Tuesday, April 23, 2013

BGF News April 2013

Weather notes:
Precipitation to date this month: Rain: 6.7”
Snow: trace

What’s up on the farm?

Well, here we are in April and I'm pretty sure that I am not going to get the February and March newsletters done. Not sure how that happened, just suddenly, here it April! I'm fairly certain that every year since we moved to the farm (now 8 years ago) that the month of March has gotten shorter, to the extent that I'm convinced this year we skipped it altogether!

So a little review of what we've been up to here since that long ago last newsletter…

Much transplant sowing has happened in the sunroom (our plant nursery). To date the following plants have been started on the heat mats, germinated and moved to the sunny southern windows and some have even graduated out to the high tunnels: onions, leeks, shallots, edible flowers, herbs, garden huckleberries, ground cherries, broccoli, cabbage, peppers, eggplant, basil, tomatoes, head lettuce, cucumbers, okra, summer squash & zucchini. Whew!

In the high tunnels, all the beds have been prepped for spring crops and in the big tunnel, the sown crops are all up and growing, including: radishes, chard, arugula, salad mix, spinach, choi & snow peas. The smaller tunnel is currently serving as the "hardening off" house and is awaiting warmer weather for the first planting of tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.

We were able to get a fair amount of bed prep (composting and tilling) done before the rains started this week. And before that we even got the earliest field crops sown, including: kale, kohlrabi, spinach, turnips, peas, carrots, beets, mustard greens, radishes and the first field sowing of salad mix. In a normal year, we would have already planted potatoes and transplanted all the onion/leek/shallot crops, but the extra cool temps have slowed us down there.

In addition to garden work, we've also continued with our woodcutting chores from the winter. Jill has continued to do lots of fiber/yarn work and Sean continues his work with PFI (Practical Farmers of Iowa) in Ames. Spring chores have included trimming the orchards, burning the asparagus field and ordering lots of supplies for the upcoming season.

The hens have been appreciating the recent rains, for though they aren't big fans of mud, they do love the current profusion of earthworms in the pasture. We acquired about 50 younger birds about a month ago to help our older hens with egg production and suddenly we were flush with 10-12 dozen eggs a day. They add up fast at that rate!

The "new girls aren't our only addition to the farm this spring. At the beginning of March, Jill's grandfather moved in with us, so there are now three generations of Beebouts living on the farm. That is a high concentration of ice cream eaters all in one place, but we seem to be making out just fine.

The bees haven't made too much of an appearance this spring. The cool, windy conditions aren't prime bee weather, but on the milder days, the buzzing between the pollinating trees and the hives is pretty much nonstop. The weather has delayed delivery of our new bees, coming from California. They were supposed to arrive last week, but we hope to see them sometime in the next week or so.

2013 CSA Season
We are full for the 2013 CSA season. We have received most of the member deposits and just a reminder that any remaining balances are due by May 1st. Thanks to those of you who sent in your payments early.
We anticipate the first delivery of the 2013 season to be the first week of June, weather-depending.

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)

BGF News January 2013

Well, better late than never,  this is the newsletter that went out earlier this year. I just ran out of blogging-speed last fall and didn't start to get back to it until now. Here's hoping for a great 2013!

Blue Gate Farm News – Volume XX, Number 1    January 2013

Weather notes:
Precipitation to date this month: Rain: .65”
Snow: +/- 1.0

What’s up on the farm?

Happy New Year to everyone, just a bit late.  We hope the young 2013 has been as kind to you as it has to us.  
Given the health and weather challenges of 2012, we were more than happy to send that year into the past and look forward to the promise of a new year.  So far, things are looking great. All of Sean's medical team continue to be very pleased with his progress and one by one they are bidding him farewell as their specialties are no longer required. There are still a number of appointments to be kept, but to date, all the news has been good. We are so very appreciative of all of the wonderful support that we received throughout the "adventure"!

We have left the farm on a few occasions this winter.  What a treat to have crew members from last summer nearby to look after things for us.  We travelled to Colorado to visit with family over Christmas, plus our annual pilgrimage to the Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) conference.  This is one of our favorite events of the year and we look forward to learning about new farm-related skills, opportunities and techniques.  The best part of the conference though is catching up with farming friends, some of whom we only see “in person” this one time of the year.  

Blue and Luci have been enjoying the winter, especially when we have visitors to the farm.  They enjoy playing outside in nearly all weather, except rain, though they have made it very clear that they would be ok with becoming house dogs at least part time.

The chickens aren’t big fans of snow and during some of the rare snowy days they had to be coaxed out onto the frozen whiteness with piles of fresh greens gleaned from the high tunnels.  While they love their greens, they really hate walking on snow, although our current flock is better about this than earlier flocks!  Egg production has been variable throughout the winter. So our egg sale opportunities continue to be rather erratic. We will make eggs available for sale as we have them. 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 bees are shivering the winter away, literally.  During cold weather a honey bee colony forms a ball 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 ball in to the 80s! 

The seeds have all been ordered and the majority of them have already arrived.  The annual sowing of transplants will begin in the sunroom in the next couple of weeks.  First on the schedule are: onions, leeks, shallots, green onions, edible flowers and perennial herbs. After that, things will start to get serious with the sowings of cabbages and broccoli and the direct sowing will begin in the high tunnels.  Before that can happen though, the winter crops will all be cleared from the tunnels and we will flood each of the beds to help clear the soils there of excess salts.  Then we should be about ready for planting.

2013 CSA Season
So, now that we’ve mentioned the 2013 crops, let’s get to the 2013 Summer CSA.  The sign-up period for the season will begin later this week as we send out emails to veteran CSA members. These members will have until February 17th to let us know if they wish to continue their membership. The following week we will start contacting names from our waiting list to fill in any remaining slots.  Due to increasing seed and fuel costs, we are increasing the 2013 Base Membership fee a bit, to $480 for the 20 week season. Deposits ($50) are due at the end of February.  Balance payments will be due on May 1st, and we will send out invoices for those amounts during April.  We anticipate the first delivery of the 2012 season to be the first week of June, weather-depending.

That’s about it this month, if you have any questions or comments be sure to let us know. 

Best from the farm,