(Mt. Vernon, Iowa)
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Greetings shareholders and friends of Abbe Hills Farm CSA,
Market this week is at the Mt. Vernon Community Center at the east end of downtown, 11:00 until 1:00. Charlotte isn’t able to make it, but I’ll be there will bells on – and with lots of very nice lettuce, plus some arugula and spinach, and eggs.
Sadly for me, this is the last market of the winter. The regular Mt Vernon Farmers’ Market starts on Thursday, May 2, 4:00 until 6:00 at the park on the west end of downtown. Of course, the hoophouse is finally full of lovely greens now that the market is ending! I’ll be in the field (hopefully) and won’t be able to make it to market in the afternoons, so you’re going to have to come to me to get your crunch.
I have to talk about the weather. It’s awful. We received 5.25” of rain last week. The first 3” soaked in completely. Perfect. The next 2.25”, not so much. Pile on about 6” so far this week, and we’ve got a problem. Then there is the cold. And wind. And clouds. Not such a great spring so far. Although the subsoil moisture is being replenished, which is a relief. And the pond and wetland are full to the brim, so that kind of water will actually recharge the aquifer, which also makes me feel better.
My best guess is that we will need about 5 days of sun, warm, and wind to dry out the soil enough to do field preparation. After that, if it continues to be dry, we commence planting. I’ve got over 2000 lbs of seed potatoes and 25,000 onion plants ready to go. Plus thousands of little plants in the germination house and hoophouse that will soon be ready for transplanting. We’re going to be BUSY when the good weather gets here.
One good thing - I think this might be the year of broccoli. I accidentally started too much in the germination house, which might be a good thing for you. Of course, I’m not making any promises until I actually see you walking out of here with broccoli sticking out of your bag. But it looks good so far.
There is grassfed BEEF. Here is what Dan wrote:
I'm excited to be able to deliver 20 lb. boxes of mixed beef cuts to Susan Jutz's CSA delivery site in SE Cedar Rapids on Earth Day, Ap. 22. Thanks to the help from Edgewood Locker, we've been able to divvy up my harvested beef into "snow flake" boxes. (No two boxes are identical, but I try to make them all equivalent.) All boxes have 3 packages of steaks; 2 roasts; minute steaks; stew meat, (no bones); boiling beef, (contains some small bones); and at least 4 lbs. of hamburger. No organ meats. Some boxes may also contain a small package of soup bones or short ribs. The boxes are priced at $120 per box. Place orders by replying to email@example.com , or 563-516-1007 by noon on Sunday April 21. Hamburger is also available, priced at $5.50/lb., while supplies last. Liver, heart, and tongue are available at $2.50/lb, and soup bones at $3/lb.
And finally, if you want to learn to burn prairies, there is a free program (and I think there is going to be smoke) tomorrow, Saturday, April 20, 10:00 to 2:00 at the Goose Pond Natural Area near Center Point, sponsored by Linn County and the roadside people. Please call Mary today at 377-5960 (x3) to register.
You can join the CSA any time by sending me your registration and a little money.
Hope to see you at market tomorrow,
Posted by Laura
@ 10:57 AM CDT
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our next farmers market is Saturday, Jan 5, in Mt. Vernon, 11:00 until 1:00.
Hope you are having great holiday,
Posted by Laura
@ 01:13 PM CST
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,
Posted by Laura
@ 07:47 AM CDT
I was in such a hurry to get outside Monday morning when I sent the newsletter, I forgot some key elements. So here is the rest of this week's news.
Veggie pickup is Saturday, 10:00 until 2:00. If you can't get here by 2:00, let me know by Friday afternoon and we'll figure out what to do about it.
There are A LOT of eggs coming out of these new hens!!! Bring your egg money on Saturday, or stop by nearly any time to get as many as you need out of the walkin cooler in the big shed. $3 per dozen. Free range, brown eggs, no hormones or antibiotics, lots of home grown, chemical free corn in their diet. (It would be illegal for me to claim organic because I am not third-party inspected and certified, but I use 99% organic practices in the gardens and fields.)
Of course, Charlotte will be bringing lovely bread on Saturday, but you could also get bread from her nearly any time during the week if you need it for something special. Her phone number is 513-659-0694.
Dan Specht is bringing more beef this Saturday. Here is his note: Hi Laura and CSA members, I will be attending the Sat., Oct. 6 CSA pick-up, and will be offering 20 lb bundles of assorted cuts for $5/lb to those who notify me in advance. email@example.com I will also have hamburger for $5/lb. I am also now making a list of folks wanting to purchase half or quarter animals for $2.25/lb plus processing fees. Harvest date is set for Mon., Oct. 29 in Arlington IA at Edgewood Locker West. Send me an E-mail or call me on my cell phone for more details or an order. 563-516-1007
Finally, I think some people still owe a little money for this season's share. I just haven't had the time or mental energy to go through all the paperwork and figure out who you are, so maybe you'll all think it through for me. The full share price this year is $420. Would you please look back in your checkbook to see if you gave me that much money for your 20-week share? I'll have the files with me on Saturday so we can compare notes when I can take a minute away from keeping the veggies stocked. Thanks.
We're starting to harvest for Saturday this afternoon, so I'll be able to let you know Friday morning what we will have this weekend. We're also getting ready for big cold Saturday night - 26 degrees according to Channel 9, 28 degrees according to my buddy Schnackenberg, and 29 degrees according to the National Weather Service. It's the Channel 9 one that's got me worried. We're going to be hustling to get the winter squash all brought inside before it could be potentially damaged Saturday night. The stuff is so precious this year - we can't afford to lose any of it!
See you Saturday,
Posted by Laura
@ 09:41 AM CDT
This week, we have tomatoes, green beans, cabbage, eggplant, potatoes, onions, garlic, summer squash, a few cucumbers, kale and collards, some combination of red and green peppers, and parsley, basil, and dill. The cilantro, unfortunately, is quickly becoming its older self, coriander, but we'll harvest a little of it anyway for those who have to have their cilantro fix. We've got more cilantro in the garden that will be ready in two or three weeks. Prize wining savoy (wrinkled) and regular cabbage, lovely beans, never-ending eggplant, and a new squash row in production. All good.
The tomatoes and peppers, however, really have me discouraged. I had hoped to have piles of them by now, but they are just soooooo slowwwwwww. The peppers are small and misshapen, I guess a consequence of heat. They are getting nicer, but it will be a few weeks before there are enough to make me feel good about what we are harvesting for you. There are literally millions of tomatoes in the field, green. I don't have any idea why they are taking so long to mature. Maybe it's good, because the ones we picked yesterday after the rain are seriously cracked. Cracking happens when tomatoes ripen in conditions of uneven moisture, which describes the past weekend. Pretty dry, then marvelous rain, then cracked tomatoes. I picked six - 6 - tomatoes yesterday that weren't cracked!!! Treat your tomatoes this week, no matter what shape or color, very gently so they don't get mashed on the way home, then lay them out on the counter with the cracks facing down to keep them as long as possible. But Monday people, you might want to plan on tomato sandwiches when you get home. They seem to be especially juicy and easy to squish.
The rain Sunday was wonderful and just in time. Ongoing pump trouble has kept me from irrigating as much as I needed to for the last couple weeks (fixed Saturday, finally), so I was very glad to get 1.4" yesterday morning. Plus, I spent Saturday planting fall cover crops in many of the fields that earlier grew potatoes, sweet corn, onions, and peas. Cover crops are crops that are grown not to harvest for food, but rather to add nitrogen from the air to the soil, to compete with weeds, to confuse pests, to feed the soil food web, to grab any plant nutrients the previous crop might have left behind, and to prevent soil erosion over the winter. This weekend, I planted oats with sweet and crimson clover, winter rye with hairy vetch, and oats with turnips and radishes. The rain was perfect to get everybody off to a good start.
Meat eaters - Dan Specht will be bringing beef again on Thursday. He has an excellent product. Here is his note.
Things are green in my neighborhood, it rained overnight, and keeps the pastures growing. I feel like I won the lottery. I'm going to be at Laura's Thurs. delivery to bring pre-ordered 20 lb. boxes. These are the same as the other boxes, they are about 1/4 of a 1/4, with a mix of steaks, roasts, stew meat (no bones), boiling beef (some bones), minute steaks, and hamburger. A bargain at only $5/lb., or $100/ box. Please e-mail your orders before noon on Thurs. I will again bring hamburger for also $5/lb., limit 5 lbs./customer, no pre-order necessary, first come first served. I also have a limited quantity of meaty soup bones that can be pre ordered for $3/ lb. If anyone is interested, please e-mail a request.
See you Thurs. and we can talk about ordering beef by halves and quarters this fall.
Thank you for your continued kind words, compliments, and gifts. My confidence in my competence at farming has been rattled frequently this season, and your encouragement has been hugely helpful in keeping me going back out to the gardens.
See you this week,
Posted by Laura
@ 07:04 AM CDT
This week, we have new potatoes, lovely white onions, garlic, wonderful summer squash, cabbage. kale and collards, and the last lettuce until October. We also might be able to get some combination of swiss chard, broccoli, and/or kohlrabi. The last three suffered in the heat last week and aren't really the quality that I wish they were, but might be salvageable.
It's going to be such a relief to have cooler temperatures - for the farmer and the workers and the plants. Lots of things can't set fruit when it is very hot, like cucumbers, beans, tomatoes. The flowers are pollinated, but the fruits fall off within a few hours. And everything suffers from moisture stress, even when it is well watered. It got to the point by the end of the week that I didn't even go to the garden after lunch because I didn't want to see how it looked. Thankfully, this week is going to be a different story, and a couple of weeks from now, we won't be able to turn off the harvest.
I'm sorry that there are no herbs. Usually we would have them by now, but we've had such a hard time getting small seeded things to grow and/or survive. Even big seeded crops like beans and squash have been challenging, and herbs have been one of the more serious causalities. We'll try to plant some more this week so maybe we can have some for fall. I know you need your cilantro and basil or it wouldn't be a real summer.
We did manage last week to plant (and keep alive, I think) a huge number of watermelon and cantaloupe transplants. Won't that be great this fall!!! Nothing is better than homegrown watermelon on a hot afternoon in September.
Remember that Dan Specht will be delivering grass-fed beef this Thursday. Contact him if you want to be included. It's expensive, but very good.
I've got raffle tickets for the annual Southeast Linn Community Center fundraiser. $1 each. Great prizes. And your support helps keep the lights on, the food pantry open, and the space available for everybody. Our community center serves everyone in the Mt. Vernon and Lisbon school districts with emergency food, a clothing closet, senior dining, recreational opportunites for kids and seniors, transportation for people who need it, and much much more.
Heritage Days this upcoming weekend. See you there.
Posted by Laura
@ 10:25 PM CDT
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