Hail Delays CSA Boxes Again

The Field on the Morning of  July 10

The Field on the Morning of July 10

The beginning of our CSA deliveries this year has been much anticipated! Spring came in late after one of the coldest winters on record. And once spring got here, it didn’t want to let up. Our crops have been slow growing with the constant bombardment of rain and the lack of warm spring and summer temperatures. So far this season we have lost our potato crop, which rotted in the ground due to excessive moisture, our cucumbers, summer squash and winter squash have dampened off, causing crop failure and our brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, etc.) have been decimated by pestilence. Many of the crops in the field have just refused to grow in the cool, wet conditions. These past couple of weeks have been exciting as we have seen things begin to flourish on the farm.

 

Josiah Harvesting Head Lettuce

Josiah Harvesting Head Lettuce

We have had some successes. Radishes, peas, head lettuce, napa cabbage and some kale have all blessed our table in the past couple of months. Unfortunately, most of these items have come one at a time and all at once. Surely, we couldn’t give our customers just one item at a time (or seven head lettuce at a time). Therefore, we have been delaying beginning our CSA deliveries until we had some variety.

 

Melon Plant After Hailstorm

Melon Plant After Hailstorm

On Wednesday evening we decided that we would begin our CSA deliveries this coming Monday. Then, yesterday, we experienced decimating hail on the farm. This was a huge blow to both our crops and our spirits! Many of our crops in their second or third plantings are now set back once again. After assessing the damage to the field crops we have determined that there is no way that we can begin our CSA this coming week.

Purslane Took a Beating From Hail

Purslane Took a Beating From Hail

We have known for some time now that we need to find a way to provide more protection for our crops from the hail. Even if we only get one substantial hail storm each season, it can be enough to wipe out entire crops. We have planted our field in sections this year that would be suitable for covering with temporary greenhouse structures, such as the one pictured above. We do not yet have these structures available and therefore our crops remain vulnerable to the elements.

Swiss Chard Looking More Like Swiss Cheese

Swiss Chard Looking More Like Swiss Cheese

We thank you all so much for your patience as we navigate this season which, like any other, has challenged us greatly! We would like to offer you some encouragement by saying that in the past, even with a late start, we have been able to fulfill our 15 week CSA shares.

 

If you have a Market-style share, we would like to invite you to visit the farm to see what we have available for you. Today we have beautiful napa cabbage, garlic scapes, kale and a few cherry tomatoes. It would be very helpful if you could call Matt ahead of time. We should be able to pull an order together for you.

“A farmer has to be an optimist or he wouldn’t still be a farmer.”   ~Will Rodgers

DEA_3663

“A farmer has to be an optimist or he wouldn’t still be a farmer.” ~Will Rodgers

 

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Rain, Rain Go Away!

DEA_3382I know that here in the midwest, there comes a time when we are all but pining for moisture from the skies. But right now, we wouldn’t complain if we had a little less rain and a little more sunshine!

Strawberry Blossoms

Strawberry Blossoms

We know that many of our CSA customers are asking that all important question: “When will we be getting produce?” Unfortunately, that question is not so easy to answer. It all depends on the weather! We started the season early in hopes of getting some early harvests. Unfortunately our notorious long, cold winter didn’t want to let up! This, coupled with not having heat in our greenhouses, means that we are not ready to begin harvesting yet.

Tomatoes in the Greenhouse

Tomatoes in the Greenhouse

The good news is that things are on their way! We aren’t worried a bit! We just ask that you continue to be patient and know that great things are to come!! We will definitely let you know when we plan to begin our CSA deliveries. Right now, we can say that it likely will not happen within the next three weeks.

For our market-style members: We may have some produce available for sale before our CSA deliveries begin. If this is the case we will inform you via email. However, we will not be delivering into town, so you would have to visit us here at the farm to pick up your orders (which we love- cause then we get to see you!).

Also, if you are not following us on Facebook, here is a video that we made for the board here are BHHEC that outlines some of the methods and machinery we have implemented over the last year. Let us know what you think.

Please keep the farm in your prayers! We are looking forward to another awesome year!

 

Garlic

Garlic

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‘Like’ Us On Facebook

If any of you are a part of the Facebook circle (who isn’t these days) then we just wanted to let you know that we now have a Facebook page. This makes it even easier and faster for us to share pictures and updates with you as they are happening! You can connect to our Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/BattleCreekGardens and click on ‘Like’.

Log Boiler Torn Apart

Log Boiler Torn Apart

Rusty, Leaky Boiler

Rusty, Leaky Boiler

In other news… You may or may not have heard about our Log Boiler by now. Well, we are happy to say that the main structure has been welded back together. Now all that is left is to put the chimney back on, paint it all and put the cover back on. Hopefully we can finish the rest by Sunday since the forecast is calling for very cold temperatures. We had planted tomatoes in the greenhouse last week since the forecast was calling for warmer temperatures. Sadly, the forecast has changed a bit. We knew this could be an issue since we are still quite a way away from our frost free date. We are just hoping to get the heating in before a really cold night. The past several nights have been very cool, down into the low 30′s and the tomatoes have come throughout quite well with just the greenhouse cover and some cloth row cover to help hold the heat in. Every day counts in a short growing season like we have here. Hopefully getting them in early will pay off.

Start House Cooling Fins

Start House Cooling Fins

Matt was able to get a cooling system fabricated and installed into our start house a couple of weeks ago. We will have happier starts this year for sure! On a sunny day it can easily reach 100+ temperatures in the house quickly without a cooling system. It is a simple system. Basically, on one end of the house there is a panel containing ‘fins’. Water is circulated through the fins, keeping them wet. On the other end of the start house there is a large fan which pulls air in through the fins on the other side, cooling it as it enters. Kind-of like an over-sized swamp cooler. It works magnificently so far. It needs a few minor adjustments, but the structure is there and that is worth a lot!

Strawberries Beginning to Grow

Strawberries Beginning to Grow

Our strawberry plants are springing to life and we’ve been working on cleaning up the field and preparing it for planting. We have lots on the calendar for the coming month. Hopefully we can keep up with the limited number of hands that the Lord has blessed us with. We are fortunate that we have had some extra help from many of the staff members here at Black Hills Health and Education Center. God is gracious to give us just what we need!

Hannah Helping Seed

Hannah Helping Seed

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When it All Comes Together

Battle Creek Gardens has been around for decades. It has been producing vegetables for families in the surrounding area in one form or another for all of that time. Matt and I have been involved with the farm since 2010 and we have seen major change happen during this time. When we came here in the spring of 2010 we found an overgrown garden that had seen several caretakers over the period of a couple of years. That was Larry and Michelle’s first year on the farm. That summer, Larry set a plan into motion. His vision was to turn the gardens into a well organized, profitable, and sustainable small-scale farming haven. He moved toward this goal during his time managing the farm at a steady pace, growing a small CSA program and branching out into local wholesale markets.

As we enter into this season, several years later, I can’t help but think about how far we have come. Water, irrigation, heating and cooling systems for the greenhouses, seeders, transplanters…the list goes on.

This season we are looking forward to pulling it all together. Last year we invested in some equipment that will undoubtedly make work on the farm much easier and more efficient. The two biggest advances being our Jang twelve row seeder and our Farmer’s Friend Greens Harvester. Both pieces of equipment cut down of task time immensely. Here is a video of us seeding three rows of salad mix in one of our beds earlier this week. The Jang seeder is very versatile in spacing and number of rows seeded as well as seeding accurately. It also provides us with straight rows for easier cultivation.

The Farmer’s Friend Quick Cut Greens Harvester is an amazing tool that will enable us to harvest our salad mix in a fraction of the time that it used to take and with fewer hands to do so. Our delicious, fresh salad mix blend is one of our best sellers! With this tool we are hoping it will be possible to keep up with our demand better this season. See it in action:

To top it off, we have a new toy that just shipped today. This piece of equipment we have had our eye on for a while. It is a Buddingh Basket Weeder. It is one of the best pieces of cultivation equipment out there for small scale farms, because it weeds without throwing up large amounts of soil onto your plants (nobody likes dirt-filled heads of lettuce). Here is a basket weeder similar to the one we will have:

So, with these new pieces of equipment, we have streamlined our planting, cultivation and harvesting of many of our crops. Last year Matt also put together a transplanter for our starts which should serve to save lots of time as well.

It is a real blessing that we have been able to accumulate this equipment since our hands on the farm are very few and we rely heavily on volunteer labor, which is sporadic most of the time.

We can’t wait for the temperatures to moderate so that we can start planting in the field soon. We sure do have spring fever right now. I think that just about every farmer gets the itch to get into the soil on these first spring days. Matt says that “there’s just something about sitting on a tractor that makes you feel like a real farmer”. Well, I agree. Soon enough we will be living and breathing farming again. Every moment of every day. It’s what we live for! And no matter what equipment we have- or don’t have- it always seems to come together. In one way or another.

God is gracious!

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2014 CSA Sign-up

Yep, it’s that time of year when we start getting busy here on the farm. All in preparation for our upcoming growing season. Spring cleaning… building projects… planning… ordering… pruning… starting… yep, we are keeping busy! Not to mention the newborn with her two older siblings keeping us occupied every possible second they can.

Well, it’s also time for YOU to start thinking about the upcoming farm season! That’s why we want you to know that we are beginning sign-ups for our 2014 CSA memberships. We will be offering Market-style shares this year along with our traditional Standard CSA shares. You can find out more about specific CSA types and

Sign up for yours today by visiting our

WEBSITE.

We look forward to serving you this coming season!

Dreaming about spring…

Dreaming of Spring

Dreaming of Spring

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Meet the Newest Member of the Farm Crew

Greetings to our Farm Family out there! It has been a while!

While winter reared it’s subzero head here in South Dakota our family headed west to the more moderate climate of the Pacific Northwest. Deidre and the kids left in early December while Matt stayed behind to work on tying up fall farm projects. Matt joined the family the week of Christmas and we had a splendid holiday with our family and friends. With the whole family present we settled in to await the birth of our newest family member. For Deidre this couldn’t be soon enough, as she was getting uncomfortable in the last stages of pregnancy.

We had strategically planned the timing of our pregnancy so that the birth would fall in the ‘off season’ of farming (lucky you!). We knew that labor, delivery and having a newborn would put a damper on our long summer days in the soil. What we hadn’t planned on was our lack of insurance coupled with the lack of options here in South Dakota. Our goal in heading out to Washington was to have a healthy baby while keeping our medical expenses to a minimum. We feel that our trip was a success!

We were able to find a midwife while still in South Dakota who was willing to work with us at the end of our pregnancy. She and her assistants ended up being more of a blessing than we ever could have imagined. We had a successful childbirth at home with both of our children present. It was an amazing experience for the kids (and the whole family) to take part in and they share a close bond with their little sister already. So, here she is:
Hannah Grace
Born January 19, 2014, 7 lbs. 0 oz.

Hannah Grace

Hannah Grace

Yep, we think she’s pretty perfect and we could bombard you with tons of pictures, but we won’t…yet. Cheers!

All 3 Kids

All 3 Kids

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Farm to Table in Hermosa

DSC08013This past Sunday, September 15th, we helped to wind up this summer’s growing season with a farm-to-table dinner. Affectionately named ‘Feast on the Farm’,  I think many of

Waiting for guests to arrive

Waiting for guests to arrive

our guests still got more food than they had bargained for! This was our first farm dinner event, so our crew here at the farm had no idea what to expect. We planned as best we could, but the day of the dinner proved to be a challenge as we awoke to rain in the morning. We were hopeful that the weather would improve, but Matt, Anjin and Angela still spent a majority of the day moving one of our greenhouse structures to the dining site just in case.

Chopping fresh herbs

Chopping fresh herbs

As Deidre and Angela worked fervently preparing each of the evening’s courses the guests arrived in the afternoon sunshine. Our wash station had been transformed into a makeshift kitchen just hours earlier with the addition of a stainless steel island and propane stove. The kitchen was rustic to say the least, but it was enough to get the job done.

Matt shares his wisdom about melons, tractors and soil

Matt shares his wisdom about melons, tractors and soil

Matt took a little bit of time to walk around some of the farm with our dinner guests. He was able to share much of what we have been working on during the past season(s) and years. It is always a special treat for a farmer to be able to share something he is so passionate about. It is an even greater feeling to have people who share the same passion and excitement about healthy, fresh, local, delicious food!

DSC08023After the short tour of the farm the guests made their way back to the dining area and were seated. Willard Werth, one of the founding members of the Black Hills Health and Education Center (BHHEC) shared a little bit about the history of the institution here and what our ultimate mission is. If you are not familiar with our parent institution, BHHEC, you can find out more at their website here. The one disappointment of the evening was that the musicians were unable to play their violins since the moisture was too high and the temperatures too cold. The cool temperatures keep the violins from staying in tune and are not good on the instruments. Fred and Cheryl provided us with some lovely dining music. Although not live, it was just perfect for the occasion.

Winter food = table decor

Winter food = table decor

The evening got very cool as the sun set. It has been our coldest evening yet this summer. Matt had taken the time earlier in the week to construct a fire pit. The fire added just the right amount of warmth for those who wanted to stay and visit for a while after dinner. Overall, we are so pleased with how the evening turned out and the wonderful company we were able to keep during the meal. We learned a lot in the process and look forward to the next farm-to-table event we have the pleasure of hosting.

Many of the guests asked if Deidre would be willing to share the recipes that she prepared for the dinner. If you are interested, please see the menu below and click on the menu item for the corresponding recipe. The only recipes that are not listed are the bread recipes. Hopefully we can add these in time.

Grapey Bees

Grapey Bees

In other news on the farm, our summer CSA program is winding down with only two weeks remaining. It seems like the season has flown by. We are excited that our melons are finally ripening adding a sweet treat to the last couple of boxes. This week was especially nice since we were able to include some fancy table grapes as well. We didn’t have an abundant grape harvest, but it is the first year they have produced fruit and we had all but given up on having fresh grapes. We allowed them to remain on the vine until they were at their peak of sweet ripeness. We found that this was a challenge since the bees like them just as much as we do. We probably lost about half of our small crop to these buzzy little guys.

Angela spent about 6 months here at Battle Creek Gardens

Angela spent about 6 months here at Battle Creek Gardens

Angela, one of our summer interns left on Monday. It was a sad parting since she has been with us for many, many months. She is so full of life and energy and we will miss her enthusiasm for all things healthy, foody and full of love! We wish her the best as she heads for Texas and then a trip up the West Coast. Hopefully  she can make her way back out to the farm in November for a visit. THANK YOU Angela for your hard work and dedication!

Sign-up for Your Fall Winter CSA Share

Last but not least, we want you all to know that we are offering a fall/winter CSA share again this year. It will begin on October 7th, just as our summer CSA is ending. This program will run for an 8 week period and will cost $200. If you are a current Market-style member and you have a balance remaining, you will be able to continue spending that balance throughout the fall/winter CSA and at the Rapid City farmer’s market on Tuesdays. Please let us know if you are interested in signing up for a fall/winter CSA share!

Grapey Hadassah

Grapey Hadassah

Logo

Feast on the Farm Menu

basil pesto and heirloom tomato on fresh pumpernickel

mixed salad greens with shaved fennel, roasted golden beets and toasted walnut garlic dressing

cipollini onion soup with whole grain baguette and sunflower sour cream

lemony angel hair pasta with arugula

herbed polenta smothered in eggplant ratatouille

roasted delicata squash with apples and sage

 strawberry grape cobbler with vanilla bean coconut whipped cream

strawberry-basil lemonade

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Our First Farm Dinner!

We are happy to announce that we will be having our first farm dinner next month. Please see the flyer below and go to our website: http://www.battlecreekgardens.com to reserve your seat today!
Farm Dinner 9.15.13

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Where Does The Time Go??

Cosmonaut Volkov Heirloom Tomatoes...Delicious!

Cosmonaut Volkov Heirloom Tomatoes…Delicious!

I just took a look at my calendar and it says July 21st! I find myself asking “how is it almost the end of July already?” With all of the Busy-ness on the farm during the summer it is easy to just let the days slip on by seemingly unnoticed. As we prepare for our 5th CSA delivery tomorrow I have to take a minute to take it all in, to appreciate the beauty of my surroundings, our harvest and the blessing of having the opportunity to do what I truly love. Don’t let these summer days get away from you like they have me!

Matt Showing Off a Hailstone

Matt Showing Off a Hailstone

We have been working hard on the farm. Battling constantly with keeping things watered and controlling the ever persistent weed pressure. There are never enough hours in the day. Most days the farm crew is out in the field by 5:30 or 6 and we finish most days around 8. We like to take a nice long lunch break in the heat of the day if it is really hot out, but for the most part it is work, work, work. We appreciate such dedicated interns and volunteers!

We had some hail a couple of weeks ago that was the largest hail I have ever seen! The power of water is almost inconceivable in such a capacity. The hail damaged many of our field crops such as cucumbers, zucchini and leafy greens. Overall we felt blessed that it didn’t wipe them out completely!

Sungold Tomatoes Ready For Sale

Sungold Tomatoes Ready For Sale

Last week was our first week attending the Black Hills Farmer’s Market in Rapid city on Tuesday. It was such fun! We plan to be there on Tuesdays for now, hopefully going on Thursdays when we are able. Come and see us! The market is open from 9-3.

 

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Just an Update

Greenhouse cucumbers

Greenhouse cucumbers

Hello all, sorry about the long delay in getting into touch with you.  This spring has been very busy and challenging for us.   Being our first season here on our own there are many things that we are learning.  We started the year with big hopes of having really early crops that we could get out.  As you all know the weather has been cooler than usual.  The rain has been a big blessing and greened everything up but the cooler weather and the cloud cover has not helped speed the growing process.  Other than the weather we are very excited about all the progress that has been happening on the farm.

Starthouse Bursting with Starts

Starthouse Bursting with Starts

With our new start house we have been able to start a lot more plants this year than in previous years.  Just today we transplanted around 2000 tomato plants of varying varieties into the field.  We also planted 2000 feet of melons with more to plant.  I could go on and on about what we are planting but needles to say we are putting a lot of food into the ground each day.  A couple of weeks ago we expanded our strawberry patch from 5 beds to around 17.  Last week we also grew our raspberry rows from 400 feet to around 1600 feet.  We have also put in a new irrigation system in the past couple of weeks that is saving us a ton of time already.  We have been working hard to put into place many changes that will help save time and increase efficiency throughout the season. Our ultimate goal is to be able to focus more on getting food out of the ground and to you- the customer.

Setting up Irrigation Lines

Setting up Irrigation Lines

Thank you all for supporting us and cheering us on.  Growing food is not the easiest endeavor to tackle and just when you think you have it figured out you realize you’re not even close.  One thing that makes our profession so enjoyable is having all of you guys out there begging for our food.  It brings daily encouragement.

As for the CSA we are hoping to start it soon.  Things are beginning to grow better now but it is always hard to tell exactly when we will start.  We had been hoping to be rolling by now, but all we can do is work with what we have.  Please stay tuned for any info that we send out.  We will try and give you as much notice as possible.  Once again thank you.

Blessings!  The Farm Crew

Transplanting Tomatoes

Transplanting Tomatoes

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