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