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.  

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!


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:
Lost Lake Farm LLC:  

Knoxville delivery:
Crooked Gap Farm:
Farmyard Fancies:

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