Friday, May 25, 2012

Just Humming Along

The following is a guest post by Kelsey, one of our farm crew this summer...

While harvesting salad last Friday in the large high tunnel at Blue Gate Farm, the farm crew had a wonderful surprise. Kelsey and Wendy were harvesting from the north salad bed when they heard David (who was in the salad bed closest to the south side wall) say there was a hummingbird drinking nectar out of the clover near the netting covering the south wall opening. As the content little Ruby Throated Hummingbird carried on drinking his nectar he didn't realize that he squeezed his little body through the holes in the netting and was in the high tunnel with the crew. Amazed, we all took time to watch the little bird fly around as we tried to figure out hoe we were going to get him out so he wouldn't hurt himself or even worse, die. As we watched, he landed on the cucumber trellis right behind where Kelsey was sitting, and then flew over to the pea trellis behind Wendy. Pretty soon he took off again and made fast laps around the high tunnel, seeming to realize that he couldn't get out. Then he swooped past Wendy's head and, whether the little hummer was just tired, or was attracted to Kelsey's red pants, he landed on Kelsey's leg. Shocked at what happened, Kelsey jumped and the little bird was up in the air again.
He made another pass around the high tunnel, then flew back and perched on the pea trellis once again. Wendy stood and turned to the pea trellis with her finger outstretched, all in slow motion. The little bird just watched, without even a flinch. as Wendy stretched her finger out to the bird the tiny hummer took a second, looked at the offered perch and then in the blink of an eye he flew and landed on Wendy's finger. She slowly cupped her other hand over the top of her finger, carefully trapping the small bird, and walked to the door, setting him free. We couldn't believe what we had just witnessed and we still have a good chuckle about it but everyone we tell just can't believe what we tell them. But that will be a memory that we will never forget. It is always an exciting time here at Blue Gate Farm!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Who knew...

Who knew that overnight your life could turn upside down. In the past six weeks that has happened several times. And how could we guess that while we are hanging by our toes trying to figure out which way is up that friends, family and community would stand below, holding us up to make sure we don't come crashing to the ground. Since Sean's initial fall we have been overwhelmed by the help and support that we have been surrounded by. Help on the farm, meals dropped by, hospital visits, cards, online messages, phone calls, visits to the market booth, just to check in...the list goes on and on. There are too many people to thank for so many kindnesses, but we did want to mention a small handful for amazing feats of generosity.

Opening farmers market was just 5 days after Sean's 2nd hospital admission with massive chemical imbalances. I didn't think market was as important as being with Sean, but Sean thought differently so we scrambled to get ready. Our biggest advantage was that Jan, Tim and Julia from One Step at a Time Gardens in Kanawa took the day off from their own farm and traveled the 5+ hours round trip to help us harvest, prep eggs AND feed us lunch!
The OST and BGF crews finishing up the salad packaging

 Then the following week we got a message from our friends at Peace Tree Brewing Company saying that there was floor work happening in the brewery on Friday and the brewers couldn't work so they wanted to come out to the farm to help out! So sure enough, Friday morning, Joe, Colby, Shannon and Taylor (the brewery guys) showed up and spent the first half of the day building and cleaning up beehive parts. Then Meagan came out with lunch for everyone and we finished out the day with a massive bed composting project! What an accomplishment!
PTBC building for the bees!
Speaking of bees, Jill's uncle Dean also spent several days on the farm helping out. Not only did he spend days building new beehive parts, but he also got up at 4am and came along to help out with market! Now that is some dedicated help!
The Meat Doctor building for the bees
And this past Sunday, friends from our "Gang of 4" farms (Grinnell Heritage Farm, Genuine Faux Farm, and Scattergood Friends School) all gave up a beautiful work day at their own farms to converge on our farm with family and food in tow to take on The Weeds of BGF!" And weed, they did! Pretty much the whole farm, if it was planted, then it was weeded! And then they made homemade pizza and in a final whirlwind of activity they were gone, back on the road to take care of their own farm chores.
The Gang of 4 Fairy Weeders

Then there was Aunt Louise and family friend Debbie who came out and rescued the strawberry bed and herb garden from their strangle of weeds (and brought baked goods!) Plus the dear neighbor girls H & D who will come Wednesdays and Fridays to help out with cleaning and packaging eggs.  Family and neighbors helped put up the hay. Several Skeehan siblings have taken days off work to come and spend time with Sean and help out on the farm (bee work, barn work, hand and foot massages for Sean, computer work and general companionship at the hospital. How does one say thank you for all of that.

The biggest thanks though, continue to go to the Beebout parents who have more or less put their own lives on  hold, trying to help keep the farm moving forward. 

What a community/family we have! And how very, very grateful we are for them.

Friday, May 18, 2012

BGF News

Blue Gate Farm News – Volume XVII, Number 4    May 2012

Weather notes:
Precipitation to date this month: Rain  1.53”

What’s up on the farm?

What’s up on the farm, indeed! Geez, you might have thought that last month was exciting around the farm, but evidently it was only a training run for May.  As of the April newsletter, Sean had been admitted back into Mercy Hospital in Des Moines with some wacky blood readings. We’d love to say that everything was back to normal but the reality is that while he is feeling much more like himself, he is still in Mercy and has been diagnosed with cancer, specifically, neuroendocrine carcinoma. Surgery is scheduled for this coming Wednesday, with non-chemo treatment and a possible 2nd surgery to follow later. We have had lots of help and support from friends and family and are still trying to find our balance with all the new developments. Never fear though, the 2012 CSA season is still on track. Our industrious Farm Crew, family members and friends have been working very hard to help us keep the farm chores progressing as needed. Beds have been prepped, planted and weeded, seeds have been sown, eggs collected and hay baled. Thanks to these devoted folks, it’s possible our farm has never looked better!

We anticipate that you won’t notice much different about this CSA season over past years. We will continue to deliver our very best produce to you on a weekly basis. We will continue to email newsletters with each delivery to keep you informed as to the contents of your box, goings on at the farm and recipes using some of the box contents. We will be at the DM Farmers Market on Saturdays if you want to visit us there. The only changes you might notice is to see a new face or two manning the box delivery locations and at the market. We are also holding off on planning the annual CSA on-farm events (Ice Cream Social & Harvest Potluck) as we just need to see how things are progressing before we (and you) commit to a date.

So that’s our month so far, in a nutshell. Well, that and the following:
Planted: beans, edamame, beets, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, salad greens, herbs, fennel, garden berries, edible flowers, zucchini, summer squash, okra, hot peppers.
Composted and tilled: 51 beds
Mulched: Tomatoes (all 700 of them!) and peppers too
Irrigation set up: Plots I, II, III and South
Weeded: The whole farm!!
Spotted around the farm: Ruby-throated hummingbirds, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Red-headed Woodpeckers, Cedar Waxwings, Bob-o-links, wild turkeys, Great Blue Herons, and lots of various sparrows and finches.
…and we’re only half-way through the month!

2012 CSA Season
The full balance for all CSA members was due May 1st unless other arrangements are made with us.  If we have not received your payment, you should have received a reminder email from us earlier today. We anticipate the first delivery of the 2012 season to be the first week of June.  Normally we hold a couple of new-member orientations prior to the first delivery of the season, but due to current circumstances, this year we will forego the live orientation and simply send out a “Welcome and What-to-do” email the week before deliveries start. This will also be the last monthly newsletter for 2012. Weekly newsletters will start up with the first delivery in June.

That’s about it for now, if you have any questions or comments be sure to let us know.  We may be a little slow in responding these days, but we will get back to you as soon as possible. If you are calling about a time-sensitive matter, please call Jill’s phone 641-203-1709.

Best from the farm,
Jill & Sean (and Blue & Luci)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

April BGF News

Its been a crazy month and in addition to a number of other omissions, I forgot to post the April newsletter that went out on April 30. 

Blue Gate Farm News – Volume XVII, Number 3  –  April 2012

Weather notes:
Precipitation to date this month: Rain  3.9”
                                                Hail: golf ball-sized

What’s up on the farm? 

For one of us at least, the theme for the season may be “Tuck in your flappables, Mabel, storms a-commin’!”

We were lulled into a relative sense of complacency this spring.  The weather was warm and mild.  We were able to get into the gardens earlier than ever to start prepping the beds and sowing early seeds.  The fruit trees bloomed with crazy abandon and even though they were about three weeks early, the weather continued to be so agreeable that we almost thought we were going to escape a freeze.  Almost.  Then the weather returned to a more seasonable normal.  The immature fruit on most of the trees was lost.  No apricots, plums, nectarines, mulberries or pears this year.  The peaches, oddly enough seem to be holding on.  The jury is still out on the apples.  Even the asparagus froze to the ground, although it recovered days later as new spears broke through.

We were making exciting progress on the barn, too.  The new main floor has been poured, complete with drains and plumbing connections and the electrical work was moving out into the lean-to, where the new walk-in cooler is to be built.  Ah, the electrical, which tends to be run high on the wall and require ladders for installation.  Sean was working on the electrical project late on April 11th when he fell about five feet off a ladder.  He broke his left humorous and fractured the left side of his pelvis in a couple of places.  Jill got him quickly to the Knoxville ER who did x-rays and started IV pain medication (they also had to cut away his Carhartt jacket and heavy hooded sweatshirt – oh well).  Transported by ambulance to DM Mercy Hospital for more intense care and an MRI.  Fortunately no surgery needed, able to travel home Friday afternoon, and expect full mending within eight weeks – then PT.  Sean can slowly move about the house with the aid of a cane.  New routines around the house with Jill as chief nurse and on the farm with Jill and her dad picking up much of the slack. 

On Saturday night, April 14th, it was windy and raining on and off until shortly after Sean’s brother pulled into BGF from Chicago.  Suddenly the north wind increased, the rain fell harder and golf-ball sized hail pounded the farm.  We thought our northern windows would break given the weight and velocity of the hail but alas no window damage – several friends in the area did suffer multiple broken windows.  Our damage was hail pitting on automobiles and hundreds of punctures on both layers of the two high tunnels roof plastic (thankfully all insured).

So we are now trying to find our new balance.  The regular chores of the farm continue on, as do the escalating duties of spring.  The large high tunnel is in full production, in preparation for farmers market.  The onions, leeks and shallots have all been transplanted into the garden, as have 200 pounds of seed potatoes.  This week we start on the cabbage and broccoli transplants.  The garden peas, head lettuce, radishes, spinach, mustard, beets, turnips, arugula and kale were all seeded in the past weeks and are up and growing nicely.  Nearly every flat surface in the sunroom is filled with tomato, eggplant, okra, peppers, cucumber, squash and herb transplants.  Everything is growing like crazy, including the weeds and the grass!  Jill’s dad and Sean’s brother have tended to all the hives on the farm and most of the colonies are growing big and strong.  Honey supers will go on soon!  Our target is to keep about 28 hives this summer.

The DM Farmers’ Market opens it 26 week season on Saturday, May 5th.  Hours from 7:00 am to 12 noonLook for us at our new location on the NW corner of Court & 2nd.  Once market opens, weekday egg sales at Ritual CafĂ© will cease for the summer.

Last minute update: This newsletter was supposed to go out yesterday, but there were complications with Sean’s recovery and he was shuttled from his doctor’s office to the local ER then via ambulance to a Des Moines hospital. He was in a great deal of pain and they were anxious to deal with some blood imbalances to alleviate the problem. So we’ve had a bit of a hitch, but expect to work through this one as well. Our attendance at the opening market on Saturday is a bit up in the air as of today, we will try to keep folks updated as we are able. Please don’t be dismayed or alarmed if we are a little delayed in responding to any correspondence for a few days.

2012 CSA Season
Statements to all members were e-mailed out over the weekend.  Please let us know if you did not receive a statement.  The full balance for all CSA members is due May 1st unless other arrangements are made with us.  We anticipate the first delivery of the 2012 season to be the first week of June, weather-depending.  Prior to the first delivery we will hold orientation meetings for our new members – more info later.

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 Blue & Luci)