Abbe Hills Farm CSA

  (Mt. Vernon, Iowa)
[ Member listing ]

we got some rain today, but it's cold!!!

Greetings shareholders,

Even though it's going to be dreary, we'll have a little market here at the farm tomorrow, Saturday, May 4, 10:00 until noon.  I've got lots of lettuce and radishes, smaller quantities of spinach and eggs.  We'll set up a table somewhere near the big shed.  Just remember to keep your car on the gravel driveway!  It's going to be soft everywhere else.

If you want eggs or produce during the week, just zap me a note to make sure I'm around.  I've usually got some of everything on hand in the frig in my garage.  Or shop at the farmers at the Mt. Vernon Farmers Market, 4:00 until 6:00 everything Thursday, at Memorial Park downtown.

The rain has been a good thing.  We planted thousands of small leafy things and onions the first three days this week, and they were literally dying for a drink.  The heat and relentless 72-hours of wind early in the week were tough.  So, we're happy for a little rain, although the cold's not so great!

Thank you to so many of you who have signed up for the CSA this season.  I really appreciate your support.  Still need to register?  Here's the form.  If you have a friend at work or church or a relative or neighbor who has been talking about trying CSA, I sure wish you would encourage them to join Abbe Hills.  We work hard to grow great food that is good for you, produced in a way that is environmentally responsible by fairly paid workers.  If you know someone, or if you would like to join the CSA but can't really afford it, please let me know.  We have scholarship money available I am happy to help anybody who needs a little boost.  Everybody should be able to eat good food.

In response to your financial commitment to me and the farm, one of the principles to which I am commited is operating transparently so that you can know how and where and by whom your food is grown.  Not all CSAs have this philosophy.  If there is something you want to know about how we do things and I haven't explained it to your satisfaction, please ask me again.  You are welcome to come look around any time - although you might have to work if you hang around here too long.  I want Abbe Hills Farm to be a green, diverse, welcoming place where adults and kids can learn, eat, and develop community.

I'm still trying to get good at Facebook, although it is a challenge.  I'm trying to remember to carry the camera with me so I can show you more of the day-to-day goings on here.   Sounds simple enough, but it turns out, you can drive a tractor over a camera quite easily.  And you can do it to more than one camera!  We are on Facebook at Abbe Hills Farm.

See you soon,
Laura

www.abbehills.com

 
 

Lettuce!

Greetings shareholders and friends of Abbe Hills Farm,
 
There is no market this weekend.  Next Saturday, April 20, the market will be in Mt. Vernon. 
 
Even though there is no market this weekend, I have things to sell, including eggs, tulips, and the long-awaited lettuce!  Give me about two hours after I send this message and I'll have the lettuce cut, bagged, and ready to go.  It's too stinking cold and muddy to be tromping around the farm yard, so everything will be in the frig in my garage.  If the sun comes out tomorrow and some of the mud dries up, I'll move things down to the shed.  You'll be able to tell - if the big doors are open - stop there first to pick up your eggs, flowers, and salad fixings from the Pepsi cooler.
 
There's a lot going on on April 20, the next market day and also the Saturday before Earth Day, including the granddaddy of local Earth Day events, EcoFest in Cedar Rapids.   It's going to be a fun place to take the kids (after you've been to market in Mt. Vernon, of course).  While I'm on the subject, here's a great website you might like to check out to keep yourself posted on all kinds of food and environmental events and conversations, called HomegrownIowan.com .  It's the best resource out there for to stay on top of what's going on in the Cedar Rapids / Iowa City area.
 
Remember that you can join the CSA any time.  Learn the details and get the registration form at the farm website, www.abbehills.com .
 
See you soon,
Laura

 
 

Eggs in the garage. Looking for 4 matching 15" tires.

Greeting shareholders and friends of Abbe Hills,

Market tomorrow morning is 9:00 until 11:00 in the Community Center in lovely downtown Springville.  I'll bring eggs and Charlotte will bring bread.  There will also be plenty of bakery, a few crafts, honey, some vegetables, fresh dry beans and ground cornmeal.

Several times this winter I've seen cars pull into the farm driveway (I can't believe they haven't got stuck) and people go into the big shed.  Either it is robbers, or else some of you are going in there looking for eggs and having bad luck. The eggs are in a refrigerator in my garage in the winter.  MUCH easier to manage when there's not 450 feet of snowdrift between me and them.  If you want eggs, just call or zap me a note to make sure I know you are coming, and I'll either be here, or leave the garage unlocked so you can get them yourselves.  And if it is robbers, I hope they get stuck next time.

Dan Specht has three beef quarters to sell this spring.  If you are interested, contact him directly.  His email is above.  He'll also have more 20 lb boxes when we start the CSA in June.  We are trying to work out a plan where he'll make beef deliveries here on a regular schedule.

I'm looking for a half-good or better set of four 15" tires, 225 or 235 if possible.  I need to take the trailer to Wisconsin to pick up the seed potatoes in about 3 weeks, and it's not very roadworthy in its current condition - four tires of 4 different sizes, whatever I could hustle up at the time I needed one.  So, if you're getting new four new tires on your big car this month and are selling or giving away the old ones, please think of me. 

Still looking for the free or cheap automatic washer to convert to a salad spinner, too.

Trees Forever is hosting a program called "TreeKeepers" for people who want to learn more about urban and suburban tree planting, care, and advocacy.  Sounds like an interesting program.  It wouldn't hurt us to have more people sticking up for the trees.  Look at the link to get the registration information.

Here's something to get you thinking:  "Human Teeth Healthier in Stone Age Than Today".  Bummer.

Hope to see you at market tomorrow,
Laura

 
 

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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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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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

 
 

beef, bread, and eggs this week, getting really cold one night

Greetings shareholders,
 
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.   danspech@neitel.net   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,
Laura 
 
 
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