Saturday, March 27, 2021

BGF NEWS - March 2021 - VOL. XLVI, NO. 5

WHAT’S UP ON THE FARM?

Precipitation in the past month: Snow: trace x2
                                                            Rain: 1.55""

Happy Spring from the farm! Several weeks ago the weather felt like we skipped straight from February to April, but now that we are officially in spring, March has returned, in all her cool, rainy glory! The pastures are greening, the trees are budded and the garlic is up. 
Grow, garlic, grow!
We started hearing chorus frogs a couple weeks ago and some of the early birds have returned, like killdeer, meadowlarks, and turkey vultures. 
These past few weeks were a great opportunity for "plowing through" a bunch of annual spring chores around the farm. We got the majority of the fruit tree pruning done with just 3 big peach trees to go. We also got all of the field plots composted so that they are ready for tilling once they dry out. There's been a fair amount of reorganizing and generally getting things ready for the spring rush. 
We expect the seed potatoes to arrive any day now, so that will be the next big project as soon as we can till.

New crops starting in the big tunnel
The rainy weather is currently providing us with the opportunity to focus on indoor chores. We are pretty much on schedule for high tunnel prep. The big tunnel has been cleared of spent crops, composted and tilled for spring. New beds of kale, chard and lettuce were transplanted and are growing on nicely. Fresh sowings of arugula, salad mix, snow peas, baby greens mix and choi have recently germinated and are growing steadily.
Seedlings hardening off in the small tunnel
Happily we are also current on our seeding transplants in the nursery with new flats of: broccoli, cabbage, head lettuce, cauliflower, kale, chard, roselle, eggplant, peppers, fennel, garden berries and LOTS of flowers! We're already starting to play the vegetable farmer's favorite game, Transplant Tetris, even though the most cold tolerant plants have moved out to the small tunnel to harden off a bit. Tomatoes and basil are next on the sowing list and then things will really start getting interesting for nursery space. 

Now for a couple of BIG ANNOUNCEMENTS!
#1. Many of our local customers and members were kind enough to participate in a quick, one question survey that we sent out last month. It asked where they would like to find us and our products this season, either through the online orders of VegEmail, as we've done for the past year or back at our booth at the farmer's market. The response was overwhelming, both with the number of responders and with the answer. More than 78% of responders voted for VegEmail! Your voices were heard and that's what we will do! We are not returning to the market this season, and will continue to do VegEmail for the coming year. The winter schedule will continue with deliveries every other Tuesday until May. Then we will move back to weekly Saturday deliveries. That way if folks want to go to market they can just swing by and pick up their VegEmail orders on the same trip. We are SO excited to dive into the upcoming season with this arrangement. Thank you to everyone who shared their opinion with us!

Now, exciting announcement #2!!
"Pack your bags, ladies, we're moving south!"

Dedicated newsletter readers will remember that we announced back in December that we would be retiring from the chicken business. Well, the final date is drawing near, but many of our dedicated egg aficionados can relax because our flock isn't heading to Freezer Camp, they are moving south to start anew at the Ebersole Cattle Co! Yep, that's right, we are thrilled to announce that Ebersole's are taking over the egg business. For DM members, that means you will still be able to get your eggs along with your regular VegEmail and CSA deliveries! Knoxville members, we are hoping to help you make egg connections as well, those details to follow later.

And speaking of the CSA, we decided that we had the capacity to add a few more CSA shares this season and we are sending out invitations to our waiting list for the last few spots. Huge thanks to those of you who have already responded and an additional farm-fresh round of applause to those who have already paid (that helps us cover all those new seeds!) If you are interesting in joining us as a new member this season, you can email us at mail@bluegatefarmfresh.com and ask to be put on the waiting list.


Is a monthly 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

FRIDAY, JANUARY 15, 2021

BGF NEWS - January 2021 - VOL. XLVI, NO. 3

WHAT’S UP ON THE FARM?


Precipitation in the past month: Snow: 9.0"
                                                            Rain: trace

Happy New Year from the farm!
It was a quiet, snowy holiday season on the farm with only those who live here gathering to share the day in person. We did have Zoom Christmas with extended family which was appreciated and prudent, but not the same. We assume many of you had similar experiences.

The darkest days of winter are now past us and as each each day dawns we have a bit more daylight. The winter crops really appreciate the increasing day length. Crops in the high tunnel are basically held in stasis from mid Dec until about Valentine's day. Then they will suddenly start to put on lots of new growth. 
Winter VegEmail harvesting
This will be a cause for celebration for our winter VegEmail customers as we should have more leafy green crops to offer as the weeks continue. The chickens also slow down during these shorter days. We went from getting 12-14 dozen eggs a day for much of the summer to  about 2 dozen on Christmas day. Don't they understand we have hungry egg customers???

The seed orders are finally all placed and the new seeds are rolling in. This is a photo of just "a few" of the new seeds that have arrived so far. The potting soil (which was hauled up the hill in the sled) is mixed and ready for the coming season. We will start sowing the first transplant crops next in a few weeks.

So what else have we been up to in the past month? VegEmail deliveries continue every two weeks. There's been a fair amount of snow clearing, both mechanical and by hand. The high tunnels have to be cleared whenever there is a heavy snow, which guarantees snow-filled pockets and hoods at some point, no matter how careful I am! 
Once I get the January newsletter out (today!), the 2021  garden maps are the next big priority. The screen shot on the right is a quick glimpse at the plan for our "El Sur" plot, which is about 3/4 done. 
Other than that, we are attending virtual farming meetings, doing daily chores and playing in the snow a bit.

2021 CSA:
Veteran member sign up has begun. If you were a CSA member in 2020, you should have received an email last month with the details and a link to the sign up form. If you didn't receive your membership email for the 2021 season, please let us know ASAP.  2020 members have until the end of January (just 2 more weeks) to lock in their spots and then we will open any remaining shares to our waiting list. Huge thanks to those of you who have already responded and an additional farm-fresh round of applause to those who have already paid (that helps us cover all those new seeds!) If you are interesting in joining us as a new member this season, you can email us at mail@bluegatefarmfresh.com and ask to be put on the waiting list.


Is a monthly 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, February 21, 2021

BGF NEWS - February 2021 - VOL. XLVI, NO. 4


WHAT’S UP ON THE FARM?


Precipitation in the past month: Snow: 21.5"
                                                            Rain: 0.35

Our alpaca bed & breakfast
Wow, what a month it has been! It's been a tough run on the farm but we know that so many of our friends both here and in the south have had it even worse. The deep cold sure makes everyone appreciate the return to more normal temperatures. We had 14 days of doing chores every 2 hours to make sure that all the animals had water to drink and to keep the eggs from freezing. 
Our hot water line froze in the middle of it, so all the water had to be warmed on the stove and then hauled out. It was a lot of trips across the field with the chore sled but everything survived so it was worth it. 
Indigo and the chore sled
The chickens were the least impressed with the weather and we went from getting six dozen eggs a day to a total of 5 eggs a day. Hm, that's not going to make anyone happy, but we expect those numbers to go back up fairly quickly as the birds regain some energy. 
Shallot seed germinating
                     
In between chore runs and heating water, we were able to accomplish a few other tasks. The first rounds of seeding is well underway and the earliest plants are growing. So far we've finished sowing all the allium crops (onions, scallions, leeks and shallots), the early herbs, a few slow-growing flowers, and kale, chard and head lettuce for the high tunnels.
Baby chard plants
 Next up will be the cole crops (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower ect. While we're not ready for spring yet, it is lovely to start seeing things grow again.

VegEmail deliveries continue every 2 weeks and demand remains high for local farm products over the winter months. We were fairly sure that the extreme cold would bring an end to our winter greens production in the high tunnels. In fact, we didn't even go in to check over the past few weeks. 
Finally, as the cold broke, we dug our way in and were pleasantly surprised. We certainly lost some crops but tucked in under the row cover there was plenty of life.  So more greens to come! Whew!

And speaking of things to come, a couple of notes:
The Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market announced this week that they intend to open on schedule this May with reduced vendors and safety measured in place. We are already fielding questions from customers as to whether we will return to the market or stick with our VegEmail deliveries. The answer is that we aren't sure yet. To help us decide, we are asking for your help. We'll be sending out a quick survey to our local customers in the next week and you can let us know how and were you would prefer to purchase our products in the coming season. Your opinion is important to us!

And speaking of the upcoming season, let's talk about the 2021 CSA! Our veteran member sign up has finished and we have started sending out invitations to our waiting list for the unclaimed spots.  Huge thanks to those of you who have already responded and an additional farm-fresh round of applause to those who have already paid (that helps us cover all those new seeds!) If you are interesting in joining us as a new member this season, you can email us at mail@bluegatefarmfresh.com and ask to be put on the waiting list.


Is a monthly 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

Friday, January 15, 2021

BGF NEWS - January 2021 - VOL. XLVI, NO. 3

WHAT’S UP ON THE FARM?


Precipitation in the past month: Snow: 9.0"
                                                            Rain: trace

Happy New Year from the farm!
It was a quiet, snowy holiday season on the farm with only those who live here gathering to share the day in person. We did have Zoom Christmas with extended family which was appreciated and prudent, but not the same. We assume many of you had similar experiences.

The darkest days of winter are now past us and as each each day dawns we have a bit more daylight. The winter crops really appreciate the increasing day length. Crops in the high tunnel are basically held in stasis from mid Dec until about Valentine's day. Then they will suddenly start to put on lots of new growth. 
Winter VegEmail harvesting
This will be a cause for celebration for our winter VegEmail customers as we should have more leafy green crops to offer as the weeks continue. The chickens also slow down during these shorter days. We went from getting 12-14 dozen eggs a day for much of the summer to  about 2 dozen on Christmas day. Don't they understand we have hungry egg customers???

The seed orders are finally all placed and the new seeds are rolling in. This is a photo of just "a few" of the new seeds that have arrived so far. The potting soil (which was hauled up the hill in the sled) is mixed and ready for the coming season. We will start sowing the first transplant crops next in a few weeks.

So what else have we been up to in the past month? VegEmail deliveries continue every two weeks. There's been a fair amount of snow clearing, both mechanical and by hand. The high tunnels have to be cleared whenever there is a heavy snow, which guarantees snow-filled pockets and hoods at some point, no matter how careful I am! 
Once I get the January newsletter out (today!), the 2021  garden maps are the next big priority. The screen shot on the right is a quick glimpse at the plan for our "El Sur" plot, which is about 3/4 done. 
Other than that, we are attending virtual farming meetings, doing daily chores and playing in the snow a bit.

2021 CSA:
Veteran member sign up has begun. If you were a CSA member in 2020, you should have received an email last month with the details and a link to the sign up form. If you didn't receive your membership email for the 2021 season, please let us know ASAP.  2020 members have until the end of January (just 2 more weeks) to lock in their spots and then we will open any remaining shares to our waiting list. Huge thanks to those of you who have already responded and an additional farm-fresh round of applause to those who have already paid (that helps us cover all those new seeds!) If you are interesting in joining us as a new member this season, you can email us at mail@bluegatefarmfresh.com and ask to be put on the waiting list.


Is a monthly 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

Saturday, December 19, 2020

BGF NEWS - December 2020 - VOL. XLVI, NO. 2

What’s up on the farm?

Precipitation in the past month: Snow: 3.0"
                                                            Rain: 0.4"

Happy holidays from all of us at BGF!

I know, I say it almost every winter newsletter, but I can't believe another month has already passed and now here we are looking at the end of 2020. I don't know that anyone will be sorry to see this one go, but if nothing else, the year has certainly been illuminating.

All tucked in for the night.
So what have we been up to in the past month? We finished up the harvest season in the field and have cleared *most* of the row covers and hardware. We did leave a few in place on some particularly cold hardy crops, just in case it happens to warm up enough that we might do a bit of harvesting later in the winter. You just never know! Our high tunnel crops are coming along nicely under their snug covers, though some days I feel like all I accomplish is opening the covers to let in the sunshine and then recovering the crops before the temperatures start to drop in the late afternoon.

Making chores more fun!
Daily chores take a bit more time now than in the warmer seasons. Eggs have to be gathered multiple times a day to ensure they don't freeze and snow makes things both easier and more challenging. And yes, sometimes after finishing chores I take the opportunity to hop in the chore sled for a little slide down the hill!

We are still harvesting and packing orders for our VegEmail deliveries every two weeks. It gets tricky with the colder weather and sometimes the walk-in cooler is the warmest place to pack and store orders, which seems a bit ironic. Our order volume continues to be brisk, so a couple of our crew members come in to lend a hand for harvest & delivery days. I really appreciate their help and company, otherwise I miss them all winter long!

Most of our other tasks these days are indoors. We recently finished our seed inventory and have nearly all of our seed orders placed. We just lack one company and the seed potatoes and we hope to get those done shortly. A few of our orders have already started arriving, so that is always a fun mailbox run. There is something so full of promise in a new seed packet! The rest of the time we are planning and prepping and attending virtual meetings and conferences.

Speaking of planning, it is time to move forward on the 2021 CSA season.  Given last year's unprecedented demand for CSA shares, we are reaching out early this year to ensure that we are better prepared for another rush on local foods. Veteran members can start reserving their spots this week. You should receive an email in the next couple of days with the details and a link to the sign up form. 2020 members will have until the end of January to lock in their spots and then we will open any remaining shares to our waiting list. If you are interesting in joining us as a new member this season, you can email us at mail@bluegatefarmfresh.com and ask to be put on the waiting list.

Part of our planning for the upcoming season is the "Add, Stay or Go" list. Along with input from the crew, we look at crops, varieties, processes, tools and supplies, assessing which things we are interested in adding to the farm, which things to continue with and which things need to be retired. So far we are adding quite a few new flowers as we had good interest in our bouquets this past season. We are trying some new tomato varieties and retiring a couple that were underwhelming. We are continuing with our fabric mulch trials and plan to expand those into new areas this spring. There's at least one new potato variety, a return to a favorite green bean and experimenting with a couple new leafy greens. 

Our biggest change in the upcoming season is that we are fairly sure we are ending our time as egg producers. We know that this will be a big disappointment for a number of people, and we aren't making this decision lightly. We have kept chickens for 14 years and while we enjoy them and the luxury of having our own eggs, they are also an enormous investment of time and energy. Their schedule and needs rule the start and end of EVERY day on the farm plus some of the hours in between.  We have toyed with this idea for a couple of years, and looked at a variety of options for lightening our workload with them. However, this past year we lost both our source for new birds and our processor for sending our retiring birds to "freezer camp." We decided that this was the universe helping us to realize it was time to make the change. We will continue to offer eggs into the spring, but unless something unexpected occurs, we anticipate bidding our chickens farewell by the start of summer.
Some endings are beautiful!
That's about it from us this month. Thank you for making it all the way to the end of the newsletter and for joining us on all our farming adventures. It is such a privilege to live in this beautiful place and to raise safe, healthy food for so many amazing people. We wish you all the joys of the season and a bright new year!


Is a monthly 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

Saturday, November 28, 2020

BGF NEWS - November 2020 - VOL. XLVI, NO. 1

What’s up on the farm?


Precipitation in the past month: Snow: 3.0"
                                                            Rain: 2.75"

Welcome to our November newsletter. We will publish these on a monthly basis until the start of the CSA season in June. Our goal is to give our members, customers and friends a window into our world on the "back-side" of the seasonal calendar. So grab a hot beverage, sit back and join us for a little tour of the farm this month.

We are thankful for a time to slow down a bit. Not that a farm ever really rests, but November is usually the time that the pace on the farm really starts to ease. The regular "market season" is done, the farm crew is on limited hours and the field crops are largely out. Somehow, even though these things are mostly true right now, it doesn't feel as "slow" as years past. While we have had a few pretty cold nights, getting as low as 19°, most of our fall field crops are still doing fairly well. We did lose some things due to cold, but that is always the case at some point during the fall and we are pleased that we are still harvesting from the field in late November. It is particularly appreciated this year as our VegEmail sales have been very popular, in fact, our recent pre-Thanksgiving delivery was the most orders we've ever filled in one day! Who could have possibly guessed last spring as we were filled with anxiety over what a season without farmers market would mean for us? We never could have imagined how popular VegEmail would be over the summer and now continuing into the fall & winter. We are SO very thankful to all our amazing customers who place orders all season long. You made it possible for us to keep our farm crew employed and to embrace the change to move forward through a challenging year!

Besides harvesting and packing a crazy number of VegEmail orders, what have we been doing? Well, as the temperatures started to cool, it was time to get the row covers on our fall crops. Due to the drought, our fall crops were slow growing and many of them hadn't yet been harvested by the end of October. 
Row cover in the field
So row covers to the rescue, these big pieces of fabric on wire hoops buy us (and the crops) some extra time. They aren't a fail-safe, but they do help insulate cold-tolerant crops and hopefully allow us to continue to harvest from the fields later in the season. They are "a bit" of a pain, requiring a fair amount of hardware that all has to be installed and maintained and it is always a battle on windy days. Every time we harvest, the covers have to be taken off and put back on, so everything is more labor intensive but mostly the effort is worth it. This year, it has definitely been a boon to have them in place.
High Tunnel #2 on 11/28/20
So far, we haven't had to start harvesting from the high tunnels yet, which means those crops will be more plentiful once we do have to move inside.  

Some of our crops don't get covers, especially root crops. We just let them grow to the size we want and them harvest them all at one time. We can do this because these crops store well for an extended time in the cooler. This includes carrots, beets, turnips, radishes and daikon. 
Harvesting daikon radishes
This makes for some very long harvest days as they all have to be washed and topped (greens removed) before going into the cooler. But once that work is done, it is such a delight to have them all ready to be bagged up for orders. This year we ran out of carrots and beets very early and are now pleased to be able to offer those crops from our friends at Grinnell Heritage Farm for our VegEmail orders. 

Clearing the beds of spent crops is always a big job in the fall. All the plant matter goes to one of our composting piles or to the chickens. Then all the trellises, support posts and fabric mulch have to be cleared and stored. Irrigation system parts are all rolled up, labeled and stored as well. These tend to be messy and sometimes wet tasks and we were very pleased that this year, those all happened on fairly warm days, as often that isn't the case. 

Planting garlic
Usually the final really big fall task is planting the garlic crop for next year. All of the heads are broken into cloves and each clove is hand planted. Our farm crew has gotten really efficient at this task but it is still a big project. This year we planted a bit under 200 pounds of garlic, which translates to about 3600 cloves. 
Covering newly planted garlic
Then once the cloves are set, they are all covered with soil and the whole plot is mulched with straw. 

As I mentioned, we still have most of the fall crops producing, so much of the cleaning up is yet to come, not to mention clearing all that row cover fabric and hardware. So there is still plenty to do outside and we just hope the weather will continue to be cooperative.

VegEmail deliveries have switched over from our weekly summer schedule to every other week in Des Moines and Knoxville. We will continue to do these sales every two weeks until the start of market season. Our next delivery is 12/8 and the order form for that will go out on 12/2 at 5pm. If you aren't receiving the VegEmail order form and you would like to, just fill out the form here: 
VegEmail Sign Up

 We have already started getting questions about next year's CSA season. Given the unprecedented interest that we had last spring, we are planning to open our sign up period a month early this year. So "current" CSA members from the 202o season can start signing up in early December. Then we will open any available spots to our waiting list in January. So keep your eyes open for more CSA details to come next month.

All the activities and craziness aside, we are thankful for the privilege of living here on this beautiful farm, raising tasty, healthful produce. We couldn't do it without our amazing family, customers, members and community supporters. So we are thankful for you! We hope your Thanksgiving was filled with a bounty of delicious foods. Be safe out there!

Is a monthly 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