Volume XXIII, Number 2
Weather notes: (COLD!)
Precipitation to date this year: Rain: 1.1"
What’s up on the farm?
Somehow, best intentions aside, I always manage to miss either the Feb or March newsletter. I woke up this morning realizing that I was about to miss both! So I am looking back over the past two months to get us all up to date! The biggest news is that spring is finally here and it actually feels like it. The warm up has allowed us to get a number of chores done that were impossible earlier, like pulling the last of last year's tomato posts, row cover and wire hoops. Three cheers for overdue chores getting done! Other spring chores that we have been able to cross off the list include fruit tree pruning, cleaning the winter pack from the coops and reworking the compost piles after a winter of settling.
All of the farm animals are appreciating the spring as much as we are. The chickens and alpacas have been enjoying snow-free pasture access and the return of greens to their diets, both in the sprouting grasses and because we've been clearing the spent winter crops from the high tunnels. Turns out alpacas love turnip greens and chickens love anything green and leafy. The alpacas are just cute when they are happy, the chickens voice their appreciation with eggs, lots of eggs! Blue and Luci have enjoyed the fact that we are spending more time outside now and that they can supervise our activities while lolling in the warm sunshine. We have put a "small" hitch in their relaxation time as we added a new puppy to the farm family last week. "Indigo" is a young Blue Heeler pup from the same farm where we got Blue. He will be part of this year's "intern class" and will start learning the ropes from Blue as soon as he is old enough to stay outside fulltime. Blue seems to have accepted her job with grace, Luci isn't so sure.
While we haven't been able to make much progress in the fields yet (other than clean-up) the high tunnels are coming along nicely. The big tunnel has been cleared, beds prepped and 3/4 of them planted with salad, chard, spinach, choi & peas. The remaining beds will be planted in the next day or two. The small tunnel still has a bit of salad and spinach leftover from winter, but that will be coming out in the next week or so. After which those beds will be prepped and a cover crop planted before we put the tomatoes, peppers, basil and eggplant in early May. In the meantime, that tunnel is serving as the hardening off site for our transplants coming out of the sunroom. So far the allium crops, kale, thyme and a few raspberries have made their way out there. Soon to follow will be the rosemary, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and a few small herbs. The sunroom is filling up with those crops plus tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Soon we will add additional sowings of cabbage plus basil, squashes, cucumbers and okra. It is definitely starting to take on its annual imitation of a jungle in there!
Speaking of the many crops and field chores ahead, we are very pleased to announce that our 2014 field crew is fully staffed and we are looking forward to getting started in just a few short weeks. Much to our joy, two of our long-time employees, Kelsey & Chelsea are returning for yet another season (I think this makes four years for each of them) and we will welcome newcomer, Jack, to the farm to round out our numbers. We think they will be a force to be reckoned with in the field and are anxious to get them all on farm and see what kind of veggie magic we can make together!
We have visited all of the bee hives this month. Some are doing very well, others okay, but we lost about 40% of them over this very cold winter. All of our hives had more stored honey then in any previous March - this would indicate that the colonies were less active over the winter during the large number of bitter cold days, hence not consuming their honey and pollen stores. For those surviving colonies we have done basic spring maintenance including clearing off the bottom board, rotating the boxes so that the majority of brood is located at the lowest level (they will work their way up into unoccupied boxes as the weather improves and the brood nest increases in size), and offering sugar syrup to hold them over until things start blooming and the nectar starts flowing. As the hives still have good stores of honey, they aren't taking up much syrup. FYI - once there are abundant blooms available we will cease offering sugar syrup, and this happens prior to honey supers/boxes go on the hives - we harvest only from the honey supers so you are guaranteed to have nectar derived honey, not sugar syrup.
2014 CSA Season
So, now that we’ve mentioned the 2014 crops and crew, let’s get to the 2014 Summer CSA. We are full at our Des Moines delivery location and have a couple of slots available for Knoxville or farm pickup. Most of you have already sent in your deposits and balance payments will be due on May 1st. We will send out invoices for those amounts during April. CSA payments can always be made via check or Dwolla. We anticipate the first delivery of the 2014 season to be the first week of June, weather-depending.
Based on the suggestion of one of our new members (thanks Kim!) we are trying something new this season. We will be setting up a Facebook group just for our members where you can share ideas or questions about recipes, produce storage and other associated subjects. So you find a great new recipe for chard? Share it with the membership. Have questions about how to preserve kale for later use? Pose the question to the group. We have SO many smart, adventurous and experienced cooks as well as lots of people who are new to the concept of "eating out of the box" that this seemed like a great opportunity to help promote the "community" in Community Supported Agriculture! We will send out the link as soon as we have the group set up and for those of you who may not use Facebook, don't worry, we will make it open to non-Facebook members so you can at least see and keep up with the "goings-on" there. We hope you'll use this new resource and let us know if you have any suggestions on it.
Is a monthly newsletter not enough for you and you want to read more about our daily adventures or see pictures of the farm? You can follow us on Facebook at Blue Gate Farm
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, and Indigo)