Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Variety Show - Costata Romanesco

Costata Romanesco
Costata Romanesco

Costata Romanesco is one of those varieties that we grow because the taste is truly outstanding.  Production, on the other hand will not help us fill CSA shares.  On the positive side, once vines begin to produce, they are sturdy and continue to produce for an extended period of time.  On the negative side, the vines sprawl more than most varieties of zucchini used by commercial growers.  In short, if you see one of these beauties in the tray for zucchini at a CSA distribution - pick it up and give it a try - but you'll want to check if it is Costata OR Cocazelle, which has its own taste!

Fruits often have a thinner center or will bulb on one end.  If the center thinning is pronounced, the fruit quality is often a bit lower, but still usable.  These can get quite sizable and maintain good taste quality.   Some will suggest that you should pick these small, but you better pay attention to catch them when they are small as they sneak up on you.

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Zucchini/Summer Squash Grilled
1 medium summer squash, cut into wedges (similar to potato wedges)
1 medium zucchini, cut into wedges
3 Tbsp olive oil
Salt, pepper, oregano, marjoram and/or thyme
Place vegetables in a 9x13 inch cake pan. Toss vegetable wedges in oil.  Sprinkle on spices and toss to mix.  Place vegetables directly on the grill.  Turn after 5 minutes.  Check after 5 more minutes – they are done when they are very soft when poked with a fork.  (Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn).

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Legislation - Let's Get This Done

The following is from the Iowa Farmers Union.  They are working to get some changes made in Iowa with respect to agricultural chemical applications.  We need action on this now.  Please take some time and respond.

If you recall our spray incident in 2012, one of the big issues was the delay in learning lab results.  We were forced to secure our own lab results form a lab in Oregon to the tune of over $1500 in out of pocket costs.  We still received our results form the Pesticide Bureau, but that wasn't until the season was completed.  The only use those results had for us was to pursue compensation after the fact. 

Please take some time and make a few calls or send a few emails on our behalf.

Rob & Tammy



=====================================

You've been hearing from us about all the activity at the Iowa Statehouse this past week on legislation that is important to you as Farmers Union member and supporter.

Last week we told you about a Senate subcommittee hearing scheduled for this morning on Senate Study Bill (SSB) 1221, which would appropriate funding to IDALS to:
  • establish on-line reporting for incidents of pesticide drift and
  • set up a fund to improve turnaround times for lab results when IDALS collects samples following an incident of spray drift. 
The first legislative funnel day is this Friday. That means that bills must be passed out of full committee in at least one chamber by March 6 to stay alive.

We have just learned that the FULL Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Environment will be taking up SSB 1221 at their meeting this afternoon at 1PM.

WE NEED YOU TO EMAIL OR CALL THE SENATORS ON THE NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE AND ASK THEM TO SUPPORT SSB 1221:

PLEASE CONTACT: Senators also can be reached by phone via the Senate switchboard: (515) 281-3371.

WHY SHOULD SENATORS SUPPORT SSB 1221?
 
SSB 1221 would allow impacted farmers to more easily and accurately report incidents of pesticide drift to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) Pesticide Bureau via the IDALS website.
The Iowa Pesticide Act currently requires someone claiming damage from an incident of pesticide drift to submit a report in writing to IDALS within 60 days of the incident. With current budget and staff resources, the IDALS Pesticide Bureau is only able to collect incident reports by phone during agency business hours. This reporting process would operate much more efficiently and allow for more timely and accurate reporting if an impacted farmer could directly file an incident report in writing, as provided for by statute, via the IDALS website. A significant number of state jurisdictions already provide for this type of reporting, including Minnesota, South Dakota, Missouri and Illinois.

 
SSB 1221 would provide much-needed funding to improve the time required for laboratory testing following a reported incident of pesticide drift.
In a typical incident of pesticide drift, an investigator from the IDALS Pesticide Bureau is able to follow up an incident report with an on-site visit in a matter of days. The on-site visit often includes collecting samples for testing to determine whether an incident of drift occurred and which chemicals were involved. Unfortunately, the current time for returning the laboratory results for these tests is
in the range of 6 to 8 months. This delay places an enormous burden on an impacted farmer trying to take reasonable precautionary steps - such as segregating or washing crops intended for human consumption - and working to minimize financial losses.
Providing IDALS with the resources to significantly shorten the turnaround time for lab results is critical to supporting farmers impacted by pesticide drift.
 
 For more information on this bill, please visit the Pesticide Drift Resource Page on our website.


Thank you for your help!

Jana Linderman
IFU President

Friday, February 27, 2015

Variety Show - Jade

Jade
Jade green beans
Jade provides us with a good continuous crop with beans that have a wonderful gourmet taste. In contrast to many green beans, Jade tastes better when the beans are larger (6-7 inches) and are a bit bitter if picked too small. These beans tend not to get woody and don't produce 'empty' pods like some varieties do when the beans are larger. This variety has allowed us to continue to provide fresh tasting beans that don't have the end of the season taste that some varieties get later in the year. If you luck out and get a long fall, this variety seems to keep on going. And, if you offered us a plate of steamed green beans and told us one was Jade and one was some other variety - we'd eat the Jade plate first.
This is a white seeded variety and does not care to germinate in cool, damp soils. We find that they appreicate the high tunnel with numbers that far exceeded field production levels.

Intercropping:
We interplant green beans with potatoes and strongly recommend this to anyone who has problems with bean beetles or potato beetles. While you cannot guarantee a complete absence of these pests, there will be a significant reduction. There is some research that indicates a masking quality of the companion plant that makes it difficult for the pest to recognize its target crop. We received a SARE grant to work on planting spacing techniques and found that potato beetle larva were found on the edges of the field (away from the beans).
We are also happy with planting marigolds next to potatoes and beans. We recommend the old-style marigolds with the stronger marigold smell. They are a great habitat for predators, they look nice and beans and potatoes nearby seem to be happier. We have been known to throw in a plant in the middle of a row, but we don't do this consistently.
Our old pattern for companion planting is to center potato rows 6 feet apart. Between potato rows you center a double row of beans. Our current technique is to have 60 inch tractor beds (including wheel tracks). Each bed has a row of potatoes and a row of green beans, usually planted May 15-25. The rows are 15 to 18 inches apart.  We are looking to hybridize this approach in response to our current state of tool availability

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

You're Invited

This event has been cancelled due to the current weather situation.  We will notify everyone if it is rescheduled.





Friday, February 20, 2015

Break Time - A Harrowing Experience?

Last week, we showed you a seeder that was not unlike seeders we currently used that was advertised/purchased in 1912.

Again, many of the tools we use on our farm have origins that are not entirely new.  Some of their advantages are the relatively small number of moving parts and the interchangeable nature of the parts that are prone to breaking or wearing out.  Here are two such tools on our farm - both on the newer side.
Disk Harrow
Flex Tine Harrow/Cultivator
In 1899 and 1901 (the dates of the two items below) most equipment was designed to be pulled by a team of horses, but you'll find some similarities to what we show you above. 



Thursday, February 19, 2015

It's Over, It's Just Beginning

As many of you may already know, we have been in the process of litigation involving a chemical misapplication that occurred on our farm in July of 2012.  If you are not aware of this, then you can catch up quickly by viewing the posts on our blog that are tagged with the overspray topic(Hint, you may want to read from the bottom to the top if chronology matters to you.)

We have been somewhat silent over the past several months on the topic as we have been hoping for a conclusion to the litigation process.  Of course, we still did our best to answer questions and keep people up to date.  But, our legal representative was correct, the less we said meant there was less chance we would say something that could be misconstrued and used against us.

It is Over

But, now that I've beat around the bush with all of the intro stuff, we can now tell you that as of February 18, 2015, we have signed an agreement on a settlement with respect to this case.  It is over.

How does it feel, now that it is over?
We anticipate that this is the first question many people will ask us, so we'll answer it as best we can right now.  We are both relieved.  I, in particular, am not entirely sure how I am supposed to feel about it.  This lawsuit has been in the back of my mind daily ever since we acquired legal representation.  And, prior to that, we were consumed with the process of figuring out what to do after we had been hit with the pesticides and fungicides.  I think I am supposed to feel something more than just a little relief.  But, then again, it may take a while to fully realize that I don't have to produce more documents for the discovery process and I don't have to wonder when it will end.

Once it is broken, it's broken.
Are we supposed to feel happy or pleased?  No, I'm not sure that we are.  This is not unlike the proverb about the broken piece of china.  If you drop someone's valuable china and it breaks, you can apologize, you can pay for it, you can do things to atone... but the china is still broken.  In other words, the end of the litigation didn't undo the spraying and its effects.  It doesn't remove the hours, days, weeks, months of irritation, worry and stress that followed.  But it will go towards moving forward and away from this incident.  And that will have to be enough.

Beautiful, aren't they?  Well, they all had to be composted due to the spray.
No joy in Mudville?
And, I think I speak for both of us when I say that we did not enjoy seeking compensation and we really took no pleasure in the process of trying to make someone pay for a perceived wrong.  It wasn't fun.  And, I haven't got even an inkling of a feeling that I want to gloat or celebrate because we have reached a settlement.  It was just simply that it needed to be completed so we could move forward.

But, maybe there are things to be joyful about?
There are so many other things that we should be happy about.  We are glad that this is done.  We were pleased with our legal representative, Tom Verhulst.  We are grateful for all of the support we received from others (thank you all!).  And, we take a certain amount of pride in our ability as a farm to weather the difficulty and continue to make adjustments and be successful.  We've had good people working for us, good people in our CSA and buying our products and we've had good people supporting us in many other ways.  And, as of the end of July, the section of our farm that is in transition (3 years) due to the spray will again be certified organic.

An ill wind.
It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good.  Well, maybe there is some good to be had here and it takes the form of our ability to now focus on trying to work on the overall problem that we face with chemical misapplication in agriculture/horticulture.

Learning is always good.
Another positive that we can get from this is that we did a great deal of learning during this process.  Here are a few things we've learned.

1. Heartfelt concern is healing
A heartfelt apology and expressions of concern can go a long ways toward atonement and healing.  We hope we take this lesson and apply it any time it is appropriate.  We are realizing that this whole thing could have played out so much differently if any of the parties involved could have shown some real concern for our well-being.  But, we suspect that the fear of litigation causes people to clam up.  After all, concern can become an indication of guilt, I guess.

A lack of pollinators reduced this wildflower planting to a few specimens, we will need to replant.
2. Our pollinators need us to pay some attention to them
We were reminded how important native pollinator populations are.  The picture of wildflowers was taken just prior to the spraying event.  Pollinators were gathering.  They were killed by the spraying and that left us with a number of infertile seed.  This patch declined significantly the following year.  We'll have to replant, that's all there is to it.

3. If you won't stand up for yourself, stand up for others.
We learned that, sometimes, when you stand up for yourself, you are standing up for others.

So many people who experience chemical misapplication situations give up on the process of reporting and pursuing change.  We understand how that happens.  You're busy and it isn't fun to do this.  You don't want to confront your neighbors or local cooperatives about the problem.  It takes effort to figure out how and to whom you report.  And, then, there is the follow through to get compensation for losses.  It's often easier to chalk it up as another of life's lessons and try to move on.  After all, you can always grump about it to sympathetic ears, but that doesn't leave room for forgiveness and growth.

But, this is the problem.  If there is no accountability, there will be no change.  People who are impacted by chemical misapplication need to stand up.  They do not need to do this for themselves.  Instead, they need to do this so the situation for everyone changes.

It's Just Beginning
We don't want this to happen again.  Not to us.  Not to anyone.

It's time to start making some noise.  And, we'd like you to join us in doing so.  Watch for a future post later this week with suggestions as to what you can do to help make some changes in our state.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Variety Show - Thelma Sanders

Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato
This IS an acorn squash. It just has a cream colored skin. Size can be slightly bigger than standard green acorns such as Table Queen, but not much bigger. These vines are very hardy. Dry year - no problem, just get them started as seedlings. Wet year - it can do that. Cool year - ok as long as you get them in on time. Hot year - it doesn't really notice. From a production standpoint, we can't do better for an acorn squash. We also like the taste of these better than standard green acorn squash. We find them to be a little less stringy. We've had them store into January, but don't expect it. It would normally be safe to save them into December. Vines crawl around a bit, but not much more than average winter squash. Easy to pick - in part because the color makes it easier to see them. We don't lose much of these to pests or other problems. We have noticed that if the stem comes off flush with the skin, you should eat that fruit sooner than those that maintain their stem.

And, of course, we had a crop failure for these in 2014.  It just proves that when enough things go wrong, a strong variety can still fail.  Nonetheless, our faith in Thelma Sanders remains strong!  2015 is the year for it to set records!


Cooking Squash
The following works for any winter squash - from acorn squash to pumpkins. Acorn squash, being smaller, will take far less time to cook. Excess squash reheats readily and can easily be placed in a freezer bag and frozen.
  1. Carefully cut squash into halves or quarters
  2. Empty seed cavity of all seed and 'stringy' goo
  3. Place face down in cake pan
  4. Put 1/4 inch of water in bottom of pan
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F until a fork easily goes through entire squash (30 to 60 minutes depending on squash)
Cutting Squash
Many squash have extraordinarily hard skin. Use a large, sharp knife and use common sense when cutting open a squash. If you are unable to cut a squash in half, you may soften it by puncturing holes in the squash and using the microwave.
As easy as (pumpkin) pie!
Most winter squashes can be made into a pie. However, we can safely eliminate acorn and spaghetti squash from possible candidates. Varieties that are particularly good at being adapted to pies are Long Island Cheese, Amish Pie, Musquee de Provence, Australian Butter and Kikuza.
If you find a recipe calling for a can of pumpking just remember this:
1 can = 2 cups cooked pumpkin / winter squash.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Lessons in Farming VI - Dept of Redundancy

Part 1 - Every Morning is the Dawn of a New Error
Part 2 -  I Don't Have a Solution, but I Admire the Problem

Part 3 - If at First You DO Succeed
Part 4 - Synchronized Swimming
Part 5 - Look Out for Number 1 and Don't Step in Number 2 Either!

We hope you have enjoyed this series of posts.  This is the final post of the series that is planned at this time.  But, don't be surprised if we resurrect it in the future!

Office of the Department of Redundancy Department

Some of you might remember that Rob studied computer science.  And, if you didn't remember, I am reminding you now.  I studied computer science.  Pretty effective method of reminding you, no?

One of the main concepts that I bought into when designing systems was the idea that redundant systems are an excellent way to insure less downtime for an automated system.  And, not surprisingly, I believe the same to be true with our set up at our farm.  Of course, some of the methods to achieve redundancy have been learned over time.  We certainly did not operate in the same fashion in 2005 that we will in 2015.  But, then again, I don't think we'd be operating at all if we didn't learn and make adjustments.  That's part of the beauty and much of the challenge of doing what we do.

How many redundancies are there in this picture?
Succession Planting
One of the simplest ways to get redundancies on our farm is to plant more than one succession of a given crop.  In other words, we don't plant all of one type of vegetable at the same time.  If all of the successions do well, that's great.  The result is more crop over a longer period of time.  With a CSA, we can certainly use this to our advantage.  However, the point of redundancies are to be prepared for failures so that the overall system continues to succeed.  The picture above shows our second succession of summer squash and zucchini, which did pretty well in 2014.  The first succession is not easy to see on the left.  It did not do particularly well this year.  But, our CSA program certainly had plenty of summer squash and zucchini.

Splitting Crop Locations
If you plant all of one type of crop in the lowlands during a wet season, you are pretty much guaranteed to get nothing of that crop that year.  However, if you split the production of that crop between a couple of locations, you reduce the chances that a location based disaster will destroy your entire crop.  Tammy is planting Waltham butternut squash in the row at the right.  This is a row that was planted separate from our other winter squash field.  That field was very wet in 2014, so the squash we got came from this planting.

Diversity of Crops
Another way to provide redundancy on a farm is to grow a wide range of crops that provide the overall income for the farm.  Some years just aren't good for certain crops, no matter how many successions or locations you plant them in.  If that is the only crop you grow, you are certain to have a bad year.  But, if you grow many types of crops, you create your own insurance program.  The field above shows garlic, summer squash, zucchini and winter squash.  Not visible are lettuce (already harvested) and turnips.

Diversity Within a Crop
We also prefer to grow more than one variety of most crops on the farm.  For example, the picture above features two types of garlic (Music and Northern White) and many types of zucchini and summer squash.  Different cultivars respond to weather extremes differently.  Of course, if you have a perfect growing season, they should all do well.  But, since the perfect growing season seems to be a myth, we'd much rather have a range of plants that can handle the diverse weather we can experience.  The net result?  You should get some of most every crop in nearly every season if you select the proper set of varieties for your farm.

We showed them there weeds!
Redundant Labor Resources
This one is a bit harder for us to accomplish on our farm.  Of course, we have some people who come and work on the farm during the summer.  And, yes, Rob and Tammy work on the farm.  Sometimes people will volunteer for a while or we will hire some college students to do a weeding task.  And, we also have cultivated (oh no! a pun!) relationships with other growers in Bremer county and in Iowa.  When push comes to shove, we can help each other.  For example, Tammy, Rob, Denis and Kieran all joined Jeff Sage at his place to help weed the green beans.  Jeff was feeling pretty overwhelmed at the time, but things were certainly looking up after he got a little help!

Tool Options
We've learned that tools break.  And, if you only have one option to do a certain task, a broken tool will effectively stop all progress on that task.  One way we can combat the problem is to have two of everything on the farm.  That may be feasible with shovels, hoes and other hand tools.  But, I'm not sure having two disk harrows is a good idea for us.  However, some of the work done by a disk harrow might be accomplished with an S tine cultivator.  It's not the same, but we might be able to make it work in a pinch.  The real key is knowing your options and how they might fall short in a substitution situation.  Knowing where they fall short allows you to make proper adjustments.

Contingency Plans
And, finally, there is the dread "Plan B" (or C, D, E, ... Z if you must).  No growing season will go as planned.  In fact, if it goes as planned, you didn't try hard enough to do good things.  Even if the plan is not written down, it helps to know your options.

We hope you enjoyed this post and have a great day.  Failing that, we hope you have a nice day and that you think this post was pretty good.  And, of course, we hope that you enjoyed reading this and that you have an enjoyable remainder of your day.

from the Department of Redundancy Department

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Land of Contusions

Anyone want to try their hand at a music video?  Once again, The Man with a Hat takes a popular tune and revamps the lyrics.  If you like this one, you may also enjoy:
Heat Mats and Grow Lights
      a parody of Heat of the Moment by Asia
I Wanna Wash My Hands
      a parody of the Beetles I Wanna Hold Your Hand
and
The Saftey Plantz
     anyone remember Safety Dance by Men Without Hats?

This year's edition is a rewrite of the lyrics for Land of Confusion by Genesis.  If you don't know that tune, their music video for the song can be seen here: 
Music Video

Without further ado - we present

"Land Of Contusions"

Must have planted a thousand seeds
Been haunted by a million weeds

And I can feel my aching feet
Cannot wait to take a seat.


Now did you feed the birds today?
Opened the bin, grain got away.
But I could make a move to the right.
Made sure injury was slight.

There's too many hens
Too many weeds, oh!
Making too many problems
And not enough gloves to go round
So you see...
This is a land of contusions.

This is the world we live in
And these are the hands we're given
Bruise them, but don't start crying
Tears make it hard to do night chores.

Ooh, super, man - hooked up the plow
Barked my shin on a disk somehow.
Work with steel and tractor power
See more bruises every time I shower.

We cut some thyme
Too quick a pace
So we look for a suture.
And a sore back from the posts I pound.
This is why, this land of contusions.

This is the world we live in
And these are the hands we're given
Bruise them, but don't start crying
Tears make it hard to see the row you're in.

Sometimes I long to go
On days the sun is shining
To where the vines are twining
Yes and check for some blight.
All seemed alright.
But the sound of your laughter
'Cuz you knew I might
Down I go -


I won't be tilling loam tonight
My hesitation about poor light

And tired eyes just causes this
Row we sow, we'll never reap.

There's too many hens
Too many weeds, oh!
Making too many problems
And not 'nough gloves to go round
Can't you see...
This is a land of contusions.

This is the world we live in
And these are the hands we're given
Bruise them, but don't start crying
Tears make it hard to see the row you're in.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Break Time - Planting Seeds

Sometimes the hobby intersects with the profession.

The season is on its way where we will use tools like this:
Jang seeder
Earthway seeder
At GFF, we actually do not own a Jang seeder, but we do have two Earthway seeders.  We also have a European Push seeder and a Six Row Seeder.  But, we're featuring the above because we wanted to show that these are not necessarily new technologies.

How about $7.50 with a 5% discount for early payment for a similar seeder in 1912? 


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Variety Show - Forellenschus

Forellenschus
romaine
Forellenschus Lettuce
A beautiful spotted leaf romaine that does a great job in the early summer months. Hitting the timing for a fall planting is a bit trickier than some of the other lettuces we grow. These produce full and often heavy (1#) heads of lettuce though you can certainly pick them smaller. They grow well during the summer - but you do have to watch to make sure they don't show signs of bolting - once they show any sign of it - they're going to go through the bolting process within 24-36 hours. Excellent all-around romaine. We have found that this lettuce may need an education component for sales. The brownish/purple spots are often misconstrued as 'bad spots' on the lettuce - much to the detriment of the seller (and the buyer who doesn't bother to ask, taste, or otherwise check out this variety). Once tried, people will ask specifically for this one. We did notice that this romaine handled life in the high tunnel better in December than some of the other varieties. It also overwintered well (get them to about 2-3 inches tall around Nov 5 and they'll hold there).

Tossed Lettuce and Herb Salad
  • 2 cups mild lettuce, chopped
  • 1 tsp finely chopped oregano
  • 1 tsp finely chopped tarragon
  • 1 tsp finely chopped marjoram
  • 1 tsp finely chopped chive
  • 1 tsp chopped winter onions (or green onions)
Mix ingredients together. Serve with light balsamic vinegar dressing. Adjust spices to your taste. T Faux

Monday, February 9, 2015

Lessons in Farming V - Don't Step in Number 2

Part 1 - Every Morning is the Dawn of a New Error
Part 2 -  I Don't Have a Solution, but I Admire the Problem

Part 3 - If at First You DO Succeed
Part 4 - Synchronized Swimming

Look out for Number 1.  Don't step in Number 2 either!

The fun thing about some of the sayings I am using in this series is the ability to take each saying in more than one direction.  This one is no exception - so buckle up and enjoy the ride!

Ah, Poo!  How we love thee.
I have to admit that on our farm, we've only recently gotten to the point where we can really take advantage of the bedding and natural soil amendments that chickens, turkeys, ducks and straw bedding can provide.  Part of the issue is the matter of scale.  It wouldn't have been a big deal to us if we 'only' had 50 birds and our composting piles were smaller.  But, it wasn't really until we added Rosie to the farm that we had all the tools we need to really take advantage of having animals on the farm for soil fertility.

But, even without Rosie, we've used poultry bedding for numerous projects in soil quality and fertility.  the case in point are our asparagus beds.  We try to put poultry bedding on just after our last picking of asparagus in the late Spring.  It helps keep the weeds down and provides a nice boost for these perennial plants.  We have also placed birds in certain fields (when the vegetable crop is done) to clean up and spread their poo in the 'natural way.'  At least we don't have to shovel it!

Bedding from the hens on the asparagus
Synthesized Poo?
A sad trend that has been supported by the movement to 'factory' or 'specialized' farming is the reduced role of poo on farms.  If a farm concentrates only on a couple of commodity crops and concludes that having some hogs, beef cattle or other animals are a money loser, they remove from their system a critical part of a cycle that helps to maintain soil health/fertility and the long-term viability of the farm.
A darned healthy patch of asparagus!
It is true that some farms still acquire or use manure on their fields, but the vast majority of farmed acres in the US rely on synthetic fertilizers.  And, it is this reliance that has us, the human race, stepping in "number 2" in a big way.  Instead of using a mutually beneficial combination of livestock and crops, much of our ag systems work to separate the two, using synthetics to take the place of the role each might have in the others' production.  It's no wonder many people make the argument that beef is a poor choice for environmentally conscious consumers.  But, would that be the case if farms weren't so one-dimensional?  I don't think so.

It's not that we don't know about the shortcomings of our ag systems.
In fact, you can read numerous well-researched articles and studies that confirm for us that much of our current practices are not likely the best options.

I recently found a very interesting GIS study with respect to some of South Carolina's coastal region.  This project got my attention because it is an intensive study that was attempting to determine how past, current and future land use will impact the area.  The work is thoroughly done, in my opinion, and reports facts rather than conjectures.  After all, their goal is to determine how they must react to prevailing land uses, so they need to know what they are and how they change things.  It looks like specific facts may be a bit dated as most of the literature cited is from the 1990's.  But, the accuracy of what is depicted and analysis is still useful.  Here is the executive summary of this study if you want to see what they were trying to do.
There is a section on agricultural impacts.  I ran across a couple of paragraphs that very nicely summarized what I wanted to say:

"Until the industrial revolution of the early to mid-1900's, farming practices were relatively environmentally friendly. Traditional farms were small-scale, used biological controls of pests and diseases, used crop rotation to maintain soil nutrients, included buffer zones at field edges, and involved little or no heavy machinery. The modernization of farming practices around the 1950's, resulted in extreme increases in productivity often to the detriment of environmental quality.
Modern, or conventional, agricultural practices use intensive tillage, monoculture, irrigation, application of inorganic fertilizers, chemical pest control, and plant genome modification to maximize profit and production (Gliessman 1998). These practices greatly increased crop yields, and agricultural production rose steadily after World War II. These conventional agricultural practices, however, have numerous long-term ecological impacts such as soil degradation, habitat alteration, water quality impacts, species composition impacts, and adverse effects of irrigation."
from: http://nerrs.noaa.gov/doc/siteprofile/acebasin/html/modules/landuse/lmagrlnu.htm

Here is what I really like about this summary.
1. It does not claim that old farming practices were perfect.  But, instead points out that prior approaches were "relatively" more friendly to the environment.
2. It shows us that some of our "new" techniques that sustainable farms use are not all that new.  Biological controls.  Crop rotations.  Buffer zones.  So, I guess we're not so cutting edge as we want to think we are at our farm.
3. It admits that many of our current ag practices have had an effect in increasing yields of the focused upon commodity crops.  Thus, reminding us what the motivator is for the practices in use.
4. It does not pull punches about the long term effects that we will eventually have to pay for.

With that summary - it sure sounds like we've stepped into a sizable pile of number 2.

Then, I noticed this USDA report that discusses the use of synthetic fertilizers in the United States.  Some of the trends I noted were that single nutrient fertilizers are being used more than multiple nutrient fertilizers (have you all seen a bag of fertilizer at the store with three numbers?  Like 8-3-3?  These numbers represent N-P-K - Nitrogen Phosphorous and Potassium).  Well, here is part of the rub - much of these resources are now being imported and many of the synthetics require fossil fuels (especially the nitrogen) to create them.

And then, there is this study (note, this link is only a report about the study, not a link to the study) that points out a nitrogen use imbalance in the world, with the US using so much more synthetic nitrogen than it needs - resulting in pollution issues.

Keep on pooing hens!
 ================
So, what's my take-away after I read all of this?

I'm willing to step in some number 2 on our farm in an effort to look out for number 1 - the health of our farm, our environment and all of the people and critters that have anything to do with it.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Variety Show - Marconi Red

Marconi Red
Marconi Red plant
The Marconi Red is an Italian heirloom that produces three-lobed, tapered fruit that can be up to 12 inches long and 3 or 4 inches at the shoulder. This is an excellent red sweet pepper with an amazing taste. Plants need alot of time to produce their fruit and ripen them to red. Yield is variable. But, the quality makes the effort well worth it. This has become our second favorite sweet pepper for fresh eating (behind Golden Treasure), but we only get them for a short time in September *most* years. The shape of these is alot like a stretched out bell pepper since the ends of the fruit usually don't come to a point like Golden Treasure. They're pretty good green, but far better red.  These plants seem to need more growing degree days than some of the other peppers we grow.  Plants can be somewhat sizeable (but not quite as big as Napolean Sweet).  We love what we get in a good year, but suspect those in southern Iowa and points south (zone 5 and 6) would get more consistent production. We tried a few of these in the high tunnel during the 2013 season and were pleased with the results. They definitely loved the heat.

Oddly enough, 2014 was a good year for Marconi Red.  We're not entirely sure why that was since the season was cool.  But, we also know that if you hit the timing perfectly on a crop for a given season, all is well.  We have improved our methodology for getting our peppers a head start in the season, so this may account for better production recently.

Garlic Vegetables
This is a summer squash and zucchini recipe with garlic and peppers and other ingredients.
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1/2 teaspoon paprika or some ground papricka pepper
• 1/2 cup scallions/onions, sliced
• 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
• 1 medium Marconi Red pepper, cut into strips
• 1 medium green bell pepper, cut into strips
• 1 medium yellow summer squash sliced into 1/8-inch rounds
• 1 medium zucchini sliced into 1/8-inch rounds
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add paprika and stir thoroughly. Add scallions and garlic; saute for 2 minutes. Add all other ingredients, partially cover and sauté over medium low heat for 15 to 17 minutes, or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Stream of Consciousness

Any day that starts with one of us saying "It's going to be a weird day" is a day that deserves a blog post that simply follows with whatever I am thinking about at the moment.  The first thing I was thinking was that I need to get a blog post out here so that everyone doesn't forget about us.

On the way in to school today, something one of us said referred to a 'knock off' of something.  But, for some reason, my brain decided to change it to a "mock off."  Then, we were off to the races.

A new musical genre could be "Mock and Roll" or maybe it is a new party game?  The party game version probably requires one person to mock and the other person just rolls with it.  But, the music version made me think of the Tony Orlando and Dawn song.  You know what I'm talking about?  "Mock Three Times on the ceiling....."  We also seem to remember a song lyric about mocking on the window pane, but that would be a different thing altogether.  To mock on a ceiling requires some talent.  Mocking on a window pane seems a bit more doable.  If you lay on the mockery too thick, I suppose you could call it an Amber Mock.  If you don't get it, that's fine.  I told you this was going to be a bit strange.

That's a really pretty romanesco.
Hey!  We had some broccoli, cauliflower and broccoli for a recent meal from some of the veg we froze from this season.  It was good.  Stream of consciousness...  I warned you!

I like to remind myself once in a while of two things.  First, that I have a lot to learn.  And, second, that many things I think are easy or self-evident were not always easy or self-evident to me.  The first thing motivates me to keep learning and to not be too secure in what I think I know.  The second thing motivates me to be patient and to do my best to facilitate learning as best I can.  And now you know one reason we keep this blog going.

November had moments
I have been having some trouble motivating myself to apply myself to farm work in January.  I am not referring so much to active work as much as I am talking about field planning, seed orders and all of that other stuff.  Part of it is the normal process of needing to be lower key for at least one month of the year.  The other part has its roots back in November.  If you'll recall, we had some unseasonably bitter cold weather.  As a result, we were forced to make a number of adjustments on the farm in a very short period of time.  The example above shows where we had to put alot of our late harvest to keep it from freezing.  Numerous root crops are in the trays waiting to be cleaned, etc etc.  And, this only shows a part of what we had to do.  Then we had to move it all again as this building started freezing too.  Ah. Fun times!

Since we're on a farm related topic, one thing that is always on my mind this time of year is getting people to sign up for the CSA farm share program.  It would be wonderful if we simply filled up with no effort each year.  But, the reality is that it takes effort every year to get there.  So, we're realizing it is time to start making that effort.  If you haven't signed up yet, now is the time to say something.  We're working on the web page and sign up form today.  Help us out and get us filled up fast so we can focus on the growing rather than the marketing.

Looking forward to the Nota Conference
 The "Nota" Conference is just over a week away.  We're looking forward to spending some time with some quality people and trying to get motivated for the next growing season.

Hindenburg.. .Hindenburg.... where have I heard that name before?
January is a time where I get to spend time on my hobby (postal history) and I've enjoyed spending some evenings doing a little research on some items I have in my collection.  The item above is some mail that was flown on the airship Hindenburg in 1936.  Yes, this is the same Hindenburg that went down in flames in 1937.  To send some mail to Europe from the US via an airship, you needed 40 cents in postage.  It may seem like a lot, but the crossing was made in a few days.  Not bad.

Music is also a pretty big thing for me.  I do like listening to it while I work and always have.  At present, I have been enjoying music by the Classic Crime, House of Heroes, Evanescence, Apocalyptica, 2Cellos and a live set by the Choir.  Did you need to know this?  No.  But, there you are anyway.

I've had the opportunity to speak at the PFI conference and at a couple of classes at Wartburg in the last month.  I appreciate the chances to share and hopeful encourage learning and discussion.  Sometimes, I wonder if I get too preachy about some topics and other times I wonder if I don't take a position on some topics with enough conviction.  In the end, I have to conclude that if I wonder about both directions, I'm probably doing ok.

Part of January's job is to look back and see if we have moved the right direction over the past several years.  One interesting thing is to look at our old truck (Grover) and how we had to pack it for CSA distributions.  One issue was the lack of an operating back window.  Another was the height of the topper.  I do not miss having to be hunched over while trying to lift 60 pound tubs of cucumbers onto another tub.  It's a good reminder that investments in proper tools are not a luxury, they are a necessity if you wish to continue to improve.

Have a good day everyone!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Variety Show - A&C Pickling

A & C Pickling
A&C Pickling cucumbers
This is a heritage variety from 1928.

What's a "heritage" variety and how is it different form an "heirloom" variety?  Good question!
In short, a heritage variety was developed by a seed company rather than a variety that was passed down from generation to generation in a family.  Heritage vegetables are still an important part of our gardening history.  And, as open pollinated varieties, can be maintained privately as well as commercially.

Back to your regularly scheduled post!
 Fruits for this cucumber can be picked from 4 inch to 8 inch size, but plants slow production if too many are allowed to grow to the larger size. This cucumber is a strange case, having been introduced to our farm in 2005 and removed, then reintroduced in 2012. The results in 2012 showed us that this was an excellent later season cucumber, which was not something we were looking for in 2005. Our second succession fared far better than the first, so we are happy to keep this variety in the fold. We ran it in 2014 with both early and late successions just as a test to see if what we think we are observing holds true. But, since our first succession of cucumbers did poorly for all varieties, it was hardly a fair trial.

Fruit tend to have a bit of a 'star burst' on the flower end.

You will not see A & C Pickling in larger commercial operations anymore because the consistency in size and shape does not match some of the modern hybrids. This is not to say that there isn't good quality here, it is just a realization that bulk markets typically want fruit that meet very specific size and shape profiles (often disregarding taste). Speaking of taste, these consistently have a good quality. The skin may get bitter if you leave them on the vine too long. Otherwise, they don't need to be 'peeled'.

Refrigerator Pickles – Fast and Easy!
6 c. sliced cucumbers
1 T salt
1 onion, chopped
1 small/medium green pepper
1 c. sugar
1 c. vinegar
Mix salt and cucumbers. Let sit for 15 minutes. Add rest of ingredients. Stir to mix. Let sit overnight in the refrigerator, covered. The pickles will look too dry at first. Don’t fear – they will have plenty of liquid by the next day.
Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
S Zenk

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Practical Farmers

We returned last evening from our annual trip to participate in the Practical Farmers of Iowa conference.  I realize we have likely mentioned PFI in prior posts and, if you'll forgive me, I won't spend time finding those occurrences in our blog this time around.  Instead, I hope to highlight some of the things we like about PFI by pointing to THEIR blog and some of the posts that highlight programs in which the Genuine Faux Farm has some involvement.

If you know Tammy and I by now, you realize there are certain things that are important to us for our farm. Among those things is our desire to facilitate learning (ours and others) while we farm.  And, happily, PFI spends a significant amount of energy and resources pursuing the same endeavors.

Intercropping research at GFF
 We believe that every farm should have its own research program.  Which is why we participate in PFI's cooperator's meeting every year.  This meeting encourages farmers to participate in determining the research agenda to be followed with PFI's support for the upcoming season.  And, before you start to think that PFI is only for growers that are similar to Genuine Faux Farm, let me point out that the cooperator's meeting runs multiple concurrent sessions for grazing/livestock, horticulture and row crops.  Simply put, Practical Farmers of Iowa is all about farmers who strive to learn and be as smart as they can when it comes to running their operation, regardless of type, size or growing philosophies.  The combination of our interest in research and PFI's interest in promoting curiosity leads us to be that red dot in Northeast Bremer county that you see on this post.

Rob mesmerizing (?) an audience
Tammy and I are very interested in learning more and getting better at the things we try to do.  But, we are both equally interested in helping others to learn and improve as well.  In fact, we have been known to give presentations at various venues, some of which are sponsored by PFI.  And, this is another reason we find ourselves attracted to this organization.  PFI is very interested in aiding young and beginning farmers climb the learning curves necessary to being a responsible farmer.  The Labor 4 Learning program provides a program whereby a person who wants to work on a farm with experienced farmers might do so.  The Savings Incentive Program matches newer farmers with farmers with more experience and gives the new farmer a opportunity to invest in a capital improvement for their operation.  But, the best part of this program is that isn't just about the money, there is a strong component of sharing that is the hallmark of PFI members and staff.

Enjoying food at the first GFF field day
The Genuine Faux Farm has even been privileged to host two field days on our farm.  No!  Wait!  We have hosted THREE field days on our farm.  But, we're usually so tired after the field day, we often forget to add it to the count.  If we're that tired, we can't imagine how tired the PFI staff must be.  You can actually find PFI blog posts for two of them.  One is our 2010 high tunnel build and the other was this past season's field day.  Our prior field day focused on tomato trellising techniques.

2010 High Tunnel Build field day

Our trip to this year's conference was different from all of the others.  And, this wasn't necessarily because the conference itself has changed dramatically.  Instead, we think it is because we have changed.  Some of those changes have to do with our involvement in Practical Farmers of Iowa, and for that, we are grateful.

Were there really that many people at the 2014 field day?
If you are a person who reads this post and reviews some of the things PFI has done and can do.  If you are someone who believes that an organization that promotes being a smart producer of food is a good thing.  If you believe that it would be worthwhile to continue to provide opportunities to mentor beginning farmers so that they will become responsible stewards of the land, then maybe you should consider becoming a member.  You do not have to be a farmer, but you can support those who aspire to be as good as they can in farming by becoming a friend of farmers in Practical Farmers of Iowa.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Waste Not

It is January.  And, it is this month that I tend to spend more time thinking..... a dangerous pastime!

(You know, right?)

[edit: By the way, if you are not certain why it is I do this thinking/dangerous pastime thing, you should check out the song from Beauty and the Beast that is shared on this YouTube post.  You only need to hear the first few seconds to understand.]

In any event, this post is a dangerous pastime/thinking post and a 'faux real stories' post because I get to combine both into one!  It is a momentous occasion.  You might want to mark your calendars and make an entry in your diary chronicling where you are right now.  It could be important.  Then again, you could just enjoy this blog post, for what it is worth.

For some reason, I was thinking about the tendency of many (not all) people to be wasteful.  In fact, I suspect we are all wasteful at some level and in different ways.  But, specifically, my thoughts were responding to three things.

1. An observation I heard on the radio (NPR) regarding how those with wealth tend to be wasteful of resources as opposed to those who struggle to meet ends meet, who tend to be less wasteful of resources - if only out of necessity.

2. A discussion I have had (more than once) with others about the tension surrounding decisions regarding new versus used versus repairing what you have for tools on the farm.

3. On a different front, I was realizing an unhappy anniversary since it was about this time in 1995 that I learned of the death of my best friend from high school, Jeff Mellick.

All of which reminded me of this story.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jeff and I were partners for the Newton High School debate squad and we went to many tournaments during the school year.  We were a reasonably good team, but lost our Junior year due to a faculty change at the high school.  As such, we were a year behind in experience during our Senior year.  Can you imagine how painful it was for us to have judges say, "Wow!  You guys are pretty good.  You'll be winning all sorts of tournaments next year."

Our thought bubble: (Yeah, thanks.  Can we get a redshirt option?)


Teams from school "B" were clearly from an affluent area and their teams had a number of resources other schools did not have.  We found these people to be (typically, not always) rude and they often found ways to belittle others.  This was made worse by the fact that school B teams often won.  Jeff and I didn't begrudge them winning.  After all, they went to more tournaments, spent more time practicing and simply focused on it more than we (and most other teams) did.  In fact, we could forgive some of the attitude as well.  Some of it may have bred by the peer group they were in and there are many other possible reasons we couldn't be aware of. 

But, the tipping point was watching how most of the members of these teams would waste materials.

A debate team consisted of TWO members and it was the norm for each member to use legal pads to keep notes of the 'flow' of the debate.  Jeff and I would each use a whole legal pad over the course of four or five tournaments, using both the front and back of the sheets as needed.  These people would use up one to two legal pads EACH per match.  To put this in perspective, there were usually six matches in a tournament, plus play off rounds.

Folks, that is a conservative estimate of 12 legal pads used over a two day period of time for one team from school B in one weekend.  It would not be an exaggeration to say that these people attended twelve to sixteen tournaments a school year.  That's easily 150 legal pads for one team of two people.

It wouldn't have been so bad if these legal pads were used entirely.  But, usually there was one line written on each page and many pages toward the back were still blank.   And once the round was over, they would discard the entire pad.  Sometimes in the trash.  Sometimes, just left on desks..or the floor...or wherever.

Jeff and I were not ones to look a gift horse in the mouth.  We would often pick up these legal pads and make use of them ourselves.  Why not?  Just cross out or erase one line on a page and it is good to go.  But, that's not the best part.

One day, we noticed that a careless member of one of school B's teams had left a copy of a key argument sandwiched between pages of a discarded legal pad.  Normally, an opposing team would not have much time to view and prepare against such an argument prior to a debate.  But, we had a break and we were going to be facing one of the toughest teams from school B the next day.  Simply put, the oddsmakers didn't give us a chance in that round.  But, oddsmakers didn't know what we had in our possession.

We spent some time dissecting what we had and preparing a counter argument that was specific to it.  Often, teams could only come up with more general attacks against a particular argument, so this was a step up.  But, we also took the time to figure out what their counter arguments might be and prepared for those.

To say that we took great delight in dismantling school B's team the next day would be an understatement. 

Recycling or Re-purposing at its best?
------------------------------------------------------------------------

I still miss my good friend.  And, the one thing you want when you lose a good friend is the one thing you can't have - a chance to talk to them again.  Instead, I partake in the next best thing, remembering Jeff and the stories we created together as friends.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Variety Show - Beaver Dam

Beaver Dam
beaver dam plants
(Hot Scale: 2-4)
This is possibly our favorite hot pepper. Plants are compact, thus we can get many more per foot in one of our rows. We have also gotten as many as three flushes of fruit as long as we pick at the 'lime green' or slightly later stage. Fruits mature to red, first showing some yellow and orange. Taste is excellent at all stages but will grow hotter the longer you leave it. Each plant will produce between 3 and 7 peppers per plant per flush, with an average around 7 fully formed fruit per plant in a season. Fruit can be as long as 7 inches and are excellent for stuffing. Walls are not terribly thin. Heat levels have been highly variable on our farm. Some can be very mild and others extremely warm. Heat tends to concentrate in the tip of these fruits. These have given the most consistent results in the high tunnel since they do not like wet seasons.

Stuffed Beaver Dam Peppers
  • l lb hamburger, cooked and drained
  • 1 c cooked rice
  • 1/4 c shredded cheese
  • 1 med tomato, diced
  • 6-8 Beaver Dam peppers
  • salt, pepper and other seasonings to taste
Mix stuffing ingredients and let sit for 5 minutes. Cut off tops of Beaver Dam peppers and remove seeds. Stuff hamburger mixture into peppers. Place peppers in a greased 9x13" cake pan. Bake at 400 degrees F for 35 minutes.
Substitution: 2.5 c black beans for hamburger.
Note: Easy meal. Beaver Dams rate 2 to 3 out of 5 on the heat scale. Hotter with seeds and hotter towards the tip of the pepper.
T Faux

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Break Time III

Often times, postal history in the 1800's is as much about the travels the letter took on its way to its destination as anything.  For example, here is a folded lettersheet that was sent to Hong Kong from Boston in 1862.


A folded letter sheet is essentially a piece of paper that is folded down to envelope size (approximately).  The message in on the inside of the sheet and addressing and postage is on the outside.  Envelopes were not necessarily the prevalent technology for sending mail at the time, so letter sheets are not at all uncommon.

At the time this item was sent, there were two routes for mailing items to Hong Kong via the British Mail system.  And, each of these routes had a different cost.  Can you imagine having two options for postage rates if you wanted to send something to California (for example?).  In this case, the sender had an option to choose the faster route via train through France or the slower route by ship around the Iberian peninsula.  The quicker route cost a few cents more, but often shaved off a week of travel time.  This particular letter followed the faster route (via Marseilles).

But, why would anyone want to send a letter via the slower route?  This item left New York in mid July and arrived in early September.  I suppose a person could figure another week wouldn't make a difference at that pace.  But, the other reason has to do with shipping schedules.  International commerce relied on shipping at that time and shipping tables were widely available.  Ships carrying the mail and their schedules were relatively well known.  If one looked at the tables and understood them, there could be instances where the faster route actually would not get the mail to Hong Kong any faster than the slow route depending on the day of arrival at the south coast of France.

So, the next time you got to the post office to mail something and you think the rates are complex now, consider the complexities of the past.  If you aren't grateful, you can at least have some appreciation for what has gone before to get us where we are with communications.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Spider in the Door

Once upon a time, there was a door.
 
Hello!  I am a door.
 This door was a very humble door that came from very humble beginnings.  In fact, it was so humble that it was simply glad it had a beginning and that it had not yet reached an end.  Unless, of course, you considered that it was at the end of a hallway that led to a room.  In that case, it was certainly fine with ends since it was also a beginning.  It was the beginning of a room where chickens lived.

And chickens believe they are the beginning and the ending of all.
The door wasn't very pretty.  And, it was sometimes embarrassed that it didn't have a proper latch or that it didn't have a sturdy frame.  In fact, there was another door nearby that was much more attractive.  And, it didn't hold back with criticism when it wanted to feel superior.

 But, the humble door had a job.  And, that job had to be done.  And it was happy to do it.

When his unfriendly neighbor door was opened, the chickens could go outside.  But, if our humble yellow door wasn't there, the chickens would ignore the outside and they would explore the rest of the building.  This was not good, and the humble door knew this.

So, it used its makeshift latch.  And, it stood proudly in its rickety frame.

And, the chickens went outside.
 
Then, one day....

a spider built a web in the doorway!

 Cubbie the cat saw the spider in the doorway and she said,
 
"I would rather have a picnic than worry about a spider in the door."
 And, Mrranda the cat looked at the spider in the door and then she said,

"I would rather see what the humans left me for dinner..."
"... than worry about a spider in the door."

The Sandman saw the spider in the door and he declared,
"I will eat the farmers' peach pie, rather than worry about a spider in the door..."

"I, the Sandman, have spoken."
The Sandman talked like that all of the time.  The spiders, chickens, both doors, Cubbie and Mrranda all kind of thought this way of talking was silly.  But, they agreed that peach pie did sound rather nice.

And, the farmers hid the peach pie from the Sandman.

Unfortunately, the farmers forgot about Kieran.  Kieran liked peach pies.  And, Kieran knew how to get inside the farm house.
So, Kieran ate the peach pie.
And, there was still a spider in the door.

And, it made the humble door unhappy.

The humble door had another purpose, other than keeping the chickens from going where they shouldn't.  The humble door opened and closed to allow the farmers to go to the end of the hall so they could enter the beginning of the chicken room.  But, the farmers did not want to disturb the spider, so they used yet ANOTHER door to get into the chicken room.  This door lost no time in taunting the humble door.

And, the door was sad.
The farmers were sad too, because they had no more peach pie.  But, the door didn't care about that.  After all, what would a door want with a peach pie?
So, the sad, humble door cried.

and it echoed around inside the building.
Another spider heard the sound and yelled,

"Hey!  Keep it down, you're scaring away the flies!"

The humble door apologized. And, since the spider really was a pretty decent spider, as far as that goes, it inquired what was making the door so sad.  The door opened up to the spider (that's a pun, get it?) and told the spider about its problem.

"Well," said the spider, "you're in luck!  My sister's sister is a realtor.  And she told me about this nice web just 10 feet from here that is ready for immediate occupation!"

"What does 'immediate occupation' mean?" asked the humble door.  After all, the poor door had never gone to school.  So, it really is a bit much to expect it to know such big words!

"Immediate occupation means....

"The spider in the door can move to a new web right now!"
"It is priced right!" said the spider. "And....
it has a nice view!"
Meanwhile, the farmers made a second peach pie and ate it before Kieran could find it.  Cubbie, Mrranda and Sandman ate the picnic lunch the farmers neglected while they were eating the peach pie.  Kieran was still full from his peach pie, so he didn't care about the lunch or the second pie.  Two spiders were happily wrapping up flies in their webs and the realtor spider took a check to the bank after making a very quick sale.

And the humble door?  It continues to be pleased that it can do its job being an end and a beginning all at the same time.  In fact, it is more content now than it has ever been.

Do you know why?

Because it likes stories that have happy endings.