlic: Music
Hot Peppers: Wenk's (orange, jalapeno-like) & Helios (orange habanero) (in the sm. plastic bag)
Kohlrabi: Vienna Purple &/or Vienna White
Napa Cabbage 
Onions: Patterson
Sweet Peppers: asst.
Winter Squash: Butternut
 And perhaps one of the following:     
Broccoli: Belstar or Gypsy
Cauliflower: Goodman
Spinach Mix 


For those with the Egg option [full & half shares]: one dozen free-range eggs (assorted colors)
For those with the Herb option: chives, peppermint & lemon thyme

 
Featured Recipes:  ** indicates a BGF favorite 
Asian Kohlrabi Leaves
Kickin Collard Greens
Napa Cabbage & Carrots with Rice Wine-Oyster Sauce
Curried Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Milk
Garlic Soup

What’s up on the farm?

Precipitation in the past week: 1.40"
 
Welcome to the final delivery of the 2017 Summer CSA. It is hard to believe that twenty deliveries have gone by so quickly. And now at the end, suddenly it seems like we are getting all the seasons at once, our tardy summer rains, crisp fall days and freezing winter winds! I believe this is the latest first frost/freeze that I can remember since moving to the farm in 2005 and given the fall we've had, the delay is MUCH appreciated! We still have a significant number of crops growing in the fields so now we are in a push to either harvest it or protect it with row cover for later harvest.  The crew has been busy the past few work days setting up the hardware for the row cover supports, now we just need a couple of days with  little to no wind to get the fabric installed. I'm sure you can imagine the excitement of wrangling 5' x 100'  pieces of fabric in a stiff breeze. It makes you really appreciate a still day!
Washing carrots after 1.40" of rain, "What a difference a spray makes..."
In addition to row cover prep, we've been clearing more spent crops including the summer squashes, basil, sweet peppers and okra. In the high tunnel, the basil has been replaced with chard for cool weather harvesting.
We had a special treat mid last week when the staff of Practical Farmers of Iowa spent the day with us, helping out on a number of seasonal tasks including weeding the new strawberry plot, harvesting winter squash, caging fruit trees and prepping 140 pounds of seed garlic for planting. WE can't thank them enough for all their help, humor and friendship!
PFI staff "cloving out" seed garlic
Final Delivery Note: Today is the final delivery of the 2017 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 2018 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: This year instead of a Winter CSA, we are trying something new. We tested out this system late last winter and it worked well, so this fall we are rolling it out for the whole "backside of the calendar." Starting the week of Nov 7th 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 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. 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.
 
  Upcoming events:


Final outdoor Farmers Market: This Saturday, October 28th
VegEmail sales begin: Tuesday, November 7th 
Fall indoor farmers market: November 17-18, at Capitol Square in DM
Winter indoor farmers market: December 15-16, at Capitol Square in DM
 

A little detail on your produce this week:



Broccoli: Wrap broccoli loosely in a plastic bag and keep it in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator for up to a week. Immediately before cooking, soak broccoli, head down, in cold, salted water (1 teaspoon salt to a 8 cups of water) for 5 minutes. Any [organic] critters will float to the top where you can rescue them or allow them to suffer a salty death. (Note: If you soak broccoli in salt water before storing, it will become too rubbery and wilted to enjoy.) Slice the juicy, edible stems and use them wherever florets are called for. Peel particularly thick skin before using


Kohlrabi: If you plan to use it soon, wrap the whole unwashed kohlrabi—stem, stalks, leaves, and all—in a plastic bag and keep it in the refrigerator. Otherwise, remove the stalks and greens from the bulb and use them within a week. Store the bulb in another plastic bag in the fridge and use it within two weeks. Rinse kohlrabi under cold running water just before use. Unless the skin seems particularly tough, kohlrabi does not have to be
peeled. Just trim off the remains of the stalks and root. Grate, slice, or chop kohlrabi as desired. There are lots of great kohlrabi recipes out there, but our favorite is the most simple, just slice and serve chilled with a sprinkle of sea salt.


Napa Cabbage: Store Napa cabbage whole in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. To prepare the entire head at once, cut it in half lengthwise, remove the core, and chop as desired. Or, separate and wash individual leaves as needed.  

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)
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