Monthly Archives: July 2009

7/26/09 Newsletter & "A Week in the Life" Part 2

Dear Friends of the farm,

Last week I started to tell you about a week on the farm finishing only Sunday and Monday. Today I will talk about the next three days. As I mentioned before, I have worksheets I use to tell not only the employees what to pick each day, but also to tell the working members on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday what to put into each bag. This worksheet breaks down each Distribution Center into Single, Half and Full Shares; adding the totals of each category so that I know how many total Shares. Cucumbers, for example, are calculated to give the Single Share one, the Half Share two and the Full Share three. These numbers are multiplied to the total number of each category and I get a total number of how much to pick. The working members know how many cucumbers to give each share and I have a total number to be picked..all in one swoop of the pen! I do this Sunday evening for picking on Monday for Tuesday Distribution; again on Monday night for Tuesday picking for Distribution on Wednesday and again on Tuesday night for Wednesday picking for Thursday Distribution. This is why it is so important for you to call me at least two days in advanced if there is a change to your share. If you wait until the day of or the day before Distribution to make a change, it is too late, we have already picked the produce!

Working Members arrive no later than 7:00. They will help unload produce into the barn, count the number of red, white and purple bags, count small and large bean bags, get the containers out to measure beans and potatoes, unload delivery trucks if needed, fill egg orders into coolers, count produce not bagged into boxes or baskets for delivery, fill bean bags; basically get everything ready for Distribution. Team leaders give instructions to the Working Members on how many of each crop goes into a particular colored bag. There is one person stationed at each crop. The rest line up at the “potato bar” and get a bag filled with potatoes. From there they go down the line of crops each being added to the bag. They then go outside the barn and line them up in rows of 10, by bag color. When all is done, the bags are counted one more time before loading them onto the trucks, just in case we are one short! There is a Team Leader stationed at each vehicle. They call out the number of white, purple and red bags needed; egg coolers are loaded; fruit & honey too if available; corn, tomatoes & melons (depending on the time of year) for each Distribution Center until the entire truck is filled. During melon season, we have to pull a trailer because it cannot all fit on the truck!

After the working members get the produce on the trucks, empty bags that are put into the coolers by Distribution Centers are removed, sorted & stacked. The coolers are cleaned and stacked. The barn is raked, any produce not good enough for members is fed to the chickens (except onions and garlic). And everyone heads to the fields to work. Working Members spend early spring/early summer planting and hoeing, but by the end of summer, the Working Members spend quite a bit of time harvesting.

At 6 am, the employees have finished the animal chores and are now pulling out all the produce picked the day before; lining it up in order listed on the worksheets. Once all the produce is lined up, the employees get their instructions on what to pick for the day, all heading in different directions! Jerry, in the mean time, has gotten up at 4:30 and has changed his water. He has given instructions to the employees and is checking in with the team leaders on what their day will consist of. Then he is off to ditch rows of crops for irrigation. This will need to be done every time we have either hand hoed or used the Weeder to remove weeds from the fields. It tears down the humps of dirt needed to keep the water in each row. If each row is not intact, something will not get watered!

After greeting the Working Members and answering any questions that may arise, I am in the office writing a letter to each Distribution Center. I tell them how many bags they are getting for each share size & the color of that bag. If there is anything extra, such as corn, this number is also reflected so that when the Non-working Members arrive, the Distribution Center knows what to give each member. Newsletters are added to this letter for each Center. At the beginning of the season, the Distribution Centers are given a list of all the Members picking up at their homes, phone numbers and information about eggs, fruit and honey. They turn this list into a check off sheet to use during Distribution. This is how they know who gets what and how much of it! If we are delivering any produce to restaurants, an invoice is typed out and added to the pile of newsletters with Distribution letters.

Between 10 and 11 am, the trucks are ready to leave for Distribution Centers. Two trucks leave on Tuesday, one heading toward the South Denver Metro area and one heading to the West Denver Metro area. On Wednesday, two trucks leave heading toward Central Denver Metro area and the Ft. Collins area. Thursday, only one truck leaves the farm and follows the Turnpike towards the Boulder area. It will take most of the rest of the day to complete these routes, getting us home around 4pm. Where upon arrival back at the farm, Jerry will check his water and I start dinner! Wednesday I will do Distribution for the Greeley area, starting at 5:30 and I will work until dark.

The drip irrigation system is a wonderful tool we have fallen in love with. Not only does it keep down the weeds in each row/bed, it really conserves water. But at the same time, it is very labor intensive! Everything has to be hand planted into the plastic, each row has to be hand weeded, (no hoes allowed!) and the procedure for watering is extensive! Every day that Jerry waters through the drip tape, he first has to fill the pond with water by turning on the pump at the bottom of the field where the irrigation canal is located. This canal carries the water from the reservoir throughout the entire irrigation basin. Once Jerry has chosen a field to water, there is at least one turnkey at the top of each bed. There can be as many as four rows and two drip tapes per bed with turnkeys. After turning on the water to several beds, he walks down each bed to check for leaks or breaks. He also has to walk the entire main line to check for leaks or breaks. A small leak can turn into a big problem because there is a lot of pressure in a drip irrigation system! It can wash out the crop, but more importantly, it will release the pressure and all the water will go to that spot and nothing else will get watered. In the fall, all the drip tape and plastic has to be removed and discarded. However, when we do keep the drip tape for more than a year or two, the mice get into it and chew it up!

So let’s see, what kind of goodies are you getting this week? You will be getting tasty new red potatoes, sweet Walla Walla onions, a beautiful bunch of carrots, green cabbage, slicing cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, three kinds of summer squash, purple & green bell peppers, cauliflower, a few green beans and some of you will see pink Japanese eggplant & yellow zucchini in your bag! Last week you received double the amount of beans because two plantings came on at the same time. This week, the next planting didn’t produce that many beans, so you’ll get what is out there! The pickling cucumber plants are just now producing pickles. There just aren’t quite enough pickles yet to allow members to come out to pick. Hopefully soon we can invite you to the farm to pick pickles! Call me with your name and phone number and we will get a list going. Just as soon as we have enough to invite bulk picking we will give you a call!

Thank you for your interest in CSA and this farm! We will continue next week on the general daily work week!

Jacquie, Jerry, Alaina and Kyle Monroe

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7/19/09 Newsletter and "A Week In the Life"

Dear Friends,

It has been a very busy week here at the farm. Alaina is doing much better this week. She still needs surveillance and eye drops every hour. Jerry is planting your fall crops. Kyle laid new bedding for the animals. And the working members just about have two more huts completed for the sheep. We moved the pigs onto their pasture. For some reason, they were afraid to go out there. We tempted them with summer squash, small amounts all along the path to the pasture! It worked, now they are lazily enjoying cool grasses and moist earth!

A member once asked what a week on the farm looked like? What was our routine? Well…let’s start with just a couple of days! Our week starts on Sunday at 4:30 or 5 am with Jerry setting his water on those parts of the field that need a little drink. This takes approximately 3 hours. Setting water isn’t like turning on your garden hose. The ditch fluctuates up and down according to users up stream. Once the water is set, he goes back a half hour to an hour later and checks it again. He may have to irrigate fewer rows or start additional rows depending on how much water there is at that time; then checks it one more time before he starts his next project. In the mean time, our employees get going about 6 am. They have gathered eggs, watered and fed the chickens, steers, pigs and sheep. At 8 o’clock, everyone meets at the barn. They take what produce has returned from the Saturday farmers markets and reload a truck. Kyle takes off at 9 am for the Ft. Collins farmers market. He will be there for 5 1/2 hours.

Once Kyle is set and has left, Jerry turns to the four wheeler and checks the field for mature crops. It is at this time when he decides what you will be getting each week. He come to me and gives me a list of crops and how much he believes we have. I take those numbers and apply them to the membership. Sometimes we are limited to what we have, so you will only get one, or he tells me to calculate three different numbers.

Jerry has now moved to either his cultivating tractor or the planter. If he chooses to cultivate, he will do this all day, taking out as many weeds as he can so that the hand hoeing won’t take as long. Planting is a timing thing. If Mother Nature cooperates, Jerry is pretty good at getting you crops on a pretty regular basis. To give you an idea, corn and green beans need to be planted every week; cucumbers & summer squash every three weeks; peppers, and potatoes one time; watermelons & muskmelon every four weeks; carrots, tomatoes and beets three times a summer and broccoli and cauliflower are planted five times a summer. This job requires he get on and off the tractor several times to check to see if the seed is planted at the right depth; making adjustments to the planter as needed.

Meanwhile the guys are digging up potatoes for Distribution on Tuesday. They are stored in a strawbale building. The strawbale building is approximately 20 degrees cooler than the outside temperature! They will set up sprinkler pipe to sprinkle up the seed Jerry has just planted; moving the pipe every three or four hours. This will need to be done every three days until we see a crop. Then it will be switched to row irrigation thereafter. Some of the crew will be hoeing, stacking the newly cut & baled hay and gathering eggs (which will be done at least once more before the end of the day). If there is time, three people will use the tractor and a machine called a Weeder to cultivate.

We take an hour for lunch (Jerry doesn’t come in for breakfast, too much to do & he wants to do it while it is cool!). But before he quits, he checks his water again. If it needs changing, he will do this, checking it again after lunch. Jerry wants a hot lunch so I normally fix him leftovers from the night before; afterward going back to the planter or cultivator.

I get up in the morning and check messages. (I don’t get up nearly as early as Jerry!) Get a bite to eat & read a favorite magazine for an hour. I then sit down to my computer and start writing. Sometimes these newsletters come easily to me and I will be finished by noon and sometimes they will take me all day to write. When I’m done, I count our earnings from the Saturday farmers markets and partially start a deposit, finishing it on Monday after adding Sunday farmers’ market earnings.

While I’m busy making the deposit, I start to make the copies I need of the newsletter. I will answer the messages and if I have time, (between Sunday and Monday), I look at email. It is very low priority for me, especially since I love the computer so much! I can usually find more “important” things to do! Things like laundry. It’s funny how having clean clothes really make you feel good…ha, ha!

Dinner is served somewhere between 5 and 6 pm. Jerry needs to eat early because it will take him another three hours to change his water to new locations. We end our day watching the 9 o’clock news (the weather) and going to bed.

Monday morning at 4:30, Jerry begins with setting his water. This is a daily occurrence. If he isn’t row irrigating, he is irrigating using drip. To conserve water, we use plastic tubing to move water from one place to another. This prevents water from evaporating or soaking into the dirt below the ditch. All of it stored water from reservoirs holding the spring melt off of winter snow or spring rains. We have settling ponds to remove as much of the silt (fine dirt) from the water. Before sending it into our drip irrigation system, there is a filter system that takes out quite a bit more. These filters need to be checked frequently. Anything goes wrong and it will shut down not sending water to plants in need of water!

If Jerry didn’t finish planting or didn’t plant at all, it will have to be done on Monday. If there are any equipment failures, they will be worked on either Sunday or Monday. That includes the trucks too. Trucks are cleaned out from the weekend farmers markets. Any food that is not up to snuff to resell is fed to the animals. They are like dogs, begging for treats, running after the truck!

Meanwhile the employees are doing the animal chores. From my calculations, they will start to pick what is needed for Tuesday Distribution. The harvesting will take up most of their day. Bringing everything into the barn and set up in order they will appear in your bag. Stopping only to move sprinkler pipe.

Monday, I finishing the deposits, make the worksheets out for the Tue. Working Members & finish doing my laundry. Twice a month I pay the bills and Monday is the day I usually run errands for the farm. Jerry always needs parts for equipment; I take the deposits to the bank and go to the Post Office; go to the grocery store and ending the day with a nice meal. In the evening, Jerry and I take a ride on the four wheeler and look at the farm in all its’ glory; getting excited about the next new crop we’re going to give to you!

This week you will be getting Yukon Gold potatoes, red onions, carrots, Chioggia beets, white or cheddar cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, cucumbers, and summer squash. The Chioggia beets are an Italian sweet beet. Depending on how you cut them, they will be candy striped or a bull’s eye. Roasting keeps their color best, but they can be boiled whole too. The cauliflower will look different to you. The white will not look like the store bought stuff. (It won’t taste like it too.) We do not cover the plants to “bleach” it. Both will have a stronger taste. I do not recommend eating this raw. It can be bitter. But cooking it really seems to take out the bitterness and show you what cauliflower should really taste like! Bugs can be a problem. You should easily see the worms. Soak overnight; most will float to the surface. It will be harder to see the worms on the broccoli, check it carefully!

Have a great week! Jacquie, Jerry, Alaina and Kyle Monroe

7/12/09 Newsletter

Dear Members,

This week you will be getting new red potatoes, sweet white onions, garlic, red beets, broccoli, cucumber, Q-ball squash, zucchini, yellow squash and green beans. Yea! The beans are on! Now it really does feel like summer! If you are looking for a new way to serve your squash, try this: Q-ball squash is a very mild zucchini. It will take on the taste of any marinade you love or grill it with olive oil, salt and pepper. It is mostly known for stuffing. Take off the top, scoop out the seed cavity and fill with your favorite stuffing. Try a bread stuffing, sausage stuffing or a rice stuffing. (You can do this with regular zucchini, (cut lengthwise) too.) Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Cut in half and serve.

Our white Sweet Spanish onions are great for eating raw and for cooking. The Walla Walla are so sweet, they lose their entire flavor when cooked. But the white onions have a wonderful taste and will caramelize marvelously! I add them to my beans with (frozen) red peppers. It is a beautiful dish to serve to guests too!

After seeing the crazy weather we were having this spring, Jerry decided to plant carrots into the two cold frames on the farm. You will not get carrots from the fields until late summer…it was just too cold and wet for them to grow very fast. This is why you will only get a few carrots now and then.

We really look forward to the first picking of each and every crop. At our household, we only eat in season. New potatoes just can’t be beat in the spring. And by the time we get green beans, cucumbers and sweet corn; we are desperate for them! The same goes for the carrots and tomatoes in late summer, melons in the early fall and winter squash by late fall! These are just a few of our favorites we look forward too. What are some of your favorites you can hardly wait to get in distribution?

Several of you know my children. Alaina has had eye surgery when she was a child. Due to recent complications, she had a procedure at the beginning of June and will have another Tuesday the 14th. If you belong to a prayer chain, would you add Alaina? If you believe in spirit guides, would you send them our way? We need your prayers and positive thoughts in our direction! I will be unavailable this week to answer any questions you may have. Jessica, my office assistant, will be here on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons. She will do her best to help you until I can spend more time in the office. Thank you for being so understanding!

Jacquie, Jerry, Alaina and Kyle Monroe

Mock Apple Pie French Apple Crumb Topping

4 to 4 ½ cups zucchini slices
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp tapioca/flour
½ cup butter
4 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp cinnamon
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp cornstarch
nuts (optional)

Peel & remove seeds from squash, cut into slices. Blend together until butter is the size of peas. Mix with rest of ingredients. Place into pie crust. Place over pie filling. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes or 350 degrees for 55 minutes.