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2013 Middle Way Farm CSA - Week 9
Middle Way Farm
barn & coops

New Paint Job

The farm has been undergoing a number of changes of late, not the least of which is painting the white barn blue to compliment the recently painted purple and yellow pigeon coops. The blue barn makes the farm instantly recognizable as you drive north out of Grinnell. It makes giving directions a snap: "just go towards the blue barn."
Dear CSA shareholders,

The rain today, even though it was just a quarter inch, was a welcome relief from a string of hot and dry weeks. We have a few more chances for rain over the next few days, so I have my fingers crossed that we will get a soaker or two before settling back into dry (but cooler) weather over the rest of the week. I had the sprinkler going when the rain started today, but after realizing that it wouldn't amount to much, I kept it going. In my pre-gardening days, I would have found it strange to be watering during a rain, but the rain affects plants only in so far as it is able to soak down into the root zone. A light rain will only wet the surface of the soil and then evaporate, which does plants little benefit. When I scratched away the soil from the surface at the end of today's rain, I immediately found dry soil underneath, which tells me that although everything looks wet, that water is not going to infiltrate very much into the soil. For areas that I have mulched, this is even more true. The mulch absorbs much of the initial water that falls, and only begins to soak through once there is a 1/2" inch or more. My goal when I water is to get at least an 1" of water on the soil, which I measure with a small portable rain gauge. The rule of thumb for vegetables is that they need an 1" of water per week during the growing season. During hot weather, that is really a minimum. I have realized that many vegetables will benefit from more water than that, as evidenced by the deluge we got in late May and the size and quality of some of the subsequent vegetables I harvested. Too much moisture, while it may benefit some plants in the short term, causes them to shallowly root, which means that when the weather dries out (as it did this year) they are less prepared to seek out water in the subsoil. For that reason, I know many corn and soybean farmers are worried about their crop as we enter a second month without significant rainfall across many parts of Iowa. Last year, at least, the plants had no water from the get-go, so they developed very deep root systems and so were better able to utilize what little rain did fall.

I'm excited for the first cucumbers of the season. The plants are full of flowers but are just beginning to set fruit. The cool down and moisture should help increase production. I planted cucumbers from seed this year, just before the monsoon of late May, so I had little hope the plants would emerge and be successful. To my surprise, despite overall poor germination, many of the cucumber plants did emerge and appear to be thriving. The same is true of the zucchini, melons, watermelons and winter squash. While there are many gaps where seeds did not germinate (which I tried to fill in with some transplants I started indoors from seed in early June), the plants that made it through the rain are quickly vining out, flowering, and setting fruit. Both zucchini and cucumbers are quite susceptible to cucumber beetles (which cause damage to the plants and fruit and spread the deadly cucumber mosaic virus) and squash bugs so their harvest window each year is usually uncertain. I attempt to control the pests with diatomaceous earth, a product made from ground-up fossilized sea shells that acts like tiny shards of glass when the beetles crawl over it. It is not 100% effective and has to be reapplied frequently (especially after rain). Its also difficult to get even coverage on the plants. However, in my experience, it helps holds the beetles in check for at least a while so that the plants can produce for longer before giving out. Its available at Ace Hardware, if any of you are interested in trying it on your own squash and cucumbers. Succession planting also helps, by spreading the harvest window over multiple plantings. I am also growing mostly vigorous, disease resistant hybrids this year instead of heirlooms that I have grown in the past and seemed susceptible to disease and pest pressure. I will be making a late planting of zucchini and cucumber this week so that I might get some September harvest.

The potatoes continue to mature and move towards a big harvest next month. Part of harvesting new potatoes is not only to provide a product earlier in the year but also to spread out the harvest over a longer period of time. I planted 1000 row feet of potatoes and I will harvest them all by hand with a broadfork (see photo at bottom) and digging fork. By digging a good portion as new potatoes, I will have fewer potatoes that I will need to harvest at the end of the season. Typically new potatoes are taken any time after flowering, while fully mature potatoes are not harvested until the vines have died back. This year I have been struggling with leaf hoppers, which suck on the potato leaves, leaving burnt margins along the edges of the leaves and in some cases causing the vines to die back prematurely. I have found a fairly effective insecticide called azadirachtin (brand name Azaguard). Azadirachtin is derived from the seeds of neem, a tree in the mahogany family native to the Indian subcontinent. Rather than killing insects on contact (as most conventional insecticides and several organic insecticides do), it repels them and inhibits growth, feeding, and reproduction. Its effective against a wide range of plant eating insects, including leaf hoppers (and Japanese beetles, if you ever have trouble with them). It has very low toxicity to mammals, earthworms and beneficial arthropods such as ladybugs and it decomposes within a few days in the presence of sun and water. For that reason it needs to be reapplied every 7-10 days and unfortunately I haven't been as diligent as I could have been with reapplication. I mention Azaguard specifically to show that there are viable alternatives to the synthetic insecticides that are commonly used in conventional vegetable production. Organic doesn't just mean that you let your plants get eaten by insects because you have no insecticides available to you. These biological insecticides are often more expensive, less immediately effective, and need to be reapplied more frequently, but they also have many benefits that weigh in their favor. I would love to see more awareness of these biological alternatives to conventional pesticides by home gardeners, in particular.

Garlic harvest is wrapping up this week. I'm pleased with the size and quality of the bulbs I've pulled so far. I planted around 3000 cloves last year and despite some losses to the garlic disease that have been plaguing Iowa growers since last year, the harvest is quite large. The dry weather prior to harvest should help speed up the curing process and result in few spoiled bulbs. I will have seed garlic available for sale later this summer and fall, so if you are interested in planting garlic in your own garden, I would be happy to get your started. I'm also teaching a workshop on growing garlic through Iowa Valley Continuing Education on Saturday, September 28th, from 10:00 to 11:30 am at the farm. If you can't make that workshop, I would also be happy to talk with you individually about growing garlic.

The 'baby' leeks in this week's share are similar to green onions in that they are simply immature leek plants that I have thinned from clusters of multiple plants. They taste just like a mild leek. Depending on the harvest, I may be able to offer them a second time before I have fully mature leeks in September and October. They would go great with new potatoes in a soup! The red raspberries this week will be from Berry Patch Farm in Nevada, the same farm where the blueberries are from or possibly from Keller BerryFarm in Toldeo, where the strawberries came from. The wild blackberries could be ready as soon as next week. When I was out watering tonight I observed that the cabbages are doing quite nicely and should be ready for harvest in August. I planted these cabbage quite late, in June in fact, I didn't hold out much hope for them to reach maturity. I'm pleased to see them forming nice, compact heads, even in the midst the heat and drought of the last month. As I have said before and will say many times again, plants never cease to surprise and amaze me.
 
Announcements 

Boxes: Thanks for being diligent about returning your boxes! If you still have one from last week, I can pick it up on Friday when I do deliveries, or you can drop it off before Friday at my house (1325 4th Ave, NW corner of 4th and Elm) on the screened-in porch.

New ordering structure: I am trying out separating produce from fruits and herbs for orders. So when you order the standard share, that will not include fruits and herbs, which you will need to order separately.
 
Order
For delivery Friday, July 26. Please e-mail middlewayfarmer@gmail.com with your order (for items from all categories) by 11 pm on Tuesday night, July 23. If you would like 1 unit of each produce item listed under "Standard" below, simply put "standard share" in the subject line. If you are getting the standard share, extra items as well as fruits, herbs, and wild edibles will need to be ordered separately.

Standard
  • Baby leeks - up to 2 bunches ($2.00 each)
  • Beets - 1 bunch ($2.50)
  • Broccoli - 1 pound ($3/lb)
  • Carrots - 1 bunch ($2.50)
  • Cucumbers - a few ($1 each) - Will depend on harvest
  • Fresh Garlic -  as many as you would like ($1.00 each) Standard amount will be 1 bulb
  • Green onions - 1 bunch ($2.00)
  • Kale - as many bunches as you want ($2.00 each) - choose from green curly leaf, red curly leaf, or green flat leaf (lacinato heirloom variety)
  • New potatoes - up to 2 pounds ($2.50) Standard amount will be 1 pound
  • Zucchini - up to 3 ($1 each) - Standard amount will be 2. Let me know if you have a preference for small, medium, or large zucchini, or a mix.
Extra
  • Arugula - 1 six oz. bag ($3.00)
  • Swiss chard - 1 bunch ($2.00
Fruit
  • Red raspberries (locally sourced from Berry Patch Farm in Nevada or Keller BerryFarm in Toledo) - 1 pint (price TBD)
Herbs
  • Basil - as many ounces as you would like ($1/oz.) Standard amount will be 1 pint (2 oz.)
  • Parsley - 1 bunch ($2.00)
Wild Edibles
  • Amaranth - 1 bunch ($2.00)
  • Lamb's quarter - 1 bunch ($2.00)
  • Purslane  - 1 bunch ($2.00)
 Storage Tips: For most of this week's produce, store in the crisper drawer of your fridge in separate, sealed plastic bags to keep them from dehydrating. Carrot tops are edible, similar to parsley. Beet greens are also edible, similar to chard, including the stems. Remove both carrots and beet tops and store separately if saving for later use. Fresh garlic may be stored on the counter and will continue to cure. Zucchini and basil should be stored on counter, not in fridge. Basil will turn black if refrigerated. Purslane should be used within a few days, it does not store well! 

Baked Goods (Sarah's Simples)
  • Please see original e-mail with the Sarah Simples baked goods list attached. Let me know if I need to resend it to you.
Please save the following date on your calendar: Saturday, September 21st. That weekend, Grin City Collective and Middle Way Farm will be collaborating to host the first and hopefully annual Rurally Good Festival. The multi-day event will start on Friday, September 20th and will include a potluck, camping, performances and screenings that night, a locally sourced pancake breakfast fundraiser for the artist residency on Saturday morning, and a farm harvest celebration on Saturday afternoon including tastings, farm tours, harvest games, and demonstrations. It will be a chance for everyone in the CSA (as well as the general public) to see the farm and learn about where your food comes from. The harvest celebration will be followed by another evening of performances and screenings. I hope you will be able to come!

Your farmer,

Jordan Scheibel
middlewayfarmer@gmail.com
(641) 821 0753
zucchini flower

Broadfork

The broadfork is my newest tool at the farm and so far I am loving it. I've used it to dig potatoes, garlic, and carrots this past week, as well as loosen up beds before planting. It consists of two strong ash handles attached to a U-shaped metal piece with 5 tines sticking straight down. The tines start wide and taper to points. To use the broadfork, I press it into the ground and step onto it, either wiggling it forward and back or side to slide to slip it deeper into the earth. Once it reaches the depth I want, I lean back with all my weight and the broadfork pulls up a big section of earth. Its a surprisingly easy to use, which is indicative of the intelligence of it designs. Its one of a handful of "smart tools" that are key to being able to farm effectively on a small scale.
garlic hanging

Garlic curing

Most of the garlic is hanging to dry in the barn now. It will take several weeks for it to fully cure. To dry garlic, I bundle anywhere from 20-40 plants, tie them together, and hang them from nails driven into the rafters of the barn. They can also be placed on a screen or mesh that allows air circulation from underneath. The main goal is to allow air circulation so the garlic can dry out without become moldy.
kale pesto

New artists

A new group of emerging artists arrives this week to spend 4 weeks living and working on the farm. Every Monday morning during their stay, they spend 4 hours helping in the garden and around the property. This is a photo of several of the last group of artists helping me pick peas earlier this month.
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