Abbe Hills Farm CSA

  (Mt. Vernon, Iowa)
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Eggs and ice storm

Greeting shareholders and farm friends,

Farmers market tomorrow, Saturday, February 2, is at the Mt. Vernon Community Center, east end of downtown, 11:00 until 1:00.  I'll have lots of eggs that I wish you would come buy.  Turns out that ice storms, snow, high winds, and below zero weather make it so people don't come to the country to buy eggs.  After a couple of days, they start to pile up.  Charlotte will be at market, too, with her lovely bread.

Here's the bad news on cats.  They are waaaay worse than we like to think.  I love it when we have kitties here, but agonize over getting them all adopted to homes.  Sparky, in particular, is an exceptional killer, as I suppose are her babies.  The problem is that she prefers eating endangered, neotropical, migratory songbirds over mice and rats!

I want to invent a giant salad spinner, and I need an automatic washer.  First, I'm looking for one that still spins.  Secondarily, it would be nice if it also agitates and is cleanish.  And it has to be free.  If you know somebody who has one to get rid of, I'll pick it up if they'll donate it to the cause of cleaner greens.  I'm still not sure that I want to regularly wash greens for you.  There are tradeoffs between cleanliness, workload, storage life, and food safety.  But on some really muddy days, it wouldn't hurt.  If I do, however, I have to get them dry.  That's where the spin cycle comes in.  Might work.

OK, if you think your head might explode if you read something from "Mother Jones", then don't click on this story about nitrogen fertilizer and natural gas supplies with an Iowa spin. But if you want to think a little more about the intersection between commodity agriculture, food, water quality, energy, and policy, it's a good one.  Tom Philpott is a reliable researcher and good writer.

Do you have a group that needs a speaker?  I've got a couple more months where I can make myself available to give talks.  I'd love to drum up some more business for the 2013 garden season and educate a few more people on the value of eating locally. Talks that are hosted by people the listeners know and trust are a very good way to start the conversations.

Be looking for an Abbe Hills Facebook page pretty soon.  You've begged for it, and I've resisted.  I think it's finally time.  I'm scared, but my people will help me figure it out.  The best thing about it (that I know of right now) is that it is such an easy way to post pictures and videos of things around here that I'd like you to see. 

Hope to see you at the market tomorrow,
Laura

 
 

Eggs and baguettes in Mt. Vernon

Greetings Abbe Hills shareholders and friends,

The market tomorrow is at the Mt. Vernon Community Center, east of downtown, from 11:00 until 1:00.   I'll be there with eggs.  Charlotte's going to be busy Saturday, but she's going to bake tonight so I will also have an armload of her plain baguettes for you.

To see what would happen, I planted a little lettuce in the the hoophouse about Dec 15 and watered it in.  The soil was still a little warm then, and lettuces started popping up actually during the blizzard on the 22nd.  Then they stopped.  Not dead.  Not frozen.  Not growing.  Nothing.  I planted a little more lettuce and spinach on Jan 9th, mostly because it was warm enough that day that I could use the garden hose to get water inside.  Nothing yet.  We're headed for a cold week, but I'll bet it warms up again after that, and I imagine things will start to pop.  Or not.  Either way, I'm working on getting us something green as soon as possible.  I'm ready for some crunch.

Hope to see you at the market.
Laura

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eggs and bread. Wheat issues

Greetings shareholders and friends of Abbe Hills,

This market this week is at the Springville Community Center, downtown Springville, 9:00 until 11:00.  I'll be gone again, but Charlotte will be there with the eggs and her wonderful bread. 

Many of you have mentioned to me that you suffer from some sort of wheat/gluten intolerance.  Here's a webinar on the ancient grains:  emmer, einkorn, and spelt, and their modern cousin, wheat.  Interesting slides and nice explanations for those of you interested in this topic.  

Here's a little article from the Center for Rural Affairs about the importance of getting a good farm bill for the success of rural communities.  I always appreciate their analysis of the issues. 

Finally, a short summary of all the big food and farming stories of 2012.  Some you already knew about, some I brought to your attention, some we both missed.  And lots of little stories embedded within that might interest you.

Have a good week,
Laura

 
 

Bread and eggs. Are we running out of soil?

Greetings shareholders and friends of Abbe Hills Farm,
 
The next farmers market is tomorrow, Saturday, January 5, 11:00 until 1:00, at the Community Center in Mt. Vernon.  I won't be there, but Charlotte will be bringing her bread and also selling eggs for me.
 
Our beef guy, Dan Specht, will be delivering beef from noon until 1:00.  He'll be parked in front of or near the coffee shop, Fuel, just up the street from the market.  He drives a white pickup, so look for him near the pickup, or inside Fuel.  He is bringing beef boxes for those who have preordered, plus hamburger for sale in individual packages.  If you want him to bring something special for you, please contact him directly before Saturday morning.  His phone is 563-516-1007, and his email is danspech@neitel.net .
 
The Linn Soil and Water Conservation District needs a volunteer to help us keep our website up-to-date.  It is hosted by SquareSpace and is quite easy to manage, but neither our secretary nor I have as much time to give to it as we would like.   If you like website work, are interested in natural resource stewardship, and could spend a hour or less a week keeping an eye on it, please let me know.  We'd be happy to call you an "assistant commissioner" and put you to work. 
 
Here's an interesting article about one of my favorite subjects, soil.  The story is a little grim, but not impossible.  There are lots of farmers all over the world who are doing just about everything right to build soil health, while making a living and growing good quality food.  So we know it can be done.  Just gotta get the eaters (that's you!) enthused.  And better soil health will result in cleaner water, fewer floods, and better drought resistance.
 
Hope you make it to the market,
Laura

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Beef and eggs Dec 29

Greetings friends of Abbe Hills Farm,

There is no farmers market this upcoming weekend, but if enough of you are interested, we will have beef available at the farm on Saturday, December 29, 11:00 until noon.  But you have to pre-order the beef with Dan.  Eggs, of course, are almost always here.  And I can scare up some nice cabbages from the cooler.  And if Charlotte is back from her parent's early enough, we might have bread.

Dan has several 20 lb mixed beef boxes available for $110, and lots of hamburger at $5 per pound that he will bring down if he has enough orders to make the trip worthwhile.   Excellent grassfed beef at a very good price.  He needs you to preorder the boxes, and if you want more than five pounds of hamburger.  He'll have extra one pound packages of hamburger with him.  If you want to know more about the beef, or to order some for pickup on Saturday, or to confirm that he will be here, please contact Dan.  His phone number is 563-516-1007.  His email is danspech@neitel.net.

Our next farmers market is Saturday, Jan 5, in Mt. Vernon, 11:00 until 1:00.

Hope you are having great holiday,
Laura

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Long newsletter, a lot on my mind this week!

Greetings shareholders and friends of Abbe Hills Farm,
 
This week's market is tomorrow, December 15, 11:00 until 1:00 at the Community Center in Mt. Vernon.  Charlotte and I will be there with bread, eggs, cabbages of various sorts, and garlic.  There will be lots of vendors with crafts and treats that would be good Christmas gifts. 
 
If you get new tires for Christmas, and your old set is in pretty good shape (good enough to run around a farm, not good enough to drive to Des Moines in the winter) and will fit 15" rims, I would be happy to have them.  Seems like I keep running out of 15" tires.  Too many wheels around here, I guess.
 
Matt Steigerwald, chef and owner of the Lincoln Cafe and Lincoln Wine Bar in Mt Vernon, and I started an exciting project last week.  We are both interested in making the world a better place, keeping stuff out of the landfill, and saving money.  After being mutually inspired by a series on food waste on NPR a couple of weeks ago, his people have started collecting all the kitchen and plate waste from the two restaurants, and I have started bringing it home for the chickens / compost pile.  So far, so good, and very exciting that we are making it work. 
 
But, it's complicated.  His people have to negotiate one more thing in their very small kitchens, and I have to make a trip to town every morning.  I can't help Matt's space problems, but if I'm going to persist, I'll need a delivery assistant.  I'm looking for somebody who drives by here most days, probably on the way to work, who would be willing to stop at the back door of the restaurant between 9:00 and 10:00 every morning and pick up a couple of heavy bags of food, then dump them in/near the compost pile here.  I can pay them with a CSA share and/or eggs.  There will be complications when the snow finally gets here and the road gets bad, but we can figure out how to make it work when the obstacles present themselves.  I don't want anybody to make a special trip to do this job, however.  The idea is to reduce our collective carbon footprint, and making one more trip in the car will cancel our good works.  So, if you know somebody reliable, strong, brave on icy gravel roads, and already going in this direction, please have them call me.
 
If you are a weather geek like me, you'll like reading the latest from Dr. Elwyn Taylor, THE weather and climate guy for Iowa.  He's not optimistic about the drought ending any time soon.  Bummer.
 
In 1972, the Clean Water Act became the primary federal law on water pollution.  Since then, water quality has improved in lots of places, especially where the pollution came from a point source like a pipe from a factory or sewage treatment plant.  But it hasn't worked so well in Iowa.  We still have appallingly poor water quality, with 80-90% of our pollution problems coming from non-point sources like farm fields and lawns.  Our biggest pollutant is soil, and the two nutrients that run into our surface waters along with the soil are nitrogen and phosphorus.  Soil and nutrients in the water are bad for those of us who use water here, and of course, become a problem in the Gulf of Mexico eventually. 
 
Here's a newly released study from the Environmental Working Group that describes the nature of our water quality problem and offers policy suggestions to start to solve it.  EWG is willing to suggest that the voluntary approach that we've used for the last 40 years to get farmers to practice conservation that will reduce soil erosion and nutrient runoff hasn't worked all that well, and needs to be juiced up with some kinds of regulations.  These, or course, are fighting words to most farmers.
 
Because of our lack of progress in meeting the goals of the Clean Water Act and the continued growth of the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, in 2008, Iowa was ordered by EPA to come up with a plan to tell what we are going to do to reduce the size, severity, and duration of the dead zone.  Iowa's plan, the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, was released last week.  It recommends that we continue to use the voluntary approach to solve our non-point problems.  Most farmers and farm groups support this plan of attack and the document is on its way to becoming our state policy.  The report's not exactly an easy read, but the executive summary is manageable.  It will make you a better citizen.
 
Whatever approach we end up with, it's going to have a big impact on all of us, both farmers and taxpayers, primarily because the improvements we need to make to reduce our contributions of nitrogen and phosphorus (soil loss will decrease at the same time) are BIG and EXPENSIVE.   Either way, the Legislature is going to have to deal with it this session, and we're going to have to help them get us moving on this big challenge.
 
I believe that we need to do something about natural resource conservation RIGHT NOW.  Unfortunately, I don't have a whole lot of confidence that farmers are going to step up as much as they need to in this time of very high crop prices, based on our history and what I see.  I HATE being regulated, but I also HATE standing by and watching our irreplaceable soil and water resources being degraded.  I know from my experience here on my own farm that we can improve soil and water quality with some easy and not-so-easy changes in farming practices, that we can still grow lots of food, and that we can make enough money to support ourselves and our communities.  I'm happy that we're finally going to address the issues.  I hope you will get involved.  Informed and thoughtful eaters and taxpayers need to be participants in the discussions. 
 
I think our next market is Saturday, January 5, in Mt. Vernon.  The chickens are going to lay a lot of eggs between now and then.  Please stop by whenever you need more.  I plan to be home most of the time.
 
Hope to see you at the market,
Laura
 
 

Dec 8 market in Springville

Greetings shareholders and friends of Abbe Hills Farm,
 
Market tomorrow, Saturday, December 8, is in Springville, 9:00 until 11:00, at the Community Center in the middle of downtown.  I'll be bringing eggs, plus napa cabbage, regular cabbage, turnips, and squash.  Charlotte will be bringing bread.  The other vendors will have nuts, bakery, mushrooms, and lots of different kinds of crafts that would make very nice, local Christmas gifts.
 
Good news!   Charlotte moved to Mt. Vernon.  Now you can get your hands on that delicious bread even in the middle of the week!
 
Here's an interesting little study in biodiversity that will make you think.  One of the things that gives me the greatest enjoyment is pointing out to my student workers all the zillions of different creatures that make themselves at home in our fields and gardens.  A very, very small portion of them are problematic; the rest are helping us grow good soil and good food.  As I write this, there is a Cornell biology class out in the prairie and around the pond collecting goldenrod stems with insect galls for some project they are doing.  There aren't many farms around here where that would be possible.  I'm very happy that this is one of them.
 
Hope to see you tomorrow,
Laura

 
 

Sat, Dec 1 market in MV

Greetings shareholders and friends of Abbe Hills Farm,
 
The market this Saturday, December 1, is at the Mt. Vernon Community Center, east end of downtown, from 11:00 until 1:00.  I'll be bringing eggs, carrots, eggs, turnips, eggs, kale, eggs, brussels sprouts, eggs, regular and napa cabbage, eggs, garlic, eggs, squash, and eggs.  Charlotte will be there with bread, too.
 
The napa cabbage is as nice as it can be.  Here is a recipe people have enjoyed, and another one that looks good.  You can chop it up for salad, or saute it, or roast it, all equally delicious.  It's the cabbage you use when you make the salad with the ramen noodles.  We've got lots.
 
Still needing egg cartons.
 
A good thing happened this week.  I have been accumulating the black plastic drip tape that we used to irrigate this summer because it just hurts me to take it to the landfill, so I was putting it off.  Luckily, I called City Carton to see if they would take it for recycling, and they did!!!   YIPPEE!!  I took a huge pickup load in to them and they were happy to receive it.  Makes the irrigating a little less unpleasant for me.
 
Next week's market will be in Springville, 9:00 until 11:00 (earlier than MV).  I image we'll have eggs and bread, produce that is still nice.
 
See you tomorrow,
Laura 
 
 

Thanksgiving food this week

Greetings shareholders and friends of Abbe Hills Farm,
 
Market this Saturday is in Mt. Vernon, 11:00 until 1:00, in the Community Center at the east end of downtown.  I'll be bringing Thanksgiving food:  eggs, small red potatoes for roasting or mashing, winter squash, lots of gorgeous brussels sprouts, garlic, carrots, turnips, beets, napa (Chinese) cabbage, regular cabbage, and kale.  I'll also have vegetable roasting kits and and a new thing - stew kits - with everything you need to make leftover turkey stew in one bag.  If we have time, we'll also pick some spinach on Friday afternoon, but there won't be much.  (I realize I have just now set up the conditions for a food riot at the door of the gym at 11:00, but I don't know any other way to tell it.)  Charlotte will be with me with lots of bread.
 
For those of you who ordered turkeys and plan to pick them up here at the farm, we will be open from 5:00 until 6:15 Tuesday evening.  I'll also have more vegetables and eggs available for anybody who wants to stop by for last minute shopping.   And Charlotte will have bread here for people who have pre-ordered.  It will be dark, so bring a flashlight and park close to the shed so it's easier to get in and out.  (Parking rules were suspended back in October - yeah!  I no longer have to play bad cop.)
 
I can use egg cartons any time you want to drop them off, or bring them to market on Saturday. 
 
We had a somewhat disappointing market in MV two weeks ago, and we think we know why.  New Bo.  It seems like some of you might have been seduced by the big promises and bright lights of the city.  Well, you've had your fling; time to come back home.  We've got everything you need for Thanksgiving at the Mt. Vernon market - bread, veggies, eggs, bakery, mushrooms, meat, jelly, donuts, honey, wine, candy, nuts, pasta, and probably more things that I'm forgetting.  Plus all the crafts and gifts.  And everything at our market was really created by the person standing there.  And parking is easier.  And you don't have to fight a crowd.  And all your friends will be there.  And there are snacks.  What more do you need?  COME BACK!!!  PLEASE!!!
 
We'll take a week off for the holiday, so the next market will be Saturday, Dec 1, in Mt Vernon again.  I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.  See you Saturday.
 
Laura
 
 

Market at Springville this week. Lots of fall vegetables

Greetings shareholders and friends of Abbe Hills,
 
Market this week is in Springville, 9:00 until 11:00 (note that this time is 2 HOURS EARLIER than the start of the Mt. Vernon market), at the Community Center right downtown.  I'll be bringing eggs, brussels, cabbage, kale, turnips, kohlrabi, beets, carrots, garlic, and squash.  I'll also have a new product, roasting vegetable kits - dump the whole thing in a pan with a little oil, roast it for 30 minutes, and serve just the right amount of beautiful fall root vegetables without having to buy a whole bag of each.  Charlotte will bring bread.
 
We're opening a new field of brussels sprouts today.  I think they are nicer than the ones that got us started.  Remember, they're only good in the fall, so you should take advantage of the opportunity and enjoy them.  Here is an easy and delicious way to prepare them.  And another one.
 
If you can't make it to market, or if you need vegetables or eggs mid-week. please stop by nearly any time.  I've got extras in the cooler.  I'm nearly always home, but zap me a note just to make sure I'll be here when you want to come.
 
Fresh, organic, free range turkeys will be available Nov 19 in Cedar Rapids and Nov 20 here at the farm.  If you're going to want one, please contact Susan Jutz from Local Harvest CSA right away.  319-929-5032 is her phone number; her email is above.  We will be open here from 5:00 until 6:15 on the 20th.  Besides pre-ordered turkeys, I'll also have Thanksgiving vegetables and eggs for sale.  Charlotte is thinking of taking orders for Thanksgiving breads that you would also pick up that night. 
 
HELP.  I need egg cartons. 
 
Here's a good article about some important research that's being done at Iowa State on the value of crop rotations.  I know, sounds dull.   It's not.  It's important.  I'm starting to think that the only way we are going to get agriculture to operate more sustainably and carefully is for people who aren't farmers - people like you - to become knowledgeable and start insisting on a more sane and responsible agriculture that embraces ecological and biological reality instead of rolling right past it.  This short article is part of your education.
 
Hope to see you Saturday,
Laura
 
 

Winter markets begin

Greetings,
 
This week is the opening market for the winter season in Mt. Vernon.  Market is Saturday, 11:00 until 1:00 at the Community Center on the east end of downtown.  All the vendors are excited to start the new season.   I'll be bringing eggs, brussels sprouts, cabbage, chinese cabbage, kale and collards, turnips, beets, carrots, arugula, small kohlrabi, garlic, and squash.  Charlotte will bring bread.
 
Unfortunately, the lettuce with which I was planning to dazzle you is nearly unmarketable.  I guess it must have been as cold as 21 degrees last Saturday night.  That's what the National Weather Service says happened, and I think they were right.  I had ice on the chicken water buckets even at 3:00 in the afternoon on Sunday.  Very weird for late October.  Anyway, it was cold enough to burn the lettuce leaf tips and pretty much ruin the salad.  Of course, this is one more strange weather event.  I can't ever remember it being so cold so early in the fall.  It also burned all the mustards, chois, daikon, and radishes.  So I'm going to be short on leaves and crunch this fall.   Bummer.  (However, not actually as bad as having a hurricane wash your house away.)
 
Hope to see you Saturday,
Laura
 
 

One Day CSA this weekend, non members welcome. Lettuce and greens are magnificent

Greetings Abbe Hills CSA shareholders and friends,
 
In this week between the end of the CSA season and the beginning of the winter markets in Mt Vernon, we've still got lots of wonderful garden.  So we're having a One-Day-Only-CSA this Saturday, October 27.  Many of you have already signed up, but I've got enough produce for about 25 more families and would be happy to see you this weekend if you are fearing what your life will be like without a week of fresh vegetables.
 
I expect that we will have brussels sprouts, leaf lettuce, chard, several kinds of delicious fall braising greens, cabbage, kale and collards, bok chois, radishes, turnips, parsley and cilantro, potatoes, purple onions, garlic, and winter squash.  The lettuce and greens are magnificent; leafy things love the cooler temperatures of fall.  We had more winter squash on the rack than I estimated last week, so there will be a couple of squash for everybody who signs up for this weekend's pickup.
 
Zap me back a note if you would like to be included.  If you have friends who might like to try out the CSA, this is a good opportunity to see what it is like, so please zap this note on to them.  The share price this week is $21.  Pickup at the farm, 10:00 until noon.  If you can't make it during that time, tell me and we will bag it up for you to pick up later.  Directions to the farm are at the website, http://www.abbehills.com/
 
Hope to see some of you Saturday,
Laura
 
 
 
 

Very good rain, last pickup of the season. Thank you!!!

Greetings shareholders,
 
Tomorrow, Saturday, October 20th, 10:00 until 2:00, is the last pickup of the 2012 season.  We'll have potatoes, onions, garlic, turnips, carrots, beets, radishes, winter squash, braising greens, leaf lettuce, kale and collards, arugula, and herbs.  I haven't yet looked at the brussels, but I'll bet they aren't much better than they were last week since we haven't had any nights below freezing since then.  Find out for sure tomorrow!
 
No rain all summer, and now it rains four times in one week.  We're loving it, but it sure makes it hard to harvest the vegetables.  There's going to be some mud on your lettuce and other low-to-the-ground leafy things.  Sorry, but it makes me happier than the alternative, which is puny low-to-the-ground lettuce and other leafy things because they've never had a good drink in their whole lives.  (Even with irrigation.  Nothing is as good as real rain.)  We got 2.3" rain last Saturday and Sunday, then about .3" since.  We're ready for some sun today.
 
Because we had such nice rain and since it's going to be warm in the upcoming week and things will grow a little more, I should have lots of garden next Saturday.  Therefore, I'm planning to offer a bonus "One-Week-Only" CSA share next Saturday, October 27, 10:00 until 2:00.  The price will be $21, like the weekly price this season.  Charlotte will be here with bread, too.  It will contain lettuce, braising greens, kale, potatoes, turnips, arugula, maybe more depending on what we find in the garden.   It's a good opportunity for people who might like to join the CSA to check it out, so if you have friends who might be interested, please zap this note on to them.  There will be a signup sheet on the check-in table tomorrow, and I'll send a reminder mid-week.   If you think you're going to have veggie withdrawal problems, this might help. 
 
The winter farmers market in Mt Vernon starts on Saturday, November 3, and will happen more or less every other Saturday, alternating with Springville.  Charlotte and I will be at both markets each week.  Gotta have a way to keep moving all the eggs, plus you need your fresh bread.  I'll keep bringing garden as long as we have it, then produce from the hoophouse in the early spring. 
 
The Iowa Valley Resource Conservation and Development (in which everybody in Linn and Johnson counties lives) is hosting a local food banquet on November 1st.  It's usually a GREAT meal with interesting people who work on local food issues in our area.  You might like to attend to meet some of the farmers, chefs, policy makers, and environmental leaders who contribute to our local food scene.  
 
There is a terrible weed on this farm.  Canada thistle.  It's roots are 20 feet below the surface and therefore IMPOSSIBLE to kill with normal tillage practices.  It's stickery, obnoxious, aggressive, invasive, and yield-killing.  I hate it.  My workers hate it.  My neighbors hate it.  I've been fighting it for 24 years.  Sometimes, I would like to spray it.  There are things that will kill it, 100% dead, but they are very very bad chemicals, things you wouldn't want on your food or your yard.  But sometimes, I want to use them anyway because I am so so so sick of living with Canada thistle.  Here is a new report from Pesticide Action Network that helps to keep me from calling the Co-op and saying, "get over here and BLAST that thing out of the ground".   It's a review of many studies examining the impact of pesticides on children's health.  Enough evidence here to keep me from making that call (but I still want to).
 
If you have clean leaves from your yard that you would like to put on my compost pile, I would be happy to have them.  But they have to be clean.  No underpants, toy cars, cigarette butts, Pepsi cans, candy wrappers, or shoes (all of which have been delivered to this farm when I used to get leaves from the city).  Talk with me on Saturday if you are interested.
 
Thank your for your membership in Abbe Hills Farm CSA this season.  It's been a challenge, but it's been great.  I hope you've been happy with the food - kind, quality, and quantity.  We've done our best to give you the best that we've been able to grow.  Your kind and encouraging words, gifts, and graciousness have all been helpful to me and my workers.  We've enjoyed growing your family's food this year and look forward to doing it again.  Thank you.
 
See you tomorrow,
Laura
 
 

Good fall harvest this week. Brussels need more cold nights.

Greetings shareholders,
 
Tomorrow, we'll have potatoes, onions, garlic, kale and collards, chard, turnips, radishes, winter squash, leaf lettuce, cabbage, the last of the sweet and hot peppers, cilantro and parsley, arugula, a few braising greens, and brussels sprouts (but only if they taste good).  Bring a lot of bags!
 
In addition to bags, bring your mud shoes.  They are predicting some big weather.  I hope we are able to get an inch of rain - we really, really need it for the fall crops.  (We had .2" on Tuesday night, enough to wash things off, which was great, but not enough to give them a good drink.) We don't need hail, high winds, or tornadoes, which all seem to be possibilities.  PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DON'T COME TO GET YOUR VEGGIES IF IT IS STORMING!  I've got nowhere to put you and it's not safe in the shed if we have lots of lightening and/or wind.  I won't be in the shed either if it gets real bad.  If you get here and it is raining hard, please stay in your car until it passes.  If we need to stay open later to get everybody through, we will.  Check the farm's home page for last minute details.  www.abbehills.com , look at "news from Abbe Hills" on the right side.  And check the Channel 9 radar to see where the storms are.
 
There are still a few people who need to make one more payment on their share.  The price for the whole season is $420, and $250 for half season.  Please look at your checks to see if your payments add up the full amount.  I'll have my files with me so we can compare notes on Saturday if you are in doubt.
 
We have more squash this week, some of which may be unfamiliar to you.  There are many resources to help you figure out what to do with winter squash, like this and this and this.  Also, HyVee has a very nice brochure right now called "Seasons" that has a big section on winter squash and some nice looking seasonal recipes.  You can pick it up at the store.  You can start eating the acorns and spaghettis that we had last week, or you can let them cure more.  The longer squash cure, often the better they are.  Unless they have a blemish, then you need to eat them before they start to spoil.
 
Brussels sprouts are a strange crop.  They take a very long time to reach maturity, and then they don't taste very good until they've stood through several cold nights.  We've got brussels for you, not fancy and pathetically small, unexpected since they've been in the ground since June 10.  Once again, heat and drought are to blame.  We plan to cut them this afternoon, but we're going to taste them first and if they haven't sweetened up enough, we'll save them for next week.  Don't want to give anybody an excuse to say they don't like brussels sprouts.
 
I was reading one of my vegetable publications this week, "Potato Grower", and noticed something amazing.  It's the "2013 Industry Handbook" issue, and there is a section listing sources for chemical and fertilizer products for potatoes.  Here are the categories they have under this heading:  adjuvants, bactericides ("-cide" means "killer"), biocides, biological insecticides, desiccants, fertilizers, foliar nutrients, fertilizer enhancement, frost protection, fumigation, fungicides, growth promoters, herbicides, insecticides, micronutrients, miticides, polymers, post harvest, seed treatment, soil conditioners, and sprout control inhibitors.  Whew!  Who knew you needed so many things to grow potatoes?!?!?  Makes me glad that you and I are eating home grown.  Our inputs are cover crops, composted chicken manure, a fungus called Spinosad that eats Colorado potato beetle, and a cultivating tractor.  No "-cides".  Ours may not be as fancy as what the big boys grow, but they sure are easier to understand.
 
The Indian Creek Nature Center is hosting a "permeable paving blocks" workshop for homeowners, Saturday, Oct 12, 9:00 until noon. This free event will teach you how to use manufactured pavers to craft decorative backyard walkways and patios.  Permeable pavers make a solid, dry surface that decreases runoff by allowing rain to soak into the soil below, and are one of our newest tools to help us decrease runoff and improve water quality.   For more information of if you would like to attend, call the Indian Creek Nature Center at 362-0664.
Once again, I am up for reelection as a Linn Soil and Water Conservation District commissioner.  You'll see my name on the ballot.  Hope all you early birds will vote for me.
 
See you tomorrow,
Laura
 
 

beets, turnips, squash this week. Drought continues.

Greetings shareholders,
 
Tomorrow, we'll have sweet peppers, chili peppers, kale and collards, cantaloupe, potatoes, garlic, onions, leaf lettuce, swiss chard, beets and tops, turnips, winter squash, a few tomatoes, and herbs.  This warm week helped the fall greens and radishes grow, but not quite enough to let us harvest today.  Maybe next Friday.
 
I've learned an important horticulture lesson this year.  It seems that plants can just sit and wait when they are stressed.  I always thought that they more or less continued their development on schedule, but what we've seen over and over this summer is that when it's too hot or too dry, they frequently just stop.  And wait.  And wait.  And if they don't die, they resume growth and development when conditions improve.  I've also learned that it's not so easy to use a little gas powered pump to get water out of a big pond.  About 50 things can go wrong every time you start the thing up, and usually do.  Irrigating is so life-suckingly time consuming!!!  Which made it hard for me to do really well.   That, plus 100+ degrees temp caused most plants to be water stressed much of the summer.
 
As a consequence, we had crops like sweet peppers and chilies that we waited for all summer.  They really got good about 2 weeks ago, which would have been fine except for the very early freeze on September 24.  We've harvested the ones that were protected by the leaves and made it through the freeze good enough, but they aren't very ripe and they won't last forever.  Enjoy them now or chop and put in the freezer.  Same story for this week's tomatoes.
 
We harvested the beets with their tops.   Because they were moisture stressed much of their short lives, the beets are smallish.  The tops are lovely and are delicious sautéed with a little butter and salt.   Please try them out.  Turnips are another underutilized fall vegetable.  They are best peeled, I think, and are good raw, chopped up in salad, sautéed in butter, roasted, or mashed with potatoes. 
 
The kale and collards are amazing, as usual this year.  It was a good year for the brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, kale, etc..).  Thankfully, lettuce, radishes, and fall greens like cold, and with never-ending irrigation they will continue to grow and get more and more tasty as the nights get cooler, at least until they freeze completely solid.  We've got daikon that I'm hoping we'll be able to harvest before the end of the month, and brussels sprouts for next week.  Cold always makes them taste better. 
 
I'm going to give you winter squash this week, but DON'T EAT IT!!!   Most of it needs to cure in a warmish place (like in your house) for at least two weeks or more before it will be good.  But you can start carrying it home this week so you don't break your arms the last two weeks carrying it on that long walk back to the car.  Bring a heavy bag. 
 
The squash crop this season is especially disappointing, about one quarter of what I was expecting.  I tried growing squash on plastic mulch this year for the first time, and it was a mixed blessing.  It held moisture in the soil, but it also gave the cucumber beetles a perfectly heavenly place to hide their millions of babies.  Cucumber beetles carry a disease called bacterial wilt in their spit, and with so many of them in the field in protected places where we couldn't get to them to manage the population, the disease spread quickly and wiped out about a quarter of the plants very early.  Then, we had to make some tough decisions about weeding when it was so so so hot in July, and we decided not to risk life and limb to clean up the squash like we would have liked.  So, weed pressure cut yield at least another quarter.  Add in a little moisture stress, delayed fruit development, and an early frost, and you don't have a lot left.  I'm sorry that we won't have a huge pile of excellent quality squash for you.  I know how much everybody enjoys it.  It's at the top of my list of things to make sure we do really well next year.
 
Remember that Dan is bringing beef tomorrow.  Contact him if you want to place an order.  Stop and visit with him a while if you are thinking of getting a half or quarter animal for the freezer.  He is one of the best grassfed beef producers in Iowa.  We are lucky to have access to his products.
 
Southeast Linn Community Center is hosting a benefit dinner tomorrow night, Saturday, October 6, to raise money for scholarships for kids who participate in Parks and Recreation programs.  So many families need help with family pool passes, this fundraiser will help us get a nice little bank account to help them out next summer.  Serving pork and beef sandwiches, 4:00 until 8:00 at the Community Center in Lisbon.  $6 for adults, $3 for kids, 5 and under free.
 
See you tomorrow,
Laura
 
 
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