Abbe Hills Farm CSA

  (Mt. Vernon, Iowa)
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Frost and drought slowing growth, we change schedule next week

Greetings shareholders,
This week, we'll have some combination of potatoes, onions, garlic, tomatoes, sweet peppers, chilies, cucumbers, summer squash, kale and collards, swiss chard, leaf lettuce, watermelon, cantaloupe, and herbs.  It could turn out to be a sort of skimpy week, with not everything on the list, or not much of some things.   We have to wait a couple more days to see just how much damage the cold did and to know how it will affect the Thursday people. 
Between cold nights and the drought, it's been hard to get the fall crops growing.  I started irrigating again late last week and will continue this week.  If it stays sunny and if I can get enough water in the ground, we should have some nice crops starting next week or the week after.  There are kohlrabi, beets, carrots, and lots of greens trying to grow.  The winter squash has more maturing to do, so I'm going to wait at least a week, maybe two, before we start to cut it.  Might as well have it be as tasty as possible!  There's going to be good eating the middle of October.
Remember that this is the last week that you pickup in the evenings.  Starting next week, everybody picks up on Saturdays, 10:00 until 2:00.  So, come tonight or Thursday, then the next time you come is Saturday, October 6.  It's a long time between Monday and the following Saturday, I know, but the extra week will give the crops time to catch up to you, and you to catch up with what you've got piling up in the frig!
The young hens are laying lots of eggs, all the time, so it's finally time to eat more eggs!   I'm trying to make sure that there are always a few in the walkin cooler in the big shed.  I think you should be able to stop nearly any time most days this fall and find the big doors open.  If in doubt, zap me a note to make sure you can get to them when you want.  And remember to keep eating eggs after the CSA ends in October.  Not sure what I'm going to do with 65 dozen eggs a week in November!
I've just finished a new book, "Turn Here Sweet Corn", by Atina Diffley, that I think many of you would enjoy.  It's the story of her family's relationship with their farm, Gardens of Egan, near the Twin Cities.  Quite a good book for both farmers and consumers.  Atina was in Iowa City last week on a book tour and was a guest on "Talk of Iowa" on Thursday.
Sorry for the lateness of the newsletter.  We had family things early this morning.
See you this week,

fall crops are planted, lovely tomatoes, watermelons this week

Greetings shareholders,

This week, we'll have tomatoes, sweet peppers, eggplant, kale and collards, watermelons, garlic, potatoes, onions, beans, summer squash, cukes, herbs, hot peppers, edamames, and a few cabbages.  Whew!  Lots of stuff!  Tomatoes are really perfect right now, but the cooler nights have slowed their ripening, so they may be a little greener than usual.  Just leave them out at room temperature (NEVER put a tomato in the frig), scar side down, in one layer, uncovered, and they should fully ripen in a day or two.  Eggplants, squash, cukes, and peppers will likely be similarly affected by the cooler nights.  But the people are loving it!

Watermelons come in all sizes, shapes, and colors, and I've got almost no idea what you are going to find inside any particular melon.  You just gotta take your chances.  So far, all the ones we've dropped or kicked and just "had to" eat since they were already damaged have been wonderful.  We'll have melons for two weeks for sure, maybe three if they will keep that long in the field.   We've also got lots of cantaloupe which should be ready by next week, maybe some for this Thursday.  There might be some mud on the bottoms of the melons since they mostly formed off the plastic mulch.  Sorry for the inconvenience.  I won't be able to wash them for you.  We've only got enough energy around here to handle the melons one time.

The rain this week was welcome.  We received 1.3" on Wednesday morning, then .7" more on Friday.  Tuesday, we worked like crazy to get every inch of open space planted to fall crops, mostly greens.  A little late in the season, but we were waiting for rain and for cooler soil temperatures so the seeds wouldn't die.  I'm not convinced that there are enough fall crops, but we've got nowhere else to go that is still within reach of the irrigation, so it's the best we can do for this year.  I'm still a little afraid that the rains could end and I could be back to watering.  Hope I'm very, very wrong.

The replacement hens that have been living in the pen inside the open shed have started to lay eggs reliably.  Tonight, the few remaining old ladies in the moveable house are coming out and the young hens will be moving in.  It will be good for them to get on good pasture and out of their tiny pen for a few months.  If everybody just buys what they need for the week, I think we'll have enough to keep you all happy from now until the end of the season.  (And after.  The problem with having 120 hens is that you still get 10 dozen eggs per day, even in the blizzards.  They quickly become a burden if people don't keep eat them through the winter.)  Eggs will be in the walkin cooler.  Ask for help if you have trouble with the door.  It's tricky.

Here are the dates for vegetable pickup for the rest of the season, so you can put it on your calendar now.  Sept 10/13 (this week), Sept 17/20, Sept 24/17 (last time in the evenings). Everybody then switches to Saturdays, 10:00 until 2:00, Oct 6,13, 29, and 27.  If you're a family that's got kid soccer games those Saturdays in October and can't be back here by 2:00, we'll work something out when we get to it.  The best stuff is in October, so I want everybody to be able to take advantage of it.

See you this week.



Edamames and tomatoes. And more hot weather.

Greetings shareholders,
This week, we will have sweet red peppers, potatoes, onions, garlic, eggplant, beans, summer squash, tomatoes, kale and collards, a chili pepper, edamame soybeans, and herbs.  The peppers we've given you so far have all been sweet; almost all of the peppers will be sweets of various sizes, shapes, and colors.  If they aren't fully red when you get them, you can leave them on the counter and they will finish ripening like a tomato.  We are finally able to harvest some chili peppers, nothing fancy, but a nice addition to the vegetable selection.  The chilies will be on the other side of the room from the sweet peppers so they don't get confused.
In addition to cracks in the tomatoes, peppers and tomatoes are also suffering from blossom end rot this year.  It's also a condition that develops in drought.  The plants need water to carry calcium from the soil into the roots and throughout the plant body.  When it is very dry, they can't get as much calcium as they need fast enough and they develop a calcium deficiency.  It shows up as a watery or black area on the bottom half of the fruit.  It usually wrecks a tomato fruit, but you might find some peppers in the box that have it and yet still have a little life in them.  We try to throw them out, but don't always see the damage when we are picking fast.  As the fall rains get a little more regular, it should go away.
We have edamame this week, hopefully next week, too, as long as the beans don't mature too fast.  I'm going to give you whole stems.  You can pick off the fat bean pods and leave the stems here, or take the whole thing home and let the kids pick them off.  To prepare them, throw the whole pods into salted, boiling water.  Let them blanch for a couple of minutes, then run under cold water to cool.  To eat, you squish the little beans out of the pods.  They are good as a snack or in a salad.  You'll notice lots of flat pods in the edamames this year.  Those are the ones that formed during the worst of the heat.  They tried to make a bean, but couldn't.  The yield of actual beans you can eat will be considerably less than we usually get.  Same thing has happened to the commodity soybeans in the fields.
There are still four wonderfully adorable kitties here who need homes pretty fast.  They are nine weeks old now, getting less cute all the time. 
We will be open from 4:30 until 7:30 today for those of you whose Labor Day plans run later into the afternoon.  We have four weeks left, including this week, of pickups on Monday and Thursday evenings.  Remember that starting October 6, we switch to Saturdays, 10:00 until 2:00, for the last four weeks of the season.  Might want to get it on your calendars now.
See you this week,

beef Thursday, another nice rain just in time, tomato trouble

Greetings shareholders,
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.  
Dan Specht
563-516-1007 cell
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,
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