Monday, August 3, 2015

Feeding the Workers

If you read the title, you might be tempted to believe that we will be talking about the lunches our workers receive when they come to the farm.  While these are usually quite good - at least we haven't heard many complaints about the food - we're actually referring to the pollinators on our farm.

We take keeping our workers fed (human or otherwise) seriously at the Genuine Faux Farm.  So, we thought we might share a few things that we hope keep the bees (whether they are honey bees or not) happy.

Clover is Our Friend

I was absolutely dismayed to overhear someone proudly state to another person that they had NEVER had clover "problems" in their yard.  At first, I was a bit indignant that they would consider clover to be a problem.  But, then, I was a bit sad for them.  This means they have probably never looked for a four-leaf clover, or dodged a bee when they were walking barefoot in the clover, or gotten a whiff of the lightly sweet smell clover emits during one of those beautiful mid-July evenings where the wind is very light and the air feels soft.

One of our lawn areas this July - with lots of white clover blooming
I realize we may go further over into the spectrum than most people about clover, but it really wasn't that long ago that clover was ROUTINELY mixed with grass seed for lawns.  Clover grabs nitrogen from the air and fixes it into the soil.  This nitrogen can be used by the other plants in the area (such as grass).  Sadly, we have this perverse fascination with having a thick monoculture of one type of grass in our lawns.  And, since it IS a monoculture, we are forced to buy weed/feed products to keep the monoculture looking good.  But, I didn't start this blog to rant about that.

I'd rather talk about this
Instead, I wanted to talk about what we do at the farm to help our pollinators.  We have taken to trying to mow our lawn areas in parts.  We watch where the clover is blooming and leave it alone until it is past peak.  We want pollinators to stay on our property and to have a good variety of food sources.  So, we encourage clover growth as a part of the program.  We also try to mow clover patches during times of the day when pollinators are less active.

Wildflowers Making a Comeback
Purple coneflower and other wildflowers
Our wildflowers took a hit when we were sprayed a few years ago.  Less of their seed was pollinated, which resulted in a drop in wildflower population.  While they are not as dense as they once were, we are happy to see a decent variety on the farm.  In particular, we like the pollinator presence we are seeing in the purple coneflowers so far this season.
Queen of the Prairie is a favorite on the farm
Queen of the Prairie appears to like our farm and we're trying to find the time and energy to move clumps of it to other locations around the farmstead.  We have two patches at present and we'd be happy to have more.  They do spread a bit, so might not be the best for someone who wants a fully controlled garden.  But, for wildflower areas, they are great.  And, the pollinators like them.

Letting the Arugula Go
We will occasionally let a crop go to flower (like arugula) after it bolts just to provide more habitat for our pollinators.  I suppose you could argue that you are distracting pollinators from the plants you want them to pollinate, but I think you would be wrong about that.  Instead, I prefer to think that I am providing a smorgasbord of tastes for our pollinating workers that will prevent them from thinking they even have to leave the farm.  There is little chance that we have come even remotely close to capacity for the number of pollinators we can support, so I would rather err on the side of providing too much opportunity than not enough.

The bee activity in the arugula was strong this June/July
I suppose one good argument against doing this might be the number of volunteer arugula plants we might get in the area.  But, I think I can live with that.  The only real issues?  The rows were a little close so the arugula impacted some of the nearby crops, the tall plants provided some cover for deer (which then ate much of our new chard) and it takes a bit more labor to clear the plant matter once we decide the plants have finished their job blooming and feeding our pollinators.

Cover Crops as Pollinator Attractors
A newer picture is definitely in order for this.  But, I'll go with what I have here.  The Southwest field holds our melon patch this season.  We plant zinnia, borage, calendula and bee's friend as flowers in rows to keep the melon varieties apart from each other as they vine.  this season, we had a couple areas in this field that we felt were a bit rough, so we cover cropped those areas.  The middle area you see below is buckwheat.
Lots of ways to feed the workers.
Buckwheat is a favorite of bees (especially honey bees) and it really attracts them.  We think we have it timed so that these will bloom at the same time our melon vines will also have alot of flowers.  The hope is that we will help amend the soil AND provide attraction to pollinator workers for our melons.  We have noticed alot of activity on the vines already with the zinnias, borage and calendula blooming. 

Trying to Be Consistent
Every year has its own challenges.  One of our perpetual issues is finding enough time to make our farm pollinator friendly.  Planting annual flowers is nice, but it sometimes feels like it is just another crop to plant, weed, water and maintain.  And, if you're desperately trying to get your food crop in as it is, it can be hard to put in the crop for the pollinators.  Sometimes, it would be nice to mow the lawn and not think so hard about what areas we are NOT going to mow this time.

But then, I get a whiff of the clover on an evening after I've been sweating through shirts in the field.  Or, I see a monarch floating by after it visited some milkweed we left to grow in a corner of one field.  Or, perhaps I stop and smile back at the zinnias (aren't they always smiling when they are blooming?).  Yup, I think we can keep doing this.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Culinary Corner: CSA Members Speak Out

This week, we are featuring some suggestions made to us by our CSA farm share owners!  As a community, we can be a great resource to each other.  If you have additional thoughts that you would like us to share, please let us know!  Maybe even leave a comment below.

Using Napa Cabbage
We realize that you have already received one or two Napa cabbage in your shares and this might feel like we're closing the barn door after the horse has escaped.  But, we will also be growing a Fall succession of Napa cabbage.  Also, we understand that some of you still have that pesky little Napa cabbage still in your refrigerator!  Yes, YOU!  Caught you we did!  Well, here is an option for the use of that head of napa cabbage.  Personally, we've been using our Napa cabbage in stir fries and soups during our lunches.  Others have found the mild taste appealing and they have used them raw in salads.

The following was submitted to us by Soh Meacham.  Soh, gave us this link to The Kitchn- and we have copied the recipe here.  We recommend that you take the link and read the additional text and view the pictures there if you have any question about what you are doing.


How to Make Cabbage Kimchi


Makes 1 quart

What You Need

Ingredients
1 (2-pound) head napa cabbage
1/4 cup sea salt or kosher salt (see Recipe Notes)
Water (see Recipe Notes)
1 tablespoon grated garlic (about 5-6 cloves)
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon sugar
2-3 tablespoons seafood flavor or water (optional, see Recipe Notes)
1-5 tablespoons Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru)
8 ounces Korean radish or daikon, peeled and cut into matchsticks
4 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
Equipment
Cutting board and knife
Large bowl
Gloves (optional but highly recommended)
Plate and something to weigh the kimchi down, like a jar or can of beans
Colander
Small bowl
Clean 1-quart jar with canning lid or plastic lid
Bowl or plate to place under jar during fermentation

Instructions

  1. Cut the cabbage. Cut the cabbage lengthwise into quarters and remove the cores. Cut each quarter crosswise into 2-inch-wide strips.
  2. Salt the cabbage. Place the cabbage and salt in a large bowl. Using your hands (gloves optional), massage the salt into the cabbage until it starts to soften a bit, then add water to cover the cabbage. Put a plate on top and weigh it down with something heavy, like a jar or can of beans. Let stand for 1-2 hours.
  3. Rinse and drain the cabbage. Rinse the cabbage under cold water 3 times and drain in a colander for 15-20 minutes. Rinse and dry the bowl you used for salting, and set it aside to use in step 5.
  4. Make the paste. Meanwhile, combine the garlic, ginger, sugar, and seafood flavor (or 3 tablespoons water) in a small bowl and mix to form a smooth paste. Mix in the gochugaru, using 1 tablespoon for mild and up to 5 tablespoons for spicy (I like about 3 1/2 tablespoons).
  5. Combine the vegetables and paste. Gently squeeze any remaining water from the cabbage and return it to the bowl along with the radish, scallions, and seasoning paste.
  6. Mix thoroughly. Using your hands, gently work the paste into the vegetables until they are thoroughly coated. The gloves are optional here but highly recommended to protect your hands from stings, stains, and smells!
  7. Pack the kimchi into the jar. Pack the kimchi into the jar, pressing down on it until the brine rises to cover the vegetables. Leave at least 1-inch of headspace. Seal the jar with te lid.
  8. Let it ferment. Let the jar stand at room temperature for 1-5 days. You may see bubbles inside the jar and brine may seep out of the lid; place a bowl or plate under the jar to help catch any overflow.
  9. Check it daily and refrigerate when ready. Check the kimchi once a day, pressing down on the vegetables with a clean finger or spoon to keep them submerged under the brine. (This also releases gases produced during fermentation.) Taste a little at this point, too! When the kimchi tastes ripe enough for your liking, transfer the jar to the refrigerator. You may eat it right away, but it's best after another week or two.

Recipe Notes

  • Salt: Use salt that is free of iodine and/or anti-caking agents, which can inhibit fermentation.
  • Water: Chlorinated water can inhibit fermentation, so use spring, distilled, or filtered water if you can.
  • Seafood flavor and vegetarian alternatives: Seafood gives kimchi an umami flavor. Different regions and families may use fish sauce, salted shrimp paste, oysters, and other seafood. Use about 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, salted shrimp paste, or a combination of the two. For vegetarian kimchi, I like using 3/4 teaspoon kelp powder mixed with 3 tablespoons water, or simply 3 tablespoons of water.
Kale and Swiss Chard
Here is another one that can give some people grief, while others can't get enough of kale (or chard).  This suggestion comes from Marianne Beck and is located on the All Recipes website.

Rainbow chard at the farm.
Rather than copy this one down, we suggest you take the link.  Instead, we include Marianne's comments regarding this recipe:

"I made this with just one bunch of swiss chard and no kale, and I used just one large chicken breast that I poached rather than grilling it.  I reduced the dressing ingredients by half and used lemon juice instead of vinegar,  but left the oregano, raisins, and walnuts as called for in the recipe.  I didn't have quite as much feta as called for, but it was great with what I had on hand.  This is definitely a keeper!"

Friday, July 31, 2015

Feast for the Eyes

We love our iris and we love our day lilies.  This year was a poor iris year, but it is shaping up to be a great day lily year.  We'd like to share some of what we enjoy seeing every day at our farm.  No words beyond this point are necessary.











Monday, July 27, 2015

Three Years - Organic Again

This post will go live at 6:50PM on July 27, commemorating an event that occurred exactly three years ago.  Rather than take you through the history of that spray event here, we will refer you to the overspray topic on this blog that you can view by taking this link.

We are currently working through our eleventh season of growing produce and raising poultry on our small diversified farm we have dubbed the Genuine Faux Farm. The farm can be challenging and rewarding - often at exactly the same moment in time.  Attempting to grow/raise as many things we do on the scale we have chosen is not a simple task and we have to deal with natural events that may limit production.  As a result, it is that much more devastating to us that a human element jumped into the fray in 2012 and destroyed many of our crops and much of our enthusiasm for the rest of the 2012 season - and maybe even a significant part of our enjoyment and energy for 2013 and 2014.

We have been approaching this anniversary with equal parts anticipation and trepidation.  We want to celebrate moving forward, but we do so knowing, all the while, that spray season is upon us.  Will those around us be responsible with their chemical applications?  Is that airplane I hear heading our way?  And for what purpose?  Which way is the wind blowing?   What's that I smell now?  Should we leave the farm together to deliver veg?  What happens if someone sprays while we are gone? 

So, we approach today with guarded optimism.  And, as is often the case - we look for inspiration that encourages us to see the positive. 

Seeds help us to renew our optimism that small things can lead to big rewards.
Flowers remind our senses to enjoy beauty in all of its forms.
People who give of themselves remind us that we are not alone.
Nature reminds us that endings (and beginnings) are worthy of recognition
Our work reminds us that not every job we do leaves a mark as much as moving a building, but that doesn't make it any less important that we do it.
Sandman reminds us that sleep is necessary to be effective during our waking hours
And harvests of prior years give us a view of what may yet be as this year progresses.
A big thank you to everyone who bothers to read what we write, eat what we grow and support what we do.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Culinary Corner: Salad Dressings

Culinary Corner continues with an entry giving us some options for salad dressings.  We can relate to Elizabeth's commentary about salads.  Rob, in particular, has never appreciated iceberg lettuce and it was not until we started growing a number of heirloom lettuces that we discovered some lettuces that match his tastes.   Good quality greens are a necessary start - which we can provide for you.  The next step?  Try some of these dressings and explore how good a salad can be! Elizabeth Hinds continues her guest appearances on our blog with this installment - enjoy. 

Bunte Forellenschus Lettuce


 I would like to begin by mentioning that I am a very recent salad convert. The tasteless iceberg salads I grew up with never interested me, and the toppings less so. The only thing I did enjoy was the dressing, because it made up for everything the salad lacked. I experienced a revelation last year in the form of a homemade buttermilk dressing that changed everything I thought I knew about salads. It was called a baby gem salad and it was composed of baby romaine lettuce, candied pecans, fresh apple slices, blue cheese crumbles, and the most flavorful dressing I had ever tasted. While the individual ingredients of the salad were good on their own, it was the surprising combination that drew me in and encouraged me to start branching out in the salad department. The buttermilk dressing in particular was a game changer. It is similar to a ranch dressing, but brighter and fresher than anything you can find in a bottle. This creamy, tangy dressing is smooth and delicious with just about any salad addition you can think of.

 Buttermilk Dressing 
  • 1 cup buttermilk 
  • ½ cup mayo 
  • ½ cup sour cream 
  • ½ tsp salt
Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl to combine. Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Candied Pecans

Just in case you want to try this life-changing salad for yourself! This recipe is really easy to whip up in about 15 minutes and is great in the salad, as an addition to your morning cereal, or even an ice cream topping!

1 cup pecan pieces
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Pre-heat the oven to 350. Bring all ingredients to a boil in a small pot and cook for 5 minutes.Drain off the sugar syrup and spread the pecans in a single layer on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 5-7 minutes, tossing them with a heat-proof spatula every so often, until the pecan are toasted and glossy, but not too dark. They will be a little sticky right out of the oven, but will get crunchy as they cool.

NOTE: These can burn very quickly, so you’ll want to stay nearby while they’re in the oven. Let cool completely in the pan before breaking up any clumps that form from stirring. 

Vinaigrette

With the introduction of other artisan lettuces, I quickly expanded my salad eating repertoire with a host of vinaigrettes which were surprisingly easy to make with a little help from a mason jar. Generally, I don’t hold to any recipe for making vinaigrettes, but instead use a basic ratio and add goodies from there. The basic ratio for a vinaigrette is 1 part vinegar to 3 part oil. If you are making a citrus based dressing, use 1 part juice to four parts oil.
Red Russian kale is a decent option for salads

If you have this ratio down, you can add anything you want from herbs to jams to flavor your dressing. As you might expect, mixing oil and water together doesn’t stay together very long. Keeping your dressing in a mason jar makes it really easy to give it a good shake just before you pour, but if you want your mix to have a little more staying power, a hint of mustard is the secret ingredient. Mustard seeds contain a natural emulsifier that allows the oil and vinegar to stay blended long after mixing. It’s not a permanent fix, but it will take several hours to separate rather than the few seconds in typical oil and vinegar mix. Usually the amount of mustard added is so little (only a half teaspoon per pint of dressing) that it doesn’t affect the taste of the dressing too much. That being said, one of my favorite vinaigrettes actually puts whole-grain mustard front and center.

Mustard Vinaigrette
Even though there is more mustard in this recipe than I would normally add to hold a vinaigrette together, the mustard flavor isn’t overpowering or even very spicy. The apple cider vinegar gives this dressing a lovely delicate flavor, while the whole grain mustard gives it a pretty speckled look. The little mustard seeds also give this dressing a nice texture and pop a little as you chew. Because the ingredients are mostly vinegar, salt and oil, this dressing will keep for a very long time in the fridge. The dressing will begin to separate after a couple of days of sitting, but is great at holding its own at cookouts and other large gatherings where it will need to sit on a table for a couple of hours.
  • 1 tsp whole grain mustard 
  • ½ tsp yellow or Dijon mustard 
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar 
  • 3 cups canola oil 
  • 1 tsp salt 
    Amish Deer Tongue lettuce for a spinach like texture
Whisk together the mustard, vinegar and salt together in a large bowl. Add the oil a cup at a time, whisking well between additions. Split the vinaigrette between to pint-sized mason jars. Will keep for months in the fridge.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Not Too Much of a Good Thing (2015)

'Tis the season of lots of produce in the CSA shares!  'Tis also the time of year when your farmers' hum a happy tune as they pick the bounty, looking forward to the moment that you come and pick up your share.
Happy plants = happy farmers which should = happy CSA members!
It is difficult for us to remember that the extra full bags, buckets and boxes may not represent the same thing to you (as farm share holders) as they do to us (as the growers of your food).  What you are seeing in shares now are a part of what we've been working diligently for all season long.  Finally we're giving you a bonus return for your investment in our farm. 

We are also getting to see the payback for the effort we put into nursing those tiny plants along for weeks and months prior to getting any benefit out of them.  It is no wonder that we, as your farmers, are happy to give you more produce than usual at this time of year.  We want you to celebrate with us!

We are reminded, however, that most share holders can only get through so much produce in a given week.  We recognize that extra produce received isn't always viewed as a 'bonus.'  Instead, it might be an additional stress during a busy time as you ask yourself, "How do I deal with all of this produce?"  But, we don't want you to feel this way.  We'd like you to celebrate Summer and the strong harvest portion of the growing season with us.  So, here are some tips that we use and that other share holders have used with success.
1. Produce Lasts Longer Than You Think!
We realize that many people think everything received in one week must be consumed rapidly, or it will go bad.  But, if you treat your produce well, it can last much longer than you think.  For example, we put lettuce in a plastic bag with a paper towel inside.  The paper towel regulates moisture.  If you place this bag in the crisper, you should have good lettuce for a couple of weeks.  At worst, you will have a few bad leaves that you should pull off prior to use.

One of the things we do at the farm is hydro-cool some of our produce, which helps them to last longer.  We actually brought a large bag of spinach with us on a trip this Winter and were able to eat it for several days.  We kept it in a bag that we wrapped in a hotel towel with ice from the ice machine.  We refreshed the ice periodically and the spinach was still good to go on the last day of the trip.

Zucchini season only last through about 2 months of a 12 month year - enjoy them now.
2. Cook a BIG stir fry now and reap the rewards of soup in January!
There are only two of us in our household, but we have successfully consumed a large share (plus some) with reasonable success.  You might be tempted to say, " Hey! You're the farmers, it's easy for you to deal with all of this produce." Let me remind you that we often don't get around to eating our evening meal until 9pm this time of year.  Lunches are often affairs with 2 to 5 additional people at the table (workers) and breakfasts are usually snarfed on the go as we try to do chores and prepare for workers to arrive.  We don't get to eat or process the amount of veg WE want to either.  So - take some of these hints for busy people who have little time and lots of produce to use.

Pok choi may seem a little strange at first, but it isn't hard to use.

When we have a great deal of things like zucchini, summer squash, onion, pok choi, kale, chard, eggplant and peppers, we find ourselves making a GIANT stir fry with some or all of these items.  The trick is to not expect to eat anything more than a normal serving as a part of that meal.  The rest goes into quality freezer bags.  They get a label that says "soup starter" and they are put into our freezer.  When January comes around and fresh produce is no where to be found, use these bags to start a fabulous soup or stew that can go in whatever direction you prefer.  These vegetables could be added to a creamy base, a tomato base or... well, use your imagination.  It works great and doesn't take much more time beyond what you would normally use to make dinner with fresh vegetables.

3. Vegetables for Breakfast are OK
Tammy and I will admit that we do not associate the use of vegetables with breakfast.  Fruit, yes.  Veg, no.  It's a social norm that should not stop us from using vegetables in our breakfasts.  We have the benefit of farm fresh eggs and farm fresh vegetables - which makes it a good time to do a frittata!

Veggie Frittata
Easy vegetable dish for breakfast or dinner. Experiment with additional vegetables, spices or meats. This is REALLY GOOD!
Ingredients:
  • 1 summer squash or zucchini, sliced
  •       (or about 1 cup of any sauteed vegetable)
  • 1 sm onion, chopped
  • ½ c sliced mushrooms
  • 2 cloves diced garlic
  • 1-2 sweet peppers, chopped (or a hot pepper if you want spicy)
  • 1-2 T butter or olive oil
  • 1 c chopped kale - or chard - or pok choy
  • 1/8 c. chopped basil (if you like)
  • 4 lrg eggs
  • 1/3 c shredded cheese
Directions:
Sautee vegetables in skillet with oil until tender (use 2-3 T water to help steam veggies). Add chopped basil and stir. Don’t over cook vegetables. Make sure some oil remains in skillet so eggs won’t stick.
Whip eggs until fluffy. Add shredded cheese. Pour into skillet, cover and cook approximately 5 minutes over medium heat or until eggs fluffy and cooked through.

Kale in frittatas, stir fries and soups.  Yep, that'll work.
Remember - you don't have to follow this recipe exactly.  In fact, Tammy will tell you that she just goes with the flow.  No two frittatas are alike at GFF!  We have successfully used chard, pok choi, spinach, kale and chinese cabbage instead of basil.  We've added sweet potatoes, potatoes and eggplant as well.  The biggest trick seems to be finding the right amount of cooking time for each item so that the texture is the way you want it. 

4. Freezing some of your veg during peak season is not hard
There is a myth that if you are going to process food for long-term storage that it is requires you to invest great amounts of time and effort into it.  This is not a 'go big or go home' proposition.  You can put a surprising amount of food up for later use in small increments.

For example, if two people can only eat a half pound of green beans and you have a full pound of green beans, cook up the half pound to eat.  Then, freeze the other half pound.

  1. put the half pound of green beans into 1-2 inches of boiling water (do not fully immerse them) for 4 minutes
  2. remove the beans immediately and get them into ICE COLD water to stop the cooking (the beans are now 'blanched').
  3. once cold, put the beans into a freezer bag.
  4. Fill the bag with cold water to remove the air pockets.
  5. leave the water in and seal the bag.
  6. place the bag in the freezer.

When you want beans in February, take the bag out, open it up and put the whole block of frozen beans into the pot and cook them as you would normally.  While they aren't quite as good as they were fresh out of the garden, they certainly do well enough!

You can use a similar process for broccoli, cauliflower and peas (for example).
Broccoli will be appearing soon!
Some veg you can simply cut up and freeze without blanching (peppers and basil come to mind).
Do you have some suggestions for others that you would like to share?  Let us know.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

July Farm Report

It is time for a farm report because we take communication with those who receive our produce seriously!  And, because Rob wanted to SIT DOWN for a little while.  In the interest of full disclosure, this report was written on July 17 and is scheduled to post on July 22 - so some things might have changed.  No, never mind.  Things WILL have changed.  It's just the way it is.  We'll all just have to muddle on despite the possible inaccuracies that might follow.

This month's report is going to be a POSITIVE REPORT.  No negative reports in this one because we want to be positive today!  If you want the negatives, tell me and I'll add them in another post.

Quackers
Many of you might recall that we over-wintered some ducks to see if they would raise their own ducklings.  As soon as we got them outside, they stopped laying.  We then threatened them with a trip to the park.  Now, we have five nests of eggs (one for each hen) in the pasture.  The eggs, if they are viable, should be hatching soon.  If this works, we may be able to reduce our overhead costs on duck production.  Plus, it's just kind of cool to have ducklings being hatched and raised naturally on the farm.

Knocking on Wood
We don't like to count ducklings before they hatch and we don't like to set ourselves up to be hugely disappointed if a crop fails after a promising start.  But, we do have enough experience at this point to recognize conditions that might lead to some record yields for our farm for particular crops.  For example, you may have already heard about our excellent snow pea crop.  To be perfectly honest, our goal for snow peas is approximately 150 pounds and our record was 160 pounds.  The "if everything goes well" goal was 300 pounds and I set it AFTER I recognized we were heading for a good year on these.  Now, we're heading for 400 pounds. 

Other crops that we have a good feeling about that might lead to some record yields include swiss chard, potatoes, melons, carrots, cauliflower and onions.  The great thing about this list is the diversity in vegetable types here. 

It's a new Chard!
The big difference for the swiss chard crop this year has to be the overall quality and size of the leaves.  Part of the difference has been the addition of two more varieties to the growing list.  Fordhook can really put out some big leaves!  The weather has been cooler, but not horribly so, apparently making it a good environment for these plants.  And, the we hit the timing pretty well. 

Rainbow Chard - colorful AND tasty
Root for Us!
Potatoes actually have nice looking flowers
The potatoes have been looking good all season long.  It started with workable fields and reasonable four inch soil temps in late April and early May.  Add in some better equipment and a little more experience and you've got a good environment for success to begin with.  Potatoes are pretty hard to say much about because you never know until you actually DIG them.  But, the health and growth pattern of this year's plants equal or exceed all of our previous years of production.  I'm really getting anxious to have a big batch of German Butterball potatoes!  If we break this yield record, it will be saying something - but it is possible.


No Melon Collies!
A Minnesota Midget melon hiding in the vines.
Sorry, we do not have any dogs on the farm.  As to why that is - that's a story for another time.  But, we do have melons growing in the Southwest field, in the old high tunnel, in the new high tunnel AND some watermelons in the East fields.  Most of the varieties are making a serious mat of vines to cover the ground right now.  Lots of flowers on the vines and we're seeing more and more pollinators on them.  We are still concerned that the pollinator numbers are lower than we think they should be.  But, we're doing what we can to address the issue. 

We do have to be honest and tell you that the yield record for melons is a ...pardon the pun... low hanging fruit.  Last year we were just under 400 melons to set our record.  And, we know we should be hitting numbers well in excess of that.

We Don't Carrot All
St Valery carrots from 2013.
Actually, we do care!  We care a lot!  And, we could have alot of carrots! We harvested over 1000 pounds of carrots in 2012 and these carrots actually look better than those did.  A couple of samples show that the root development is progressing well.  And, we even put some in the old high tunnel - and they are doing well.  Rob is being patient with them, but harvest time approaches.


Call a Flower?
We've never really pushed hard at cauliflower, but we're giving them a bit of a push this season.  We wanted to get the broccoli crops into a better position first.  Then, we wanted to see how romanesco worked.  So, this year, we hope the cauliflower joins them.  Like the melons, breaking prior records should not be difficult because we've simply increased production.  If plants finish off even reasonably well, we should smash prior records.  The key was finding out approximately where the edge for Fall producing cauliflower should be for our season.  We're starting those plants now and expect they'll be ready to harvest in October.  Some of the Spring crop already have dime sized heads forming!

Snow Crown cauliflower
Joining the Onion Union
Last season saw us finally put all of the pieces together for onion production on our farm.  So far, we are showing that 2014 was not a fluke in this respect.  And, we've got 250 feet MORE onions in good shape than we did last year.  Add to it the fact that these went in earlier by about three weeks and you have a great chance to make last year's record crop look a little silly.  What would have happened in that fifth row of onions would have made it?  Hmmmm.
That's alot of onions!

Celebrating with Caution
On July 27 of 2012, we experienced an event that has become even more prevalent over the past few years around the state.  Pesticide/fungicide spraying season is about to start in our area and we are, understandably, very nervous about it.  But, assuming there isn't a repeat of three years ago - the West part of our farm will be re-certified as organic in five days from the day this post goes live.

All of our crops in the East are certified organic, and have been since the spray event because they were not affected.  However, the old high tunnel and southwest fields will not have certification until the 27th.  We will also have the option to begin certifying poultry again because pastures will be eligible again. 

This anniversary means a great deal to us and we hope you can help us to celebrate.





Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Addressing Spray Season

Andy Dunham of Grinnell Heritage Farm and Rob Faux of Genuine Faux Farm helped to compose this letter with Linda Wells of the Pesticide Action Network.  We sent this, along with a cover letter to every known CSA in the state of Iowa in hopes that they would also share this with their CSA members.  If you think that this is not an issue, consider this - we have already been called by FOUR different growers in the Cedar Valley area who have experienced spray drift and misapplication issues this year.  In two cases, crops were damaged by herbicides and are a complete loss.  In another, a person was hit with spray and had to deal with some physical issues.  Please consider following up on this.

Dear CSA members and other people interested in the Genuine Faux Farm,

I would like to share with you an issue that is very important to our farm.  Growing healthy food for our community isn't always easy when we are surrounded by other farms that regularly apply agricultural chemicals – including herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides - many of which travel through air and water. Pesticide drift is often a worry for our farm, and this year we are especially nervous about drift, given an estimated increase in the use of the herbicide 2-4, D. The Iowa Farmers Union with other supporting organizations has introduced very important legislation that would help prevent pesticide drift in our state.

Before the next session (Jan 2016), we have to gain additional support for  legislation, which is why we need you to talk to your local senator and representative on the need for tighter pesticide drift protections. Please call your local legislator and ask him/her to sponsor and support the pesticide drift bills being re-drafted this summer.
      To find your legislator's contact information & for a sample call script visit: http://www.panna.org/issues/related-actions/tell-iowa-policymakers-you-care-about-drift
      To sign up to receive future updates about the Iowa Pesticide Drift Campaign, go to http://eepurl.com/blvuHX
      For more information about pesticide drift in Iowa visit:  http://www.panna.org/current-campaigns/iowa

Thank you for your support of continued local healthy food in Iowa.  We appreciate your commitment to our farm and sustainable agriculture.

Sincerely,
Rob and Tammy Faux



SAMPLE CALL SCRIPT:

Hi/Dear Representative/Senator _________,
My name is _____________ and I am a constituent from your district. I am a <> and I support the growth of local foods in Iowa. I would like to ask you to support upcoming pesticide drift legislation that the Iowa Farmers Union is working on. I am concerned with the increase of pesticide drift in Iowa because <
Please protect Iowa rural health and our farmers' ability to farm local foods by supporting 2016 legislation that will prevent illegal pesticide drift. Thank you.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Vine-ally! Minding Your Peas and Cukes

Our blog post about peas was actually fairly popular.  We gauge such things by the volume of the collective groaning heard from those who are reading it.  If you missed it, you should go read it first to get a flavor of what might actually happen here.

I was out weeding between the carrots and peas over the weekend and had one of those moments that occurs every so often in the country where there is very little noise.  I guess you could say I had some peas and quiet.  I also noted that this must be a very good year for peas since there are some vining into adjacent bell peppers.  If those vines choke out the peppers but result in top quality peas, you might say we won a

No Bell Peas Prize

The Blizzard peas STILL do not endorse Rob's puns
In order to appease you (see what I did there?  You did... ups, sorry), we will actually provide you with some interesting information. After all, I've been told I'm full of it.

For example, we do not actually grow peas and peppers in the same area, so happily, we should not have pea vines choking out our peppers.  Needless to say, the trellising helps contain the pea vines somewhat.  But, since the peas grow vertical, they tend to have a shade zone.  Peppers like their sun, so a shade zone might not be helpful to our bell peppers.  As a result, we interplant bush beans with peppers and we are trying some clover as well.

I was just thinking.  Most people seem to like baby animals.  How about 'baby' plants?  Would you find young pea plants to be...

A pea ling?
Which reminds me!  It is time to give a harvest update to those who are keeping score at home.  In our last post, we mentioned that we were zeroing in on the record (160 pounds) for a season and had harvested 123 pounds at that point.  As of this writing, we have blown past the record and are even lapping our "pie in the sky" goal (300 pounds) for a year's production. 

Variety     Lbs Harvested
Blizzard     84.4
Golden Sweet     94.4
Mammoth Melting     81.3
Oregon Sugar Pod II     116.8
TOTAL Production     376.9

Since this is supposed to be a post about peas AND cukes, we'd like you to know that the cukes...

Look Just Vine to Us!


Lovely coverage and texture.. soon everyone will decorate with them!
They've only just started producing, but the vines are really covering ground.  The season for cucumber yoga has begun!  We do not trellis our cucumbers, which means Rob had to do a fair amount of contorting to pick cucumbers and not destroy vines or fruit in the process.  In short, it can be a fair amount of exercise. 

And, in case you didn't know, peas can get you exercise as well.  We are considering marketing a new hot drink that combines peas and coffee.  You exercise while drinking it (maybe doing cucumber yoga?).  I think we'll call it...

Pea Lattes!

You're welcome.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Culinary Corner: Working with a GFF Whole Chicken

We continue our series of Culinary Corner blog posts by Elizabeth Hinds with a useful tutorial for working with a whole chicken.  It is interesting to read Elizabeth's approach and compare it to our own.  Typically, Tammy will put the whole bird into a crock pot and then pull the meat off the bones after it is cooked.  We have gotten as many as 10 meals out of one bird, if you count soup from the chicken stock we make.

Regardless of what you adopt for your approach, it is clear that a whole bird is not all that difficult to handle - and you can get several meals out of one bird.  For those who have interest, we do have more birds available from our Spring batch and the Summer batch will be ready in about 9 weeks. Please contact us.
 
As I unwrapped my bird from the Genuine Faux Farm, one thing was very clear: this was one strong bird. The legs and wings in particular were massive (I can only assume from chasing the other chickens around and running away from friendly farm hands bringing water).

Sometimes I like to roast chickens whole, but more often than not, I end up cutting it up into its component parts to get a whopping four meals for two people out of one bird. When you completely cut up a whole bird you’re left with a lot of parts:
  • Breast meat- good for broiling and grilling. 
  • Thighs- best in braises (think crockpot!) 
  • Wings-game night! 
  • Offals- You can soak the liver in milk for about an hour to get rid of the metallic taste before sautéing. 
  •  Bones- Stock. I often save bones in the freezer and make the stock as needed for sick days and cold winter nights. 

Trying to cut up a whole raw bird can be intimidating at first, but with clear instruction and a few tools, it’s actually quite easy and very rewarding. You need only four things: a plastic cutting board, the sharpest boning knife you can find, a baking tray to organize the parts as you cut them, and of course, a chicken.

Step 1: Remove the wishbone.
This can be a little tough with the GFF birds; in addition to strong muscles, these guys have strong connective tissue holding it all together. The wishbone does not HAVE to be removed, but if you don’t take it out before you start carving, its presence will block key access to parts of the breast meat.

To begin, feel around the neck and locate the wishbone with your fingers. Using a sharp boning knife, run the tip of the knife along the edge of the wishbone, then tease out the two long pieces with your fingers. 

Once you’ve exposed the length of the wishbone, use your knife to free the ends. Pull out the head of the wishbone with a firm tug.


Step 2: Remove the legs
Rather than starting right in on the breasts, it’s easiest to get the legs out of the way first. To remove the whole thigh, slice into the skin stretched across the leg and chest to expose the joints.

Once you’ve done this on both sides, take both legs firmly in both hands and pop the legs out of their sockets.





Before you can cut the legs clean off, you’ll need to release the meat attached to the tailbone.  There are a set of bones that run along either side of the tail; this is sometimes broken if tail feathers are tough to get out. To separate meat from bone, lay the knife flat against the bone as you slice in toward the tail. Repeat this cut on the other side to complete a V shape and leave the tail free.
 

Now we’re ready to take off the legs. Hold on to one of the legs and suspend the chicken so that the weight pulls the leg away from the body.




Cut in towards the body until you reach the backbone, then angle your knife so you’re cutting towards the tail and begin the careful and deliberate march back. The arrows in the picture above point to what’s known as the “oyster” of the chicken and it is very tender meat that you should try to cut out with the thigh. They bulge out on the back near the tail, and you should scoop around it with your knife as you move toward the tail.
 

At this point my camera died and we switched to the old iPhone.

Once you’ve cut around the oyster, continue the cut and navigate around the popped joint to cut the leg off completely.

Congratulations! You have your first piece free!

Repeat these steps on the other side to free the second leg.


Step 3: Remove the breasts with wings
Place the bird breast side up and run your finger along the spine of the breast bone. This is where you’ll make your first cut.



Starting at the neck and moving toward the tail, make one long clean cut along the spine of the breastbone. You’ll have likely cut to one side of the breastbone or the other, so whichever side is exposed is the first breast you’ll remove. Lay your knife perpendicular to the spine of the breast bone and slice along it to begin releasing the meat. 



Begin to cut away the breast by laying the blade of your knife flat against the breast plate and making long slices. Alternate slicing with the knife and using your fingertips to gently pull away meat and give you a better view of where you’re cutting, Angle your knife slightly toward the breastbone as you cut so no meat is left behind.

Once you’ve cut the meat away from the breast bone, it should only remain attached by the wing.


As you did with the thighs, pop the joint out of its socket to give yourself a clear view. Holding the bird up by the breast, cut through the exposed joint to separate the breast from the body.



This is what you’re left with!


Now that it’s off the body, the wing itself is very easy to remove. Just edge your knife up against the joint and slice it right off.




Now personally, I prefer to leave the skin on the breast for cooking. When you sear it in a pan, the skin acts as a protective barrier that moderates the heat and keeps it from getting too tough as it cooks, but it’s also an incredibly flavorful crispy treat. As for the wings, I save them up in the freezer until I have enough for a good sized appetizer. My favorite method for chicken wings is a good spice rub, then cook them low and slow in the crockpot.