Dear CSA shareholders,
I woke up to a rainy morning and knew it was going to be a good day. Considering the last few months, the fact that the Farm Ramble took place on a dreary and windy afternoon was actually refreshing. There was .4" in the rain gauge at the farm, the most in several months. The new seedings of arugula and salad looked particularly green and perky after the shot of rain. About 20 visitors showed up for the ramble steadily over the course of the afternoon. It seemed as I finished a tour with one group there was another group that had just arrived and was ready to see the farm. I really enjoyed talking about the farm and educating people about the details of vegetable growing, from the yield of potatoes to the purpose of cover crops. Several of the people on the ramble were also starting out as vegetable growers and it felt good to be able to show them what I am doing and encourage them in their enterprises. Everyone gains something from those interactions. The Ramble today reinforced my sense of how important it is to get people onto farms and get them interacting directly with agriculture and food production. There is so much education that can take place in a short span of time and educated consumers make the local food system work.
In preparation for the Farm Ramble, the Rurally Good Festival, and the coming of winter, I finally got the plastic onto the greenhouse on Wednesday. It took a whole morning and part of the afternoon, but I'm very satisfied with the results. The weather worked out perfectly, with no wind, rain or dew, making it easy to put the plastic up with the help of a few volunteers. When I covered the greenhouse in the spring it was not fully constructed and a week of strong winds just about blew the plastic off, so I had to take it down and stow it in the barn. Slowly over the course of the summer I finished constructing the greenhouse and got ready to cover it again. There is still some work to be done to get it ready for winter, but it feels like I am finally coming to the end of the greenhouse construction, a project that has dominated my thinking since I started last fall. Its a pleasure to stand in there on a sunny day and feel the heat being trapped. I'm very much looking forward to starting transplants in there this spring.
It was fun showing visitors the tops of sweet potatoes, some of which are massive! I'm really looking forward to harvesting them next week. As a tropical plant grown in a temperate climate (like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants) sweet potatoes continue growing till they are killed by the first frost. They do not have an internal clock like potatoes, going through various life stages before dying during the season. Usually sweet potatoes are harvested before the first frost, since if the plants are damaged by frost, the damage quickly spreads to the tubers. There should be plenty of sweet potatoes available for the last three weeks of the CSA and for bulk ordering. The last of the potatoes will come out this week during the artist workday on Wednesday. The plants are completely died back and the potatoes are safe in the ground until harvested. So far the yield of the late storage potatoes has been very good. A general rule of thumb is that potatoes should yield an average of a pound per foot (or per plant, if they are spaced at one foot apart) or 10 times the amount of seed potato planted. They can yield much better than that, but its a benchmark to shoot for. The Bintje potatoes harvested last week yielded around 1.3 pounds per foot, despite drought, pests, and weed pressure. Since this is my first year growing potatoes on a large scale, I'm learning a lot about what varieties work best in this soil. There are some potatoes I will certainly grow more of next year and a few that I will probably look to replace with other varieties.
The juliets and cherry tomatoes are slowing down quite a bit but the slicing tomatoes are showing few signs of quitting. We've made tomato sauce two weekends in a row with mostly slicing tomatoes and boiling off all the water can be challenging. I've got a pot of tomato soup boiling right now and that seems to be a better way to deal with all that water in the tomatoes. Slicing tomatoes are available bulk again this week. They are very easy to freeze - just wash, remove the stem end and pop them in a freezer bag. You'll thank yourself this winter! You may have noticed some colored peppers in your CSA this past week. Many of the peppers are beginning to turn and I will be including as many red and orange peppers as I can in the CSA while the plants continue producing. All peppers start out as green (or sometimes purple) and as they are left to mature and sweeten they develop colors like red, yellow, and orange. Since they are on the plant for so long, many colored peppers end up with some sort of damage or rot, so in general I get a lot more "good" green peppers than I do colored ones. Since the greens on the mature beets are not looking as good as they once did, I'm offering the beets bulk this week (without tops) and instead making beet greens from the new planting (which look great) available. Beet greens are probably my favorite green and are quite similar to chard, which is closely related.
For fruit this week, there are several options. I have a limited number of watermelons that are close to ripe still left in the field. I also have several pint (1/2 pound) containers of aronia berries left from last week's Keller Berry Farm order and unlike most berries, aronia berries store very well. There are also peaches from the farm available. They are small white peaches, most around the size of large radish or small beet. They took a long time to ripen and several of the trees lost limbs because they were so overladen with fruit, but this week they have finally begun to turn red and soften. I offered them to visitors on the Ramble today and they are quite good. Iowa peaches! Apples and pears should be available for the final few weeks of CSA.
This is the last CSA e-mail before the Rurally Good Festival, so its also the last reminder that I will be hosting a harvest festival from 11 am to 2 pm on Saturday, September 21st. The event is ticketed but free to CSA shareholders and their guests. I would also encourage you to come to the local foods pancake brunch fundraiser before the harvest festival, 10 am to noon which I am helping put together. Tickets are $15. The money benefits Grin City Collective, which as you know has been a hugely supportive partner in my farm and is generally a wonderful part of the culture and community of Grinnell.
CSA End Date: Unless otherwise announced, the CSA will end on October 12th after 20 weeks. That week I'll be taking bulk orders for storage crops such as garlic, onions, potatoes, and sweet potatoes, as well as crops to freeze like peppers.
Billing: As I mentioned in previous e-mails, I'll be billing for the remainder of your balance at the end of the season, once the final CSA has been delivered and I've had a chance to tally everything up. You can always e-mail me and find out what your balance is and I'm happy to take multiple payments over several weeks if that works better than a single one.
Until next week!
(641) 821 0753