Abbe Hills Farm CSA

  (Mt. Vernon, Iowa)

garlic scapes, carrots, cilantro, more leaves

Greetings shareholders,

This week, we'll have lettuce, bok chois, garlic scapes, little onions, two kinds of radishes, cilantro, Chinese cabbage, kohlrabi, and a handful each of sugar snap peas and carrots.  The cilantro and carrots were planted several weeks ago in the hoophouse; everything else is from the garden.

Garlic scapes are the flower bud and stem that grow out of the center of each garlic plant.  We pull them out to force the garlic plant to put more of it's energy into making bulb, rather than flowers.  What we used to throw on the ground, we now know is a wonderful spring delicacy that can be stir fried, roasted, or eaten raw.  The scapes aren't very big this year, which I think means that the garlic won't be very big.  Likely due to the drought last fall and winter when the garlics were beginning their growth.

We're looking forward to the sugar snaps.  These are the kind of peas where you eat the whole thing, even the pod.  There will be a few this week and maybe a few more next week.  I'm quite surprised that we are having them at all; they were planted four weeks later than they should have been, but they must have liked the conditions, because they look fine now.  But they mature quickly, so enjoy them quickly.

Thursday people, please note on your calendar that we will have regular vegetable pickup on July 4th.  Can't really stop things from growing just because it is a holiday.  If it's going to be a huge problem to get here between 4:30 and 7:00, please let me know on July 2nd or 3rd (not today!  I won't remember) and we'll work something out.

Below is a note from Dan Specht, our grassfed beef guy.  Dan is a longtime friend from McGregor who is one of the best graziers in Iowa.  The beef he grows is a real treat.  Please contact him directly if you'd like to get more information or to order some.

Hi Folks,

It's been a crazy year weather-wise in my part of the world, with a zombie winter that wouldn't end, followed by a rain filled spring that just wouldn't dry out. My crop farming neighbors have had a hard time finishing spring planting, but once the grass started growing, it has been a great year for grazing.

I'm going to make a double delivery on Mon., June 24, with my friend Jack Knight helping out. Anyone interested in buying my grass fed beef 20 lb. bundles or hamburger should place an order to my e-mail address danspech@neitel.net  .

Bundles are priced at $6.00/lb. , and hamburger at $5.50. Bundles are approximately 1/16th of a beef, but do not contain organ meats. Every box contains 3 pks. steaks, 2 minute steaks, 2 roasts, stew meat (no bones), boiling beef (some bones), and at least 4 lbs. of hamburger. You can also pre-order hamburger. I will also bring some extra hamburger to sell, first come, first served.

Looking forward to seeing you all...  
Dan Specht
563-516-1007 cell

We had a great market on Saturday in Cedar Rapids.  Sold out of nearly everything and took the balance to the food pantry where it went out to the public that afternoon.  Thanks to all of you who told your friends about us and who stopped by to visit.  I really appreciate your support.

Remember that you can keep up-to-date with farm events and progress by checking us out at https://www.facebook.com/abbehillsfarm.  It's painless to look.

See you this week,
Laura

 
 

mostly leves this week, all delicious

Greeting shareholders,

This week, we'll have lettuce, Asian greens including bok chois, yukina, and a few Chinese cabbage, and radishes.  I'd hoped to have a bit more crunch for you to balance out the leaves, but the crunchy things are just a little slower.  Expect kohlrabi and cilantro next week.

You can see photos of some of this week's vegetables on the farm Facebook page, along with a few ideas for preparing them.  If you need more ideas, you can always ask Google for some recipe suggestions.  If you are Facebook-resistant, like I have been, don't worry about checking out the farm page.  You can look at the photos and read the comments without signing up to be a member yourself.  I try to post two or three times per week, and that's where I'll put last minute information if there is anything extra you need to know on pickup days.

The rain is sure making things grow.  WOW.  So not like last year.  Even though we can't get in the field much, my workers are keeping up with the weeds pretty well and we have been able to plant most of what we planned, even if we are are month or six weeks behind schedule.  But this week, we MUST get the soil prepared, lay black plastic, mulch, and plant tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and winter squash.  No more delays.  It's time to get them in if we hope to harvest anything before frost.  So, hope for a few dry days.

Good news. Charlotte got a new oven.  THERE WILL BE BREAD THIS WEEK!!!  Please call or send her a note directly if you'd like to place an order.  513-659-0694.  I'm sure she'll be signing you up for shares very soon, and she expects to be here every Monday and Friday to sell her wonderful bread. 

Parking went well last week.  Please remember that we have a one-way driveway.  I saw a couple of cars going out the in.

If you know somebody who still wants to become a shareholder, have them zap me a note.  We've got plenty of share still available. 

Some of you are getting this newsletter twice, and some of you might expect to be off the list by now.  Sorry, I had trouble getting all my lists updated last week, so I'm sending to everybody just to be sure.  Hope to have it sorted out sometime this week.  Sorry for the inconvenience.

See you this week, 4:30 until 7:00. 

Laura

 
 

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

 
 

market at the farm this Saturday, April 27

Greetings shareholders and friends of Abbe Hills Farm,

There is no farmers market this week, but we've got nice things so we're going to have a little market here instead.  10:00 until noon.  Use the farm driveway.  We'll have lots of lettuce, eggs, some spinach, arugula, and radishes.   And many kittens that need to be held.  Sadly, Charlotte hasn't yet solved her oven problem, so there won't be any bread.  But soon, very soon, she'll be making bread for us again.

We had about 12 inches of rain this month.  That's great, but really slowed us down.  I'm in the field every waking minute now.  The soil surface is drying, especially today in the wind, so we can get in to do the primary tillage and make the seedbeds.  Then we plant.  Onions, peas, and potatoes are my big projects right now, plus the seeding of hay and cover crops over the rest of the farm.  And killing the current alfalfa in the places where we'll plant field corn and sweet corn in the next couple of weeks.  And pretty soon, transplanting thousands of little plants waiting to get in the ground.  It's busy.

The scholarship account is well funded right now.  If you are hesitating about joining the CSA because of financial worries, please let me know how I can help.  Bad things happen - and they are usually expensive - but you still need good food.  Especially when bad things happen, you need good food!  Thank you to all of you who have contributed so generously to the fund.  Your donation is going to make a difference for somebody.

Here is the registration form for this season's CSA.

Hope to see you Saturday,
Laura

 
 

lots of rain, Dan's bringing beef

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 danspech@neitel.net , 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,
Laura

 


 
 

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

 
 

Remember the eggs, no market for 2 weeks

Greetings shareholders and friends of Abbe Hills,

Sadly, there is no market tomorrow, March 23, or next Saturday, March 30.  The next market for which I will send you a reminder will be the Saturday after Easter, April 6, in Mt. Vernon.  Hopefully, I'll be harvesting lettuce by then.  Nice sunny days help the things grow in the hoophouse, even if the outside air remains cold.

Even though there is no market, there are still lots of eggs.  You can come by my house and get them nearly any time.  Just zap me a note to make sure that I'll be home when you want to come.  Or take your chances - I'm usually home or the garage door is unlocked.  The eggs are in a frig in the garage for the winter.

We're still trying to figure out Facebook.  The farm does have a working webpage with many of the start-up problems solved.  Please check it out - Abbe Hills Farm is the name.  There is a recent post linking to an article about our grocery shopping habits that you might "like" to read.  Hopefully, by the time our garden season begins, I'll be able to use Facebook to send you articles, photos, late breaking news about what's going on at the farm.

You know I love growing cabbage; we start planting it in the germination house next Monday.  Lots of it.  And you love eating it - for a while - but it just keeps coming.  File these twelve great cabbage recipes somewhere so you know what to do when coleslaw is no longer working for you.

And finally, what to do for your trees to get them through the drought?  Here is some guidance from Trees Forever

Remember that you can join the 2013 CSA season any time.  The registration form and all the information about the upcoming season is on the website, http://www.abbehills.com/ .

Until later,
Laura

 
 

There's water in the pond!

Greetings shareholders and farm friends,
 
Market tomorrow, Saturday, March 16, is at the Community Center at the east end of downtown Mt. Vernon, 11:00 until 1:00.  I'll have eggs; Charlotte will have bread.  It's possible a few early hoophouse vegetables might be there, too - from the smart farmers - not me.
 
It's been slow to get the hoophouse crops to grow here.  Starting in December, I planted spinach and lettuce mostly, plus radishes, chard, raab, and arugula.  But because it has been so cold, there have been many, many days when I should have been watering that I couldn't get the hoses thawed enough to get the water to run through them.  I think we're on a warming trend so it should be easy from now on.  Probably I'll be griping about how busy I am in two weeks when the frost is completely out and the oats are screaming to be seeded.
 
VERY GOOD NEWS!!!!  The pond by my house is full (as is the wetland by the road).  That means we can irrigate this summer.  The water level in the pond dropped five feet !!!!! last summer, and it was difficult to imagine how I'd be able to manage the irrigation in 2013.  The rain last weekend was highly destructive to fields that had been fall tilled or are without cover crops, and the runoff was enormous, but the good news is that the rain and fairly clean runoff from this farm mostly went into one of the water retention structures.  The forecast between now and the end of June is for continued drought, but I think we'll be OK.  Maybe not fabulous, but OK.
 
One family has already joined the 2013 CSA.  If you want to join, the registration form is on the website, http://www.abbehills.com/.  I had hoped to introduce you to the farm's FaceBook page today, but FaceBook and I are having a tussle, and right now, FaceBook is winning.  You might try looking to see if we have a site; it will be called "Abbe Hills Farm", and if you find it, please be my friend.  I think FaceBook will take me more seriously if it appears that I know people.  When my technology expert gets the page up and running correctly, that will be the place where I will post photos, upcoming events, news on short notice.  Hopefully it will give you a better idea of what happens around here, and will help you explain to your friends why they should become shareholders in Abbe Hills Farm CSA.
 
Hope to see you tomorrow,
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

 
 

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

 
 

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

 
 

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
 
 
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