Remember a recent blog telling about a stroll through the field and seeing the flash of the bluebird?? Well, those serene moments are replace by YIKES!! With the amazingly beautiiful spring, everything needs to be done at once!! So it is full speed ahead.
Priority is given to getting the seven high tunnels ready and planted. We are a long ways on those. There are many steps to getting them ready but it is going well. Cucumbers never like transitions so they always make me hold my breath. Tomatoes love adventure so they thrive on new settings. We are planting the secondary crops of cabbage, lettuce, spinach and kohlrabi along with the primary crops of tomatoes, cucumbers and pole beans.
Field crops need to be planted as well. However, we need to add the missing soil elements first. This weekend, they arrived (all $20,000 dollars worth) so now field planting can go full speed ahead. Our farm is mostly missing copper, zinc and sulfur so those are the main ones added. The balance of soil elements allows the soil to open up and let soil life thrive. When we plant, we are also adding an organic product called Soil Infusion, which not only has nutrition for the plant, such as uncooked kelp, but has the soil life spores. This soil life feeds on our cover crops and works symbiotically with the plant to bring nutritional density to what we raise.
The first plantings of radishes, spinach and lettuce are coming up in the field so it is time to plant the next stages. We are planting enough to accomodate the anticipated CSA membership.
The chickens have only been here a week but they are growing so fast. I have never seen such an interactive group of chickens. When I kneel down to talk with them, they come running, gather around, climb all over me, and listen!! When we open the door, they come running to look out. They are chomping at the bit to graze on our cover crops. We are planting clover and cereal grain for them so they should be out grazing in a couple of weeks. The mobile home trailer we got for them is ideal. We need two more. If you know of someone who has a trailer they don't want or an old school bus, let me know. The next batch of chickens is coming in a few weeks so we need another home for them.
As soon as the brooders are removed from the trailer, we will put roosts up for them. They will graze in the field by day and roost safely in the trailer at night. As they eat up a grazing area, their pen will move to the next section of cover crop. The goal is for the land to help the chickens and for the chickens to help the land. When all things are in such harmony of working together, it is called permaculture.
On Easter Monday, the first batch of chickens arrived!! We ordered them through the Country Store in Fergus and they came from Hoover Hatchery. These include five hundred broilers for meat and two hundred Gold Star for egg laying. As soon as they have feathers, they will begin rotational grazing on our cover crops. We got a mobile trailer home for them to live in. It has been great. For warmth, they are in just one end of the trailer house. When they are ready to start grazing, their home will just move to the field.
They are a fun group of chickens. Maddie, our Pomeranian, just loves to play with them. When I kneel down to talk with them, they come running and turn their head to one side so they can really see me out of one eye and listen to what I am saying. They have a radio going all the time so they are less likely to panic over other noises. So far they have been listening to Oldies but last night they switched to classical!! They really looked and listened when I made the switch. They could tell it was a new sound.
Wow! What a beautiful Sunday! I have never seen such a nice March. Hopefully April and May can follow this same pattern. But that might make us Minnesotans and Dakotans spoiled...Ya think? Later in the afternoon, Maddie, our year old Pomeranian and I took another walk across the new land we are buying. Each time we walk, we make new plans! Part of the land has a bit of a steep slope and will be great for strawberries with a living mulch of white Dutch clover in between the rows to hold the soil in place. I was planning to do cover crops there this year and next year plant strawberries. But if we did wider paths of the clover in between the rows of strawberries, we could accomplish both. So Maddie and I decided that we should plant strawberries there this spring. That means next year's CSA boxes and stands could have strawberries by next season!! We could even have a CSA strawberry harvest event! Do you know how sweet strawberries get when the soil is balanced and filled with life? We will see!
Anyway, on the way back, I saw the flash of a bluebird. It had been in one of the flowering crab trees along the driveway. It led the way as we walked up the driveway. In the winter, we have a grand view of cardinals, pileated woodpeckers and all the others at our bird feeders. But...nothing compares to the flash of a bluebird's back in the bright sunshine. Man has created no color that comes close to matching that!
We are so grateful for the growing number os CSA signups!! The excitement of what our CSA entails is cathcing on! Hats off to Joanna of SunDog in Fargo for igniting her co-workers about our CSA. They may have a possible 16 shares from that one business alone.!! Hats off to her co-workers as well!! Think of the fun they will have each week as they share stories of how they cooked or used each vegetable!! That same model of sign up would be awesome for any work sites, neighborhoods, church groups, health groups, retirement centers...whatever! I am most willing to come to any group to explain the CSA choices and the farm harvest events that accomplany a CSA membership. Just email me from this website or call me at 218-205-4739. I am very impressed with how free people are beginning to feel to contact me!
The March air is still cold for growing so the greenhouse is the center of the farm right now. Tomatoes for the high tunnels, that were planted in January, are being transplanted into the main greenhouse. Cucumbers for the high tunnels have been planted and are up and doing fine. Early in April, depending on the weather, the high tunnel plants will find their new home in the high tunnels. This will open up space in the main greenhouse for transplanting of the field tomatoes, peppers and all. We made our 24 x 36 main greenhouse too small. But it will be busy. It should have about six rotations of plants go through the main greenhouse. Following are pictures taken on 3/24/10.
The picture on the right is tomatoes, of course. The photo below is cucumbers that will be heading to the high tunnels soon!
Michael Pollan was on Oprah a few days ago. They had a very engaging conversation about the food we eat. Michael suggested that we eat whole and real, unprocessed food as much as possible. He especially stressed fruits and vegetables.
Very soon, I will be adding a page to the website under Nutritional Density on biological farming, which is our biggest goal at Bluebird Gardens. I have been following Gary Zimmer for some time. He has a thousand acre organic farm in southern Wisconsin. Gary does biological farming. In essence, it is to add the elements that are missing from the soil, so life in the soil can flourish and work symbiotically with the plant to create nutritionally dense food. Gary's family has 200 milk cows. A chronic problem on their farm is they have too many cows. This is not a typical dairy farm problem. But... because his cows feast on nutritionally dense food from his farm, they are healthy. He has FIFTEEN year old cows that are still producing!!!
Nothing excites me more than our journey toward nutritional density. Our nation's health depends on that concept. The elements needed for healthy soil life, healthy plants and healthy animals and people are not in the soil. Adding those elements is very costly and so is the addition of cover crops to feed the life in the soil. But the change this brings to flavor and health is very sweet, indeed!
We are so excited by the surge of excitement for our CSA in the Fargo/Moorhead, Dilworth, Glyndon, Perham, Ottertail Lake, Battle Lake, Underwood, Fergus Falls, Pelican Rapids and Wahpeton/Breckenridge areas!! We are also very open to serving Rothsay and Barnesville. Our overriding theme is connection with our farm through the box deliveries, email and website connection and through the exciting farm events! In this quick blog, I will attempt to answer some of the great questions that have come up over the last week...
AFFORDABILITY OF OUR CSA??
This is an awesome question! $500 does sound like a lot of money for the full share. But when you break that down over the twenty week season, it is $3.57 a day. For the cost of a fast food sandwich, your family can eat our minutes-fresh vegetables each day of the week for twenty weeks. To me, that in itself is a great deal. But if you attend the farm events and gather the harvest for your winter months, so one day, you eat green beans that you froze from our bean harvest, the next day you have stir fry from the pea pods you harvested during the pea pick, another day tomatoes you canned from the tomato harvest days and you continuously enjoy the pickles you canned from the bushel of pickling cucumbers you gathered, the the cost is $1.36 a day!! We are so excited to bring you our bounty of goodness in the midst of challenging economic times. SAVOR THE FLAVOR OF SUMMER AT BLUEBIRD GARDENS!! I am adding a page to the CSA menu bar on affordability.
WHAT IF I CAN'T ATTEND A FARM EVENT??
At each farm event, we will be checking off names of those attending from the list of CSA members and others who signed up for the farm events as a separate package. So you can designate someone to attend in your place. You will just have that person give us your name.
We will listen to your suggestions regarding times, but I am guessing that harvest events would be the most easily attended by you and your family if it were spread over a whole weekend. So most farm events will be a Saturday and Sunday. That way, you and your family can most likely attend. Maybe you will choose to do the harvest on the way back from the lake on Sunday...whatever is best for you. But,we are very flexible. Suppose you work the weekend. If you contact us, we will be most willing to accomodate you to a time that works for you. The goals of the farm events are to connect you to our farm, have you soak up the bounty of our land and... to MAKE A MEMORY WITH YOUR FAMILY!!
DROP OFF SITES??
We already have some awesome people volunteering to be drop off sites. Drop off hosts will get extra pasture-fed chickens from us. First we will complete the membership drive. Then we will look for sites, or hopefully have volunteers, that seem to be great locations. THEN, we will let each CSA member choose the spot that is most convenient as the drop off site. You may choose a site that is close to an area where you work, shop or where your day care is. So the site you choose when you sign up is not written in stone.
WANT TO HEAR MORE???
If you want to hear more, or want to share this CSA opportunity with others, I am most willing to come to any neighborhood or work site and do a quick presentation and mostly, just answer questions about our CSA. I think it would be very fun for people at a work site to become CSA members. Think of the fun you could have with it. Your drop site could be your work place. How convenient!! Then, with your fellow workers, you could share how you fixed the produce. Who has the best onion ring recipe?? And...if you can stand one more day with them:-), you could attend the farm events with the people you work with. But this same idea of comradery could apply to any setting. It could be your apartment building, a senior citizen living center or a group of neighbors.
I am energized by the surge of excitement over our the Bluebird Gardens CSA. I foresee it in the years to come to be a grand community affair!!
SPRING SPECTACULAR HOME SHOW
I will be at the Spring Spectacular Home and Garden Show at the Civic Center the weekend of March 20. Feel most free to stop by and visit!!
As our "old" customers have gathered, we are reaching out to the new frontier of CSA. We will continue to serve our great customers at our stands, but we have also had a lot of requests in the past years to start a CSA. What is CSA? Briefly, a customer decides this time of year to purchase a share of our farm. In return, they will get at least twenty boxes, one per week, of produce from us. It is delivered to their place of work, their neighborhood, or even to their house. This box will include our pasture-fed chickens! We will use our thirty two years of experience to stock the boxes with the favorite vegetables. The CSA section of our website tells all about it.
I want this blog to be for you. You are requested to communicate with us right here. What are your questions? What do you wonder about CSA? Do you like our new website? What could we addto it that would help you? Just click on "add a comment" below and fire away.
Next week, in the blog, I will add some pictures of the tomatoes. Last week, they gave me the first rich scent of tomato...a sure sign of SPRING!! I didn't breathe a word to the tomatoes that it was way below zero outside!! I thought what they don't know won't hurt them!!
Dillon and I are leaving early this morning to attend the Moses Organic Conference in LaCrosse. We will be there Thursday through Saturday. It is always an awesome conference!
In January, I went to the Minnesota Organic Conference in St. Cloud. I learned a tremendous amount about soil health, how to run a CSA and food safety. It was one of the best conferences I have ever been to. What I learned complemented what I had been reading all winter.
A week later, I attended the MN Fruit and Vegetable Growers Conference also in St. Cloud. Once again I learned a lot. One of the best benefits of these conferences is to network with the fellow vegetable growers and with the trade show people.
The biggest news of the winter for us comes in the form of a duo ! The first is that we have finally come to the realization that we need to expand to offering a CSA. For years, we have heard requests for this. We had always thought that selling at stands, alone, was the best service for our customers. But many people want the extra connection with a farm that brings a box of produce for them to their neighborhood each week. We are going to use our 32 years of experience to put the items we have found to be popular in your box!! Stand customers, nothing to fear. We will still be offering produce to you at our stands. Let us know...what would be your dream CSA?
The second huge news is we have a chance to buy 75 acres adjoining our land to the west of our farm. Adjoining land is so important for us because it allows easy irrigation and harvesting as well. The extra land allows us to spread our wings and offer a CSA to reach more people than we have in the past. We are totally excited to evolve into the CSA component. It also gives us to freedom to expand into apples, strawberries and asparagus. It also allows us more rotation options and the chance to give some pieces of land a break with cover crops alone.
Being in my first year of retirement after 34 years of teaching elementary school, I experienced a very difficult fall feeling quite disconnected and lacking in purpose and value. However, the extra time has allowed me to catch up on farm reading. I have especially focused on soil health and what we need to do to foster soil life. By mid-winter, I am beginning to shed my Scandanavian guilt of not teaching and starting to savor all I can get done at home with more time. I have been able to attend unlimited vegetable conferences and do the very building of this website! Hats off to Small Farm Central for hosting a website so in tune with our needs as growers. Once I caught on to the basics, building this website has been enjoyable. Let us know through this blog what we can do to make this website more helpful to you!
THIS BLOG'S FOR YOU!!
The purpose of the blog is not only to let you know of instant farm happenings. It is your chance to offer feedback to us and to connect with other customers as well. By summer, this blog could become an awesome sharing of experiences and recipes between all of our great customers. Feel free to enter your comments anytime.
This week, I got the first tomatoes planted. I will include pictures as soon as they show their faces. I expect to be smelling tomatoes leaves in a couple of weeks!! I can't wait! On this blog, I will give you brief updates on what we are doing. My goal is to involve you in the production of your food!!