I actually had more trouble coming up with the wins list over the loss list. It took me a moment in the screaming world of the Arctic Circle playground (the boys will leave me in peace for a few minutes here and I can block out the noise around me) to re-focus on those items that need repeated in 2017. At this time of year, I have had a couple weeks (and many rainy days this fall) to stare out the kitchen window at the little glimpse of garden I can see from the house. I have moved past reflection on 2016 and onto action for 2017. My mind is full of solutions and new ideas. Taking a few steps back to the end of September, I was able to see the accomplishments from 2016.
So here is the list of 2017 Wins!!!
The Cold Frame in Hazelton: This was amazing! I slept so soundly this spring not worried about the harsh spring winds blowing over the new steel framed cold frame. I have spent several hours just standing in the middle enjoying the warmth of it both this spring and recently this fall. I still have tomatoes ripening inside and Lucas has a small garden in one end where he has been munching green beans and snap peas since the beginning of October.
This isn’t an entirely selfish investment. We harvested 4 weeks of green beans out of the cold frame (2 early and 2 late). Given some circumstances in our main bean harvest, this saved us this year! I also harvested tomatoes at the same time as Bonnie…more on this in a minute. I have a whole list of thoughts on how to use this space even more efficiently next season.
Pickup Locations and Times: This year we added the pickup location in Twin Falls and reduced the days and times that pickups were available in Hazelton and Jerome. We debated this a lot! It was one of our best decisions we have made.We were able to serve even more CSA members while devoting less time to the pickup. That means less set hours for us and more flexibility in how we spend time in the garden and time with our families. One of our primary aims is to make this little business work around our families – they always take first priority. As our kids grow, we hope to grow our business in new ways but at our speed with our priorities in mind.
I have talked with other CSA owners and market producers who are stressed and frustrated about the time that their business takes them away from family and vacations. While we love the CSA, we control and limit our time investment in the business. One of our greatest strengths compared to other CSA’s is our partnership that gives us 2 locations, 2 minds and a fall back person when the kids are sick, a cousin gets married or an annual camping trip rolls around. There are moments of stress but not in same vein as I have heard from others in the business.
I understand that everyone has an optimum time/day/etc that will work best for pickup. We need 2 harvests split during the week to minimize waste and keep plants producing. The switch from Tuesday/Friday pickup days to Monday/Thursday was made for a couple reasons. It allowed us to plan family activities (camping) for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We also noticed that last year several members would miss the Friday pickup because of their weekend plans. The number of baskets missed by members this year was reduced because we moved the days back. Hopefully our day options do not discourage you from joining The Country Gardens. Always let us know your conflicts and we may be able to work around them.
Tomatoes! Tomatoes! Tomatoes!: This is personal. I was able to provide ALL of the tomatoes for the Hazelton pickup by myself AND my tomatoes came off at the same time as Bonnie’s.
I have been jealous of Bonnie’s tomato production since I have known her. She used to bring these amazing tomatoes into our office while mine were tiny green hard balls. My tomatoes were literally green with envy!
I did it! I have watched, read, experimented and finally had success. I changed up my compost routine in the spring, altered the watering schedule, carefully selected varieties and used the cold frame. Heirlooms and hybrids, red and yellow… The best thing was that I had success in and out of the cold frame. Each year gardening brings additional challenges so I am hoping that my new found success is not a 2016 fluke.
Drip Irrigation: Bonnie literally pulled me kicking and screaming into a new irrigation system. Doug was right there helping drag me. I didn’t want to fight new systems, filters, figuring out irrigation schedules, picking a system, designing the system. I finally jumped (was pushed) but did call Bonnie to whine about it several times the first couple weeks.
I was wrong and they were right. I don’t think I could garden without it again. It is pretty amazing. I could harvest a row while irrigating a foot away. I could irrigate to crisp greens the night before and still walk in the garden the next morning. Weeds didn’t take over the edges of the garden which you just couldn’t avoid watering with the sprinklers. I shut off water to onions to prevent rot. I could keep small areas wet for germination. The list goes on. The flexibility in how I plant and work in my garden took a lot of stress out of my life. No more planning around sprinkler schedules or wind forecasts.
Fruit: In our planning, fruit is on our list as “would be nice to haves” and “bonus if it works”. We have started working on improving existing trees on our homesteads and planting additional fruits. Apples, plums and pears (from my kind in-laws) all from local trees were in the baskets this year. It would be great if this becomes a trend and we are able to offer these fruits every year. Hoping to add cherries, apricots, peaches and nectarines to the list too!
So there is my list. The budget doesn’t include company bonuses. But, hopefully the wins are what will bring customers back and will encourage new ones to join.
Now that the list is complete…back to focusing on solutions and new ideas for 2017!