(Mt. Vernon, Iowa)
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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,
Posted by Laura
@ 09:54 AM CST
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,
Posted by Laura
@ 08:20 AM CST
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,
Posted by Laura
@ 10:22 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
This week, we have new potatoes, nice white onions, kale and collards, kohlrabi, bok chois, lettuce, fresh garlic, and cabbage. I hope we can find enough broccoli, summer squash, and beets for everybody, too. New potatoes are potatoes that were just dug and haven't had time for their skins to cure. The red potatoes we dug at the end of last week are SOOOO yummy, especially the skins. Don't peel them, just brush lightly and cook them skin and all. Unfortunately, they - like the onions and garlic, aren't irrigated, so their yield will likely be reduced from what I had expected at the start of the season. But they are just beautiful and taste so good. Onions and garlic seem very nice, too.
We keep the irrigation going six days a week, but rain is better. We had 1" last Sunday morning, then .6" on Friday night. Finally, a week with enough rain that we could still prove it 48 hours later! It should have boosted the beets, broccoli, and squash to finally get big enough to harvest this week. I sure hope so. Gardens need about 1" of rain per week - and probably more with irrigation - in order to have high yields and good quality, well-shaped fruits. I don't know how western growers do it. Just keeping the soil moist enough to keep things alive is a pretty big challenge. And our pond is shrinking fast, not because of irrigation so much, but more from evaporation and wind. Luckily, it is quite deep so it still holds lots of water, and hopefully, it will fill up in the fall so the fish will be happy over the winter.
Heat this week is going to be tough on the broccoli, lettuce, chois, but most of the other things can take it. The winter squash, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes are looking marvelous with their plastic and straw mulch. We've not had too many disease or bug problems, but I did notice lots of damage to leaves of many things from the wind on Friday. Chard is pretty shredded and may not be harvestable for another week. We'll figure it out when we get to the garden.
This week, we plan to dig the garlic and get it curing. The garlic we give you will be fresh. If you don't want to use it right away, leave it on the counter so it can dry out a little and it will keep longer.
Unfortunately, this is the first newsletter some of you are getting this season. I had a hard time getting my lists all set up this spring, but I think everything is figured out now. If this is your first note from me, please check out the past newsletters to find what's been going on around here this season.
See you this week,
Posted by Laura
@ 08:34 AM CDT
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