Monday, May 25, 2020



BGF News - MAY 2020 - Vol. XLIII, No. 6

All of the farm crew are working hard!


What's up on the farm?

Precipitation in the past month: Rain: 3.75"
                                                            Snow: 6.0"
                                                          + asst. sleet and small hail

It's a little hard to believe that as I sat here writing April's newsletter just a month ago, we were getting our last snow of the season and it was about to get REALLY cold! Today, the windows are open to invite in the 81° breeze and it looks like more storms are on their way. At least it's rain this time.

It's been an interesting growing season so far this spring. Early April was mild and we got lots of things done, then it got cold, really cold. It froze off our first flush of asparagus, so that even though we saw our first spears on April 1st, we didn't harvest our first asparagus until April 24th, about 3 weeks later than we anticipated and a full week later than average. It was a long, slow "dawning of the age of asparagus" this year, but now we are cruising along at about normal harvests. That cold snap was also challenging for our fruit trees. Many were in full bloom or at least full bud. It looks like the peaches, apples and pears skirted the damage point, but we lost nearly all of the tree cherry crop. 

Luckily the strawberries were still protected and given the blooms on them right now, it just might be a bumper strawberry season (fingers crossed!).

At this point, we are just about on schedule with were we expect to be in the fields. The earliest spring crops are producing nicely in the big high tunnel and in the field the are just getting to harvest stage. The small tunnel has been cleared of winter crops and replanted to tomatoes, peppers, basil and eggplant.  

Potatoes!
The potatoes are up as are the first beans and the cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce and onion transplants are all growing along nicely. Even the popcorn has just started germinating enough that we were able to get in and cultivate it just ahead of this weekend's rains. Amid all of the transplanting, sowing, cultivating and harvesting, this is also the traditional time for shearing. While the alpacas heartily protest the event in it's entirety, everyone celebrates a successful shearing day!

"After"
"Before"









Now back to our "regular program." Every year we try to participate in a formal field trial with Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI). It gives us the impetus and structure to collect hard data from which we can make more educated decisions.
This year we are trialing reusuable groundcover fabric in place of our straw mulch in the tomato plot. The hope is that it will increase plant health and greatly decrease the labor in weeding some of our long season crops while being reusuable for many seasons to come, so we aren't adding any more plastic to the landfill than we can help. That's a pretty tall order, but we are giving it a shot. So this year we are doing half straw mulch and half fabric so we can compare them. Should be interesting!

Probably our biggest change this month has been the postponement of the Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market. It seems a bit surreal to not be there every Saturday morning, as we have been for the past 15 years. In its place we have extended our winter custom VegEmail sales into the new "VegEmail Market" with our friends from Ebersole Cattle Co., Lost Lake Farm LLC and Peace Tree Brewing Co. The weekly Saturday orders with "drive thru" service have been surprisingly popular and we've been blown away by the gracious support of our customers. Our plan is to continue to do this until we can safely return to the farmers market. 
Our "VegEmail Market" at Peace Tree-DM
So here we are, nearly done with May and ready to say hello to June, and for us, that means CSA season! 
The CSA is on schedule to begin deliveries on Tuesday, June 2nd in Des Moines, Knoxville and on the farm. CSA members should have received an email from us last week detailing the pick-up process and side options available for each location. Just a reminder to our members that now is the time to sign up for our "Partner Farms" options, including Ebersole Cattle Co. (beef) and Lost Lake Farm LLC (cheese) for Des Moines members and Crooked Gap Farm (meat) and Farmyard Fancies (bread) for Knoxville and on-farm members. We are so excited to be working with these quality producers to bring you more opportunities for great local foods. Want to sign up for the Partner Farms options, but haven't yet? Here's your chance!
Des Moines delivery:
Ebersole Cattle Company: ebersolecattleco@yahoo.com
Lost Lake Farm LLC: http://eepurl.com/gX3zL9.  

Knoxville delivery:
Crooked Gap Farm: Ethan@Crookedgapfarm.com
Farmyard Fancies: farmyardfancies@gmail.com

CSA members, watch for another "Orientation email" later this week.

And finally, if you don't follow us on Facebook or Instagram, you might have missed our new photo project we are calling:  "The Farm Mis-Adventures of the Purple Prom Dress" or the working title, "Farm Prom".
Why, you might ask, does a farm have or need a purple prom dress? Good question! Because this is such a mixed-up, crazy year for everyone, we decided we needed a little diversion. Something we do, simply for the silly joy of the thing. And so "Farm Prom" it is! Here's a little sample of some of our recent adventures. Follow us on FB or Instagram for more to come!


Is a weekly newsletter not enough for you? Do you want to read more about our life on the farm and see more pictures? Follow us on Facebook at Blue Gate Farm or on Instagram at bluegatefarmfresh. CSA members can also connect with other BGF members to share recipes or ask questions on our FB community page 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 the whole BGF crew)


Indigo, Luci & Sky





Thursday, April 16, 2020


BGF News - April 2020 - Vol. XLIII, No. 5


What's up on the farm?

Precipitation in the past month: Rain: 3.25"
                                                            Snow: 5.0"
                                                            Sleet & Ice: that too!

What a month this has been! 
Amid a world turned cattywampus with changes in nearly everyone's routines and priorities, Spring has wandered in from the south and started to make herself at home. That said, as I write this looking out at the rolling green pastures outside my office window, the first snowflakes of our next snowstorm are starting to drift down from the sky, with forecasts of 6-10". Sigh, April in Iowa.

This is the time of year when we really start to get our scurry on. Everything revolves around the weather right now. We need it to warm up enough to defrost the compost pile, then dry out enough to spread the compost and then to till and seed. Then we'd like it to rain enough to settle the seed and encourage it to germinate, but not so much as to wash it away or cause it to rot. Then we'd like some gently warming temperatures to allow us to transplant, and then again some rain. 

Just in case you are curious, this NEVER happens in an orderly or organized fashion. We try to be ready with each successive step for when the weather and soil conditions allow us to proceed but best laid plans and all that. We often find ourselves diving into tasks when the conditions are almost right, but not quite, and then doing them as fast as we can before the weather turns again. 


Tilling alongside the garlic planting
Freshly tilled El Norte plot









Seeding snow peas
In the past month we have done all of these things, and are mostly caught up to where we want to be at this time of year.  The compost is spread, the primary tilling is done and the first round of direct seeded early crops are in the ground, including: salad mix, spinach, beets, carrots, greens mix, choi turnips and peas. 



Thanks to my dad, we also got one round of oat cover crop seeding in before the 3" of snow a couple of days ago. 



The early high tunnel crops are mostly in and growing nicely, with just a couple more seedings of salad mix and arugula to add in. We also transplanted kale and chard into the big high tunnel, but the earliest field transplanting hasn't begun yet, hopefully very soon. 
Transplants waiting for warmer weather

The small tunnel is still the "staging ground" for all of the flats of spring transplants that aren't quite ready to move outside yet. These include cabbage, broccoli, head lettuce, cauliflower, herbs, and edible flowers. The sunroom is full to bursting with the warm-weather transplants including tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, fennel, ornamental flowers, basil, celery and further sowings of cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. Next up are cucumbers, summer squash and okra. 


Back on April 1st we saw our first asparagus spear peeking out of the soil. That's earlier than average and we thought we might have an early asparagus season. Nope. The recent 20° nighttime temperatures froze off anything above the soil and set the soil temperatures back quite a bit. So the "Age of Asparagus" has been delayed a bit, but we still look forward to a season of bountiful spears in the coming weeks.


VegEmail orders ready for pick up
Our bi-weekly VegEmail program has been going like gangbusters with record sales for the past several rounds. Thanks to all our awesome customers who have placed orders so far this season. Armed with our new health safety measures and drive-up convenience, we plan to continue these deliveries until the DM farmers market reopens sometime later this summer. We  are so pleased to be sharing these deliveries with our friends from Ebersole Cattle Co., Lost Lake Farm LLC and Peace Tree Brewing Company. You can now order and pick up your eggs, veg, meat, cheese and beer all in one stop, and you don't even have to get out of your car! If you aren't already receiving our VegEmail announcements, you can sign up for them here: VegEmail

The 2020 CSA season is just about six weeks away and we are full! If you were hoping to join us this season, but haven't filled out the form yet we are happy to put you on the waiting list. Invoices for CSA balance payments will be going out in the next couple of days. A bounty of farm-fresh thanks to those of you who have already sent in payments!!  

**Now the big news for our CSA members!!**
This year we are partnering with several area farms to offer new options for our CSA members. 

Des Moines members will now be able to sign up for a Meat Share with Ebersole Cattle Co., and a Cheese Share with Lost Lake Farm LLC. If you choose these options, they will be picked up at the same time as your regular produce share.

Knoxville members can sign up for a Meat Share from Crooked Gap Farm and a Bread Share from our neighbors (and farm crew members) at Farmyard Fancies, also to be picked up along with your produce share.

We are so excited to work with these amazing producers to bring you more quality local products. More details to follow in an informational email to our CSA members, but we just couldn't wait to let you in on this new opportunity.

Is a weekly newsletter not enough for you? Do you want to read more about our life on the farm and see more pictures? Follow us on Facebook at Blue Gate Farm or on Instagram at bluegatefarmfresh. CSA members can also connect with other BGF members to share recipes or ask questions on our FB community page 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 the whole BGF crew)

Indigo, Luci & Sky





Sunday, March 15, 2020


BGF News - March 2020 - Vol. XLIII, No. 5


What's up on the farm?

Precipitation so far this month: Rain:0.75"
                                                            Snow: 3" 

Image result for wwii posters

What times we live in. It is nearly a full time job trying to separate the fact from the rumors (on multiple fronts). Here on the farm we've been working on figuring out our plan of action as we move into spring mode. In the short term, I've determined that my philosophy will be one of solitary social solidarity. Be supportive to my community in whatever ways I can (which includes social distancing when practical), while preparing for a "normal" season of growing and providing safe, healthy food for our customers & members. 

The whole "support your community" concept reminds me of the WWII posters targeting efforts on the home-front. I can't do anything about the medical issue, but I can do this. 

So what does that mean specifically? In the past couple of years, I have participated in several different food safety trainings, these helped to hone our plans and procedures for handling your food in the safest way possible on the farm, from seed to delivery. Hand-washing and surface sanitation continues to be the greatest part of these policies. We continue to strive to update and improve our practices.

For the coming week, we will continue our VegEmail deliveries as planned. Note, as of now, we will no longer be accepting egg cartons, plastic bags or produce containers for reuse. Please recycle those items with your local recycling service.

If the health safety situation worsens during future ordering cycles we will look at making changes that may include a drive-through pick up so you don't have to exit your car thus mitigating your exposure to other people during the delivery. We may also go to a 100% electronic payment system so that we can all handle fewer "things" that might transmit illnesses (though this change would also mean an increase in our prices, so we'd rather not do it if we don't have to.) 

As we look towards the market season, who knows what may happen, but if market is compromised, we will plan to continue some version of our VegEmail system. If you have thoughts or concerns about how we might better facilitate these deliveries, please let us know.

The 2020 CSA season is on track to be our biggest season yet. We do still have a few spots available, but they are filling quickly. If you want to avoid extra trips to the grocery store or market this summer, let us cover your veggie-needs. More information and sign-up link available here: BGF CSA

We are pretty much on schedule with crops and preparations so far. We've seeded transplants for broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chard , kale, head lettuce, herbs and edible flowers. This week we will finish clearing spent crops from high tunnel 2 and will sow peas and choi and get those kale and chard transplants in the ground. Last week we burned the asparagus patch and got cover crop seeded over the area just ahead of the snow. Perfect timing! We also got the finished compost pile turned and as soon as the fields dry out again we will spread compost and be ready for planting.

What can you do? Support your local small businesses. They will see the financial hardships first as behaviors change and events are cancelled. These businesses are unlikely to get any "bailout packages" from the government, so your support is even more critical. Buy gift certificates for later use or shop online locally, your favorite restaurants, artisans and vendors will thank you for it. Getting great local service? Share that info with your friends. And of course, stay home when you can and wash your hands! I'm personally going through a bucketful of my favorite locally-produced hand cream from our friends at Prairieland Herbs just from all the hand-washing!

Upcoming dates of note:
March 21: Heartland Fiberpalooza - Winterset, IA (update, we are NOT attending)
mid-April: CSA invoices go out
May 1: CSA  balance payments due
May 2: opening Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market
June 2: 1st CSA delivery

Need some inspiration for your day? Here's ours:
Mixed kale seedlings ready for transplanting in the high tunnel



 Staff meeting










I love seeing the different colors of sprouting celosia seeds
Is a weekly newsletter not enough for you? Do you want to read more about our life on the farm and see more pictures? Follow us on Facebook at Blue Gate Farm or on Instagram at bluegatefarmfresh. CSA members can also connect with other BGF members to share recipes or ask questions on our FB community page 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 the whole BGF crew)

Indigo, Luci & Sky



Thursday, February 27, 2020

BGF News - February 2020 - Vol. XLIII, No. 4


What's up on the farm?

Precipitation in the past month: Rain: 0.00"
                                                            Snow: 3.00"

While it is only the end of February, Spring is definitely in the air around the farm. We are seeing and hearing flights of geese and swans moving north, there is a softness to the air on certain afternoons and then there is this, the sound of moving water as the snows melt and the frost comes out of the ground. Turn up your speaker volume for the full effect.




We are also seeing the first hints of green in some of the hardier plants outside, including this parsley plant growing in a sheltered area of the herb garden.





But for us, the real harbinger of Spring is seed starting for our seasons's transplants. It starts slowly, with onions, leeks, shallots, celery, edible flowers, long season herbs and chard & kale (photo left) for the high tunnels. These crops are all sown and most are germinated and growing. In the next couple of weeks, things will start getting serious on the seed front with sowings of broccoli, cabbage, chard, kale, collards & head lettuce.


Besides sowing seeds, we have been catching up on lots of inside work including cataloging seeds, test germinating older seed, completing the garden maps and planting charts and stocking up on our yarn & wool roving inventory. We continue to make slow but steady progress on the storm damage to the house with the bedroom & living room nearly done and the office well underway. It will be such a relief when everything can go back to where it belongs (we are currently "office-ing" in our dining room).There are some outdoor activities that are getting done as well including starting to clear spent high tunnel crops, pruning fruit trees & bushes and on those bitterly cold days,  gathering eggs every 2 hours so they don't freeze. 

We've also been managing orders and harvesting for our VegEmail deliveries and working on planning, communications and record keeping for the 2020 CSA season. Speaking of the CSA, our veterans have had a chance to sign up and we are now releasing any available slots to new members. If you are a veteran CSA member and haven't yet signed up, please do so soon to ensure your spot. With the recent, heartbreaking news of our friends at Grinnell Heritage Farm retiring their CSA this season we are seeing a higher number of new member signups and we anticipate filling all our available slots. If you are a new member and are considering joining us for the 2020 season, now is the time to act. You can get all the details and sign-up form here: Blue Gate Farm CSA 2020


Upcoming dates of note:
March 21: Heartland Fiberpalooza - Winterset, IA
mid-April: CSA invoices go out
May 1: CSA  balance payments due
May 2: opening Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market
June 2: 1st CSA delivery

Remember if you can't wait until spring for farm-fresh products, you can place a VegEmail order every two 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 the availability list until the start of the farmers market season in early May.

Is a weekly newsletter not enough for you? Do you want to read more about our life on the farm and see more pictures? Follow us on Facebook at Blue Gate Farm or on Instagram at bluegatefarmfresh. CSA members can also connect with other BGF members to share recipes or ask questions on our FB community page 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 the whole BGF crew)

Indigo, Luci & Sky




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)