Blue Gate Farm News – Volume XXXII, Number 1 – January 2017
Precipitation to date this month: Rain: 0.25"
What’s up on the farm?
What an interesting winter we are having so far weather-wise. It isn't very often that we see -18° in December and I don't believe I ever remember Iowa thunderstorms on Christmas day. Crazy weather indeed, but we are now truly tucked into the rhythms of winter and the accompanying chores. The animals aren't particularly thrilled with the coldest weather, but as long as we keep them supplied with feed, shelter and warm water, they are all just fine.
The dogs have been enjoying the winter, especially on those sub-zero nights/days when they get to pretend they are house dogs. They do enjoy playing outside in nearly all weather, except rain, and are thrilled when we have visitors (especially kids) who will romp around the farm with them. They continue to take their farm-dog responsibilities very seriously and always let us know when someone drives up our lane, even if it is just us. Just today they made it abundantly clear that the neighbors had moved cows to the nearer pasture (very important to protect the farm from those neighbor cows that are nearly a 1/4 mile away).
The chickens are amazingly hardy and are willing to venture out into all but the coldest temperatures. In fact a couple of the chickens continue to break out of their pasture daily (no matter the weather) so that they can lay their eggs in the straw-lined doghouse rather than in their very nice (and safer) nest boxes. Egg production with the "new girls" has been steady since they arrived in December. We are planning starting this month via our "VegEmail" list. If you are receiving this newsletter and are local, you are on the list. More details on the upcoming winter sales below. If you are in the area and want to stop by the farm for eggs, call and let us know, we will be happy to sell eggs if we have them available.
The alpacas continue to entertain us through the cold weather. Percy is undeniably the farm clown. He refuses to stay in his assigned pasture, putting himself in and out at will. He seems to prefer to hang out with his buddies the chickens, or occasionally just wander about the farm looking for entertainment. All the livestock enjoyed the extended good grazing during the warm stretches in November and December, but are now resigned to eating hay with some supplemental feed.
The bees are shivering the winter away, literally. During cold weather a honey bee colony forms a ball or cluster with the queen in the center of the ball. The worker bees “shiver” their wing muscles to create heat. A colony with an ample population can maintain a temperature in the center of the cluster in to the 80s!
One of the biggest changes for us this winter started with our wood-fired boiler springing a leak the day after Christmas. It was a fatal leak in the old cast iron beast, which had served us (more-or-less) faithfully for 10+ years. Luckily it was timed nicely with a weather warm-up and after a bit of head-scratching we decided it was more economical and reliable to switch over to propane for heating the sunroom/plant nursery. A couple days of projecting with my dad and we are happily heating again with MUCH less effort and supervision. While I will miss the winter woodcutting chores a bit (I may have to get a gym membership after all.) I do not miss the 10pm "put on the insulated coveralls over your pajamas and go outside in a snowstorm to load the boiler" aspect of the routine.
The seed catalogs have all arrived and the great seed-ordering marathon is on. While I don't anticipate any revolutionary changes to our growing practices this year, it is always fun to try out a few new varieties. Will see what all the glossy photos in the catalogs can tempt me with. It is time to get the orders going though, we will start sowing seeds in just about a month.
I mentioned our VegEmail list earlier so here are the details. Starting next week we will be doing egg and produce sales every other Thursday in both Des Moines and Knoxville. Early in the week we will send out an email with the current product availability and if there is anything on the list you wish to order, just send us a response requesting your items. We will fill requests in the order in which we receive them. Then you just meet us at the appropriate location the following Thursday (from 5-6pm) and we will have your order all ready to go. Knoxville customers will continue to pick up their orders at the Grand Theater but we have exciting news for our Des Moines folks. We have enjoyed a long relationship with our friends at Peace Tree Brewing Company and with the recent opening of their cool, new DM location in the East Village we are pleased to further it. For the foreseeable future (including CSA deliveries) we will call Peace Tree-East Branch (317 E Court Ave.) our new DM home. We are sorry to bid our friends at Ritual Café farewell (and I'll miss my favorite coffee treat), but the broader schedule and plentiful parking at Peace Tree was just too good to pass up. We look forward to the opportunity to visit with our friends and customers over a nice beverage (they make a tasty root beer too!) while we are there.
We're hiring! We are starting to advertising for farm crew members for the upcoming season. If you know of anyone in the area who might enjoy a summer-worth of suntans, whole body workout and bonus vegetables, send them our way! These are paid positions that start as early as mid-April and possibly go through late December.
2017 CSA Season
So, now that we’ve mentioned the 2017 crops and crew, let’s get to the 2017 Summer CSA. The sign-up period for the season is open for veteran CSA members. These members have until January 22nd to let us know if they wish to continue to their membership. The following week we will start contacting names from our waiting list to fill in any remaining slots. If you are a veteran CSA member and didn't receive a subscription email, please let us know ASAP. The 2017 Base CSA Membership is $500 for the 20 week season. Deposits ($50) are due at the end of February. Again this year, we are offering an Early Bird discount: any veteran member submitting their full payment by February 5th can subtract $20 from their total, otherwise, balance payments will be due on May 1st, and we will send out invoices for those amounts mid-April. We anticipate the first delivery of the 2017 season to be the first week of June, weather-depending.
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)