Friday, September 23, 2016

Playing With Your Food

If you have heard someone say that you shouldn't play with your food, then you haven't heard it from us.  As a matter of fact, we've enjoyed some of the creativity folks have shown when it comes to finding veggies of unusual shape or size.

Hey! I just picks 'em, I doesn't always check for faces!
Sam Larimer has been particularly good at finding interesting veggies and actually following through with making them into interesting characters AND taking some pictures.  We, of course, love this.  To be honest, I sometimes wish I had the time to select some of the odd fruit and accentuate the features I see in them.  But, usually, I just get a small chuckle as I place it into the bin with the rest for delivery later in the day.

Sometimes, I see it and take a picture.  Who else sees a yellow submarine?
More often than not, someone will notice the odd veggie in our CSA trays and will just have to take a picture.  Occasionally, a parent will groan as a child picks the carrot with lots of fingers because they KNOW who will have to CLEAN that carrot.  But, even they get a little bit of a smile from the odd shapes that sometimes grow in the field.
Which is Shannon's hand and which is the carrot?
Every once in a while we even get a photo from a person who is really happy to be getting a particular type of veg.
Tiger Eye dry beans anyone?  Thanks Mary!

And, at other times, the picture gets taken right at the CSA distribution.
Hey Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit out of a hat!
Mr. Aubergine knows that there are more like him out there.  Can you be creative and come up with a new veggie character for the Genuine Faux Farm?
Mr Aubergine always wants to know.  He's a curious fellow.

Sometimes, we create the characters in the field.  Picking veggies that keep growing can lead to some interesting veggie sculptures.
Pippi Kalestocking
This brings us back to Sam's creations.  We're beginning to wonder if we need to create a story line for Carrotman and his new nemesis.  Hmmmmm.
What shall we name this one?
Carrotman is unable to save his veggie friends from the fry pan.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What does the CSA distribution look like?

We are in the home stretch of our 2016 regular season CSA Farm Share program at the Genuine Faux Farm.  And, really, that just seems a bit wrong to us.  Didn't the season just start?  But, seasons are cyclic and we are entering the part of the cycle where growing things are slowing down.

So, we are beginning to get serious about having people sign up for our Fall Extended Season shares that start at the end of October and go into December.  You want some fresh produce for Thanksgiving?  Well, this is a good opportunity for you.

We are also beginning to take reservations for 2017 shares.  We start this process in September of the prior year in hopes that we can get the lion's share of our customers lined up.  The better our recruiting goes, the more successful the following growing season is.  

Why is that?  Simply put, we can plan and we can spend our energy in the Spring on getting it all to grow for you.

Here is what a farm share CSA distribution looks like outside Hansen's Outlet. Each tray or station has a sign telling you what you're getting. If you get five tomatoes, you pick your tomatoes... Come join us this Fall and next season!  We would love to be your personal farmers.

The farmers' job (at left)? Keep those trays filled and answer questions. Red hat, mandatory. Bag hanging out of the back pocket, frequent. Tell him to get a haircut, not likely.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Tater digger

 We are setting up to dig potatoes as soon as the soil dries up from the recent rain.  So, the tater digger will come out to play yet again this season.  A few years ago, we posted the picture on Facebook and asked people to be creative and come up with uses for it.  We thought we might share them again here!
The original post: Soon, this will be put to use. So, how shall we use it? Be creative!
Nancy DSome kind of chipmunk torture device?
Jeff C Picking pea pods, before they break the surface?
Keith K - I used one identical to this, as a kid, on my parents farm for digging potatos. It's an old potato plow (meant to be pulled by a horse), modified for a tractor. Maybe you know this. I just got excited when I saw the picture.
GFF's Response to Keith:'re not supposed to be accurate, just creative.
Everyone ignore Keith! Keep being creative.
Keith K - Crab grass filtration device. Dress it up into a scarecrow for Fall. Cloths drying rack on top, boot dryer on bottom. I'm done. (that's the spirit Keith! We know Keith and realized he could take a nice chiding.)
Susan C - a device for slinging turkey manure into your neighbors fields...
Theri V It looks like it could be a big, scoop-billed bird with big whacky eyes!
Keith Khook it to a zip-line, and provide rides at the farm. (Boy, I tell ya, get the guy started....)
GFF - Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Now we're having fun! If the zip line was lined up with a row of potatoes.....
Glen E A gold finder
Michael P - It should definitely involve a cello bow, an amplifier, and a full moon. (how'd he know we both played cello?)

Melissa J - Looks like a catapult. Aren't the turkeys getting to the obnoxious teen phase? Threaten to launch them into the corn fields! (no animals were harmed in the making of this comment)
Ryan Dwe all know plants grow better with music, it is an oversized thumb harp called a Hypogaea Harp. Best played in the fall to get the one last upward spurt out of the plants before harvest.
Theri V - How about a giant robot head to go up against your new pergola?  Like the "Bad Robot" at the end of some of the TV shows, like Lost.

We're glad so many people had some fun with this and we hope others enjoy the responses as well.  

Do you have other ideas?  Respond to this post and share them.  Or, if you can't get the comment feature to work and still want to share, send us your idea and we'll add it to this list!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The C in CSA is Community

We asked for help - even using our blog to explain what we needed to do.  And, happily, we got ALL KINDS of help!  If our count was correct, we had at least 20 people come to help us put new plastic on Eden, our older high tunnel building.

Our thanks to those who were willing to take and share some pictures and to those who willingly took our camera and took pictures as well.  And, of course, many thanks to all of you who came and helped.  We realize that it didn't always seem like you were doing much.  But, your presence was critical to make sure the plastic stayed where it was supposed to stay.  The results were fantastic.

Bandsaw Man, the superhero - at it again!
Tammy and I managed to get the plastic off of the high tunnel on Saturday.  It was a bit windy, but we were able to get it cleaned off and get things largely prepped prior to Sunday.  We got the scaffolding up on both ends, gathered tools and supplies and were pretty close to ready to go at 7:30am on Sunday.

There were a few brace bands that needed to go on prior to the plastic being pulled, but after that, we were ready to go.
the plastic is spread out on the North side, read to pull.
Look carefully, do you see Tammy?
We had a couple people on each peak, standing on scaffolding.  We had three people pulling, one person in the middle to help get around any snags, one person on the South scouting and the rest were in positions to try to keep the plastic from getting caught on anything as we pulled it over.

Who knew this could be fun?
That means we had people between the plastic and the building on the North and South sides.  Do you remember playing with sheets and making a fort in the living room?

Well, there you go.

You might notice the picture on the right.  If you look VERY carefully, you can find Farmer Tammy.  It might help if you click on the picture to enlarge it. 

People on the ground kept the plastic on the North and South from lifting up and the people on the peaks worked to pull the plastic as tight as we could get it.  Once we felt it was tight enough, we put wiggle wire in to hold both peaks.  We followed that with putting some wiggle wire on the hip boards in the middle.  Then we worked towards the corners, trying to get rid of any wrinkles as we went.
What's wiggle wire?  That's wiggle wire!
Once we had that connected we could use wiggle wire to attach to the roll-up bars.  Since this was on the ground, we could give lots of people a chance to try their hand at wiggle wire.

After we all decided wiggle wire is cool - if slightly dangerous for the eyes if you aren't paying attention (no, no one was hurt) - we herded everyone together for a picture.

Even Inspector got into the picture.
And, of course, people were now hungry.  So, there was food.  After all, this IS a farm you know.  There is food there.  That is a good thing.
Food specifically approved of by Ilsa
And, now, we are ready to grow more good food in Eden.  In fact, the following Tuesday, Rob was able to pull Golden beets and lots of snack tomatoes out of this building.  Here's to several more years of Eden being the farmers' happy place.
there be lots of green things in there!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

BLT Snobs

This will surprise my parents, I suspect.  Or, perhaps it is no longer a surprise to them.  But, one of our favorite Summer and early Fall meals is now the one that features BLT sandwiches (Bacon Lettuce and Tomato).  We also often have green beans with that meal as well.  That part will NOT surprise them at all.

Part of the driving factor that has changed my opinions about BLTs are the extremely good heirloom varieties we grow on our farm (both lettuce and tomato).  But, this is actually going to get a bit scary (for some of you).  Each of these varieties has their own taste and they actually work with different parts of the BLT in different ways.  Some people may not taste the difference initially and others may not have the taste buds to be able to tell the difference.  But, we believe that many people's tastebuds begin to learn to tell the difference between certain tastes over time.

Do you love your mayo?
Australian Yellow Leaf
The Tasty Evergreen tomato often does NOT get the love it deserves when it sits in our tomato tray for pickup at the CSA distribution.  Often, I will try to encourage people to try it and the reviews from those who do try are generally quite good.  But, there are days when I won't say a word.  Why?  Because I love my mayo on a sandwich - and the slightly tangy taste of one of these tomatoes is the perfect combination.  Add some Australian Yellowleaf lettuce and you've got a great BLT in the making.

It's all about the bacon.
German Pink
Maybe it's psychological, but I tend to favor some of our meatiest tomatoes to work with the bacon as a taste combination.  German Pink has long been one of our favorite tomatoes as has Italian Heirloom.  Both are not terribly juicy, so the sandwich won't be too soggy.  The firmer texture works great with some nice crispy bacon.  Just enough mayo for taste, but not too much to make it sloppy and add some Pablo lettuce to the mix.  Yum!

I dare you to care about the B and L
Black Krim
Black Krim has been our recommendation for the absolute best tasting tomato for several years now.  This is especially true once we started growing them successfully in our high tunnels.  Sure, sure.  This is supposed to be about BLTs.  Get yourself some fresh, homemade bread.  Make sure you are using REAL mayonnaise - not that salad dressing stuff.  Get bacon from a locally raised pig that has seen some pasture time and then select the heirloom lettuce that makes you happiest.
Bunte Forellenschus

I believe I just made myself hungry.  I think I'll be going now.  And, maybe I'll add a couple of pieces of Jimmy Nardello's Frying Pepper as well.  Hmmmm.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Crop Report, September 2016

We haven't done this one for a while - so here you go!

We do these sorts of posts in part for our own reflection and in part because folks in our area sometimes find it useful to see how things are doing here in comparison to their own gardens.  Sometimes our observations validate what is going on at their place.  Other times, it makes them feel like they've done very well.  And, occasionally, it only serves to make you feel like you did fail on a given crop - but don't worry - we're "professionals."  If we can make something grow and you can't, you can just use that excuse.  If it's the other way around, you can tell everyone how you can do better than the "professionals."
Lettuce Be Thankful
That this is not intended to be an all-puns, all-the-time post.  But, a pun here and there just adds to the flavor.

We re-dedicated ourselves to our lettuce crop and have found some real success in that area.

Last year's total harvest for lettuce was just over 1000 heads for about 350 pounds of product and the year before the numbers were 1500 and 450.  As of September 7, we are at 1822 heads and 838 pounds for the season.  The great thing about that?  We still have the Fall crop to go.  I don't think we'll get to the 1500 pounds from 2009, but we also had trouble moving all of the lettuce that year.  Sometimes records just aren't what they're cracked up to be.  All indicators are that the amount of lettuce we have grown has been well-received and of good quality.  It's nice to start a crop report post with a positive.

Sa Squash of GFF
Ok, I'll admit that one is a bit of a reach.  But, I did want to talk about a crop we often ignore in these reports.  In fact, the last time we talked about Summer Squash and Zucchini that I can recall was in 2010.

We've been modifying how we grow the summer squashes over the past several years for a few reasons.  First, changes to other crops resulted in moving these crops from one part of the rotation to another.  When you change conditions for a crop, you should probably expect a change in production, which there was.  We also reduced our production levels because we felt like there were too many good fruit going to waste on these plants and we didn't feel like there was enough of a market to move the excess at the numbers we were producing.  That, and our CSA members were telling us they couldn't use that many fruit either.  So, we cut back on this crop so we could concentrate more on other crops.

That brings me to a 'sidebar.'  There are often markets for items if we grow larger amounts of excess (and sell at a lower, bulk price), but it is easy to get caught with an odd amount of extra product that is less easy to sell.  We were landing there far too often.

This season, production numbers still have not been fantastic, but I need to remind myself that we have reduced production and I still have memories of years with higher numbers simply because of the amount we were growing.  Our first succession is largely finished and the second succession will get its first pick on Thursday of this week.  We were sitting at just over 700 summer squash and almost 600 zucchini with only that first succession.  If the second does similarly, we are on target for numbers that exceed both 2014 and 2015, but are well below some of the high production years.  In short, fairly comfortable numbers.

Why Should I Carrot All?
We tried seeding our carrots on the farm more than once this season and the germination rates were poor in all but one case - the batch in our high tunnel.  We were not the only ones in Iowa having this issue, so I guess we don't feel all that bad.  Ok, we do.  But the reality about carrots for us is this - direct seeded carrots can be picky and we have Jeff Sage growing carrots for our CSA in addition to what we grow.  That safety net allows us to concentrate on other crops and not waste too much time on the carrots.

We have certainly grown great carrots in the past.  We expect to grow them again in the future.  We were able to pull out 122 pounds from the high tunnel planting which is on par with the 109 pounds last year.  But, we don't have the additional field carrots (we had over 1000 pounds in 2013, for example).  The good news?  See the next crop.

Minding Your Peas and Cukes
We are actually going to focus on the cuke part of this one today.  Why?  Because I hear the people of this world crying out, "Peas! No more puns!"  What?

The cucumber crop actually did better than last year, even though our numbers do not necessarily indicate that.  We harvested just under 3000 fruit this year (up only slightly from 2015), but they came over a longer period of time -which was a goal we had for this year.   And, there were many cucumbers we did not harvest.  So, it is likely that our numbers would have easily reached the 5000 mark we hit in 2012 and 2013.  We see no reason to pursue 2010's record of 7300 at any point in the near future.

It is only natural that readers might wonder why we left perfectly good cucumbers in the field.  The answer my friends, is in the available resources - primary of which is time and secondary is space.  Perhaps we have the space, but then we would need more time to make that space.  And, we would need time to distribute or sell more cucumbers.  Suffice it to say, the cucumbers did what was needed and we had to recognize that they were only one crop of many.

On the plus side, we were able to send cucumbers to Grinnell Heritage Farm and Blue Gate Farm this year.  And, it is possible we can get some carrots from Grinnell later in the year if Jeff doesn't have them.  See, things work out.

Would you like to see more crop reports like this one?  Tell us which crops you want to hear about!

Friday, September 9, 2016

A New Skin Needed

In 2010, we put up our first high tunnel as part of a PFI field day.  We had plenty of help that made the experience go well (and relatively quickly).

Suddenly, it is 2016 - and the plastic is over 6 years old.  We've been incredibly fortunate that it is still intact (for the most part), but it would be folly to try to get one more Winter out of it. 

So - we are trying to get people together Sunday morning (early), September 11 to help us put a new skin on this building.  If you are interested, please send us a note and tell us that you are willing to help. 

Please contact us and let us know you will attend.  If you just show up, you (and we) may be disappointed.  Why?  Well, if we don't hear from enough people, we may cancel.  Your arrival in that case might be a bit awkward.

Why Sunday morning?

Well, there are some critical weather factors that come into play.

1. There can't be wind.
2. We really don't want to do this when it rains
3. If it gets too cold, pulling plastic isn't a good idea either.

It just so happens that Sunday AM should be sunny, with low wind.  Temps will be in the 50's, which is acceptable, even if you might personally find it chilly as compared to recent temperatures.

Rob and Tammy will be working on Saturday to pull off the old plastic and do some repairs prior to Sunday.  There is also some setup to do - such as setting up some scaffolding and finding ladders and materials so the process on Sunday morning will go smoothly.

Of course, if the weather changes OR if we don't get enough help OR if there is an unforeseen problem, we will have to reschedule.  But, the weather forecast for this time period hasn't changed for days and we'll do everything we can to avoid the unforeseen problem.

The real variable here is the number of helping hands.  Two people cannot do it.  Probably the absolute minimum will be eight.

These high tunnels have been an important part of our farm for some time now.  They provide us with on-farm crop insurance of a sort.  This year, the field tomatoes have taken a major hit, but, our high tunnel tomatoes are going strong.  Without them, we would likely be apologizing to our customers that we don't have much for tomatoes this year.  And, that fresh spinach many of you love in April?  Well, that's part of what these buildings do for us (and you).

Thank you for considering our request for help and we hope to see some of you on Sunday.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

They're Real!

Our farm (the Genuine Faux Farm) has been in operation since 2005.  In other words, we've been doing this for a little while.  Our name has been the Genuine Faux Farm since the beginning - so it's not like the name is new.  But, I am still surprised by people from the area that are surprised by the name and perhaps misinterpret it.

For example, I had someone (using a very confused tone) tell me that they were surprised that I actually DID farm.  After all, our name says we're a 'fake' farm. 
I guess it comes with the territory.  If you want to use word play, you're going to sew some confusion.

In an effort to show you that the Genuine Faux Farm IS real, we thought we'd show you some REAL WORK on the farm.

Emma and Kristel put the baby tomatoes in.
Sadly, this has not been our best year for taking photographs of the farm.  It has also not been the best year for consistent blog posts and it has been noted that I have displayed some inconsistency in my punning in the CSA newsletters.  All I can say to that is that I just haven't been 'feeling' it this season.  Nonetheless, there are some pictures that actually show activity on the farm.    
Chelsea and Emma - it might have been a warm day, but we still got the garlic hung up!
If over three thousand garlic isn't enough to convince you that we're a real farm, then you'll have to tell that to Emma and Chelsea.  They worked pretty darned hard to help us get them hung up to cure.  

We have noticed that showing the garlic harvest is a favorite picture for farms such as ours.  We can certainly understand that.  It's a major event in June - a time of year when many of the crops aren't all that big and most of the work pictures would show people weeding.  And weeding some more.  Not only that, but it's a harvest that results in some big changes in the way things look on the farm.  It took us several days before we could get used to not having garlic standing proudly in the field.
Caleb cleaning the onions
Have you ever wondered why our produce is cleaned up when we get to a CSA distribution?  Well, while Rob is running around picking, Caleb is trying to clean things up for you!  We can't always get to everything - and some things we opt not to clean so you get a better storage result.  But, we know how hard this job would be without Caleb's help.  And, this is not all Caleb does on the farm.  He may have pulled a weed or three as well. 
Bryan measures twice before cutting once.
It is entirely possible that our farm will finally have an operating walk-in cooler.  This has been on the agenda as a major item for the past several years.  We just always run out of time to do it.  Something about having lots to do and with having Mother Nature as the task-mistress.

Well, sometimes good things work out.  Bryan likes to work with walk-in coolers.  He is new to the area and wanted something to do.  All I can say is that I am greatly relieved to see some progress on this front.  A working walk-in cooler could be a huge game-changer for us (for the better).
Rob's favorite farm tool - the wheel hoe
I suppose you should probably see some proof that Rob and Tammy also work on the farm.  It's just hard to get pictures of them since they are usually using the camera and we're not really into selfies (per se). 

Tammy says, "Thank you for reading the blog!"
If you ever really want some proof that we do work on the farm, ask to see our hands.  There's usually enough evidence there to back up our claim. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Sounds on the Farm

As odd as it might sound that Rob has a PhD in Computer Science and the two of us don't make sure to get the "latest and greatest" technology whenever it comes out, it is the truth.  For example, we have never owned anything with which we could take a video.  But, that doesn't mean others haven't taken a video or two.


A few years back, Tammy's sister, Brenda brought a video camera and took a few videos of some of our birds.  Rob ran across the files again recently and thought we might share a couple of them just so everyone can hear some of the sounds we do on the farm.

The first (above) is Bob the Rooster (no longer with us) testing out his lungs.  While it is true that roosters do crow early in the day, our birds are generally not so obnoxious that they crow overly much.


The second video shows some turkeys when they were still housed in our old barn.  They get very excited when they get let out of the building and they know feed and other treats are likely on the way.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Whole Picture

We held our annual Summer Festival at the farm on August 27 and continued with our three (or four?) year old tradition of including a picture scavenger hunt for those that attended.  It's a low-key hunt that encourages people to check out the farm and see if they can find some of the things on the scavenger hunt sheets.  Young and old alike seem to enjoy it at least as much as I do when I create it.

Being a typical introvert, I take time to process my interactions and events from a large gathering of people more than perhaps an extrovert might.  This time around, the scavenger hunt has ended up being my theme - whether I intended it to be or not.
Side of the Harvestore silo on the farm
The Elephant in the Room
One of the easiest photos, in my opinion, was the photo of the Harvestore (silo) building.  Imagine my surprise when two people who spend/spent a fair amount of time on the farm didn't get this one.  After all, the Harvestore is big and tall.  It's a blue color that doesn't appear in nature.  You can see it from practically everywhere on the farm.  It was my thought that everyone would see the Harvestore and walk over to it to see these particular bolts/nuts.  And, I am sure many people did just that.

This is a great reminder to me that not everyone sees what is obvious to me.  It doesn't necessarily mean that I am any more insightful or observant than others.  It just means that each of us sees, hears, feels with different filters and priorities.  It's a reminder to me that I should be patient when others do not immediately understand or find the same importance in things that I do.  It's also a reminder that I should hope for the same patience from others when I am apparently missing the elephant in the room.  Even if it is sitting in my lap at the time.
Trunk of an oak tree on the farm

Differing Perspectives
This may be my favorite picture of the whole group I took for the scavenger hunt.  We have some mature burr oak trees in front of the house.  (just remember, if  it's not Burr Oak, don't fix it...)

Tammy and I both have an affinity for burr oaks, for various reasons, so it is nice to have them on the farm. At least two of these trees have been hit by lightning since we've been here.  One of them is slowly declining.  But, the one in the picture seems fine despite the split in the bark that runs 30 to 40 feet up the trunk from the ground.  The scarred area is on the right of this picture and the normal bark (covered with moss) is on the left.

This picture reminded me that I am given the gift of seeing the farm through other people's eyes during the festival.  One person exclaimed, "What a beautiful place you have here!" 

My first reaction to this?

"What?  Can't you see the weeds in that field?  And, those bushes over there aren't doing well.  I really don't know what to do about that.  That fence needs to be mended.  Ooops.  I forgot to clean that pile up before you all got here.  I told myself we wouldn't have another festival where the back door entrance wasn't in such poor repair.  I wish I had time to finish painting that building... etc"

And... I wish that tree hadn't been struck by lightning.

Yet, you look at it closely and you find that it's actually quite beautiful just the way it is.  Huh.

Practical Farmers of Iowa sign at the drive entrance

How Is Your Growing Season Going?
I am getting better at answering this question than I used to be.  But, it still takes a moment to warm up to it.  So, I apologize to those who asked if they didn't get an all-encompassing positive feeling after my answer.

When you have a diversified farm such as the one we manage and maintain, there is NEVER going to be a simple answer to this question.  I can't exactly say it's been a poor year, because that is inaccurate and incomplete for an answer.  If I tell you that it has been a great year, that too would be incorrect.  Even telling you it has been an average year doesn't do it.  It's just like showing you the picture above and asking you to tell me what the rest of the word is (you all know it is "Practical" because of the caption - but that's cheating!).

Because we spend more time on the farm looking at things that are going wrong and trying to figure out how to address them, negatives are often the first thing that pops up in my mind when I'm asked the question.  I get tempted to tell people that it has been a disappointing year.  But, then I remember that our CSA shares have had contents that rival our best years for variety and quality.  I think about how good the lettuce has done this year and I realize that the snow peas ran at a reasonable average yield this year for us (rather than the bumper crop of 2015).

In the end, this question becomes the same thing for me as "How are you doing?"  My answer for both has more to do with my personal feelings at the moment and less to do with what might actually be happening.  So, if you ask me this question - and you really want an answer - tell me so.  I'll give you the longer (and more accurate) answer.  I promise I won't take too long.  I can get to the point quickly if I need to.  But, if you want to know how I'm doing, ask this question and tell me you want a short answer.

Connections to Another Land
We were honored by the visit of Benjamin Kusi of Ghana at our farm during the festival.  Benjamin is the in-country staff directory for Self-Help International.  Our thanks to Jeff and Susan Cornforth for being willing to make this connection. I realized that it might have been nice to have had more time to talk to Benjamin, but my duties as a host precluded that to some level.  I am hopeful that I will be able to have more conversations with him in the future.

Nonetheless, I learned some things during our quick tour of the farm and the conversation that we had during that tour.  Oddly, some of my learning came in the form of self-introspection.  Some of the questions Benjamin asked me caused me to do some quick re-analysis of what I really thought.  I suppose some of the reason for this is because I very much wanted to give him my best and most accurate answers based on what I think I know at this time in my life.  After all, he has come a long way to see some farming operations in Iowa.  I wanted to make it worth his while.

But, the questions were also formulated in a way that made me want to consider them more carefully.  It was clear that these were not 'throw-away' questions to make conversation or to get me started talking.  They were presented in a way that wanted answers.  Benjamin was also kind enough to answer some of my questions with respect to the state of agriculture in Ghana.

Celebrating the Summer Fest
Our 2016 Summer Festival appears to have been a success.  Tammy prepared the turkey to perfection and everyone enjoyed turkey sandwiches with heirloom tomatoes and lettuce (all GFF raised!).  There was a wide variety of potluck items that were happily consumed by all who attended.  The Buskers, once again, provided excellent music and many people enjoyed just roaming the farm and getting a feel for what we do here.  Sidewalk chalk drawing appeared to get some imagination going and the hayrack became an impromptu dance stage.  A few overly ripe cucumbers became mini-vehicles - at least for a few moments.  Inspector (the kitten) made several new friends and the Sandman watched from afar.  Of course, the Sandman sauntered up to me once the last car left.

A few things didn't happen the way we planned, but that's the way our farm rolls.  Perfection is boring?  Or perhaps, it would be more accurate to say that things that always go according to plan are boring.  Perhaps, perfection is the acceptance of what actually happens.  Flaws and all. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016


We've actually had a few people ask us for updates on some of the things that have appeared on our blog this season, so we thought we'd just go right ahead and give updates to those questions on the blog. Why not?  It'll be fun!

How Are Soup and the Kittens?
The biggest problem with having kittens in the Spring for us is the fact that we just don't have much extra time to socialize them.  But, Soup didn't consult us.  Of course... she's a cat.

Sparrow (the grey kitten) was injured by some varmint on the farm.  We were able to find and rescue him, but it necessitated an emergency trip for medical care on a Sunday morning.  Of course... things like that do not happen during normal business hours.  We could not afford to give him the care he would need to recover, but someone was willing to foster him.  It wasn't long before Sparrow was adopted through the Waverly Pet Rescue folks.  This is good news.

Inspector Mewso (grey and white) is still on the farm and tends to stay around the garage and truck barn area.  He's pretty friendly and willing to be held upside down and have his belly get skritched.  He'll bat at fingers with claws in and is gentle with humans.  Sadly, he's not showing lots of tendency to be a very good farm cat.  He does run away from vehicles and tractors when they are started, so he has at least one survival instinct, but he shows no inclination to hunt, but we think that is largely because of....

Soup (aka Super Cali the Fragile Mystic) who is still with us on the farm.  She and Inspector still hang out together.  Both seem to prefer to stick around the garage and main part of the farm.  We suspect Soup was an indoor cat that was dumped at our farm.  She doesn't seem interested in hunting and is also gentle - unless she sees Mrranda or Sandman.  At this point, Sandman doesn't come to the area around our buildings any more.  We have not seen Mrranda for a couple of weeks now, so we aren't sure what's going on there and Rob isn't very happy about that.

The upshot is this.  We want Soup to have a new home since it is clear she doesn't really work as an outdoor cat on our farm.  The indoor cats (Bree and Hobnob) will NOT accept another resident.  If we don't hear from someone soon, Soup will be taken to the folks who run the Waverly Pet Rescue in hopes that she can find a new home.  She has had shots and has been spayed.

The jury is still out regarding Inspector.  We'll see.

PUNS?  Augh!
 Are You Sure That You Should Include Puns in Your Posts?
This is not a matter of choice.  If I have a moment to blog and I feel a pun forming in my head, I have no choice than to include it.  Sometimes, the entire post gets infected by it.  It's a disease.  I can't stop it.

After all, I HEARD you all groan when I included the "trays of humility" line in the post I linked just above here.  You're only encouraging me, you know.

How Are Those Baseball Teams Doing?
We posted a little while ago about our favorite baseball teams (Twins and Reds) and how poorly they've been doing.  There are a few meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeean people who keep asking how they are doing.  I suspect a couple of them are trying to be nice.  But, there are a couple of others (you know who you are) that are asking just to watch us squirm.

Tammy's team (Twins) are now 49-75 and have played close to .500 ball since this post went live on our blog.  This has raised them from tied for the worst record in baseball to having the SECOND worst record in baseball.  Congratulations Twins.  (bleah)

Rob's team (Reds) are now 53-70 and were showing no desire to play even .500 ball since the last update until this week.  Three other National League teams have shown even more desire to finish with a worse record than the Reds and they're all within a few games of each other.  I have confidence in my Reds to be able to pull out some sort of finish this year.  I'm rooting for them... I guess.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Culinary Corner: Beautiful Broccoli

[ed note: Some of you might remember that Elizabeth was creating some blog posts on the use of some of our produce last season.  This post came in after the broccoli was done last year, so we held it in reserve for this year.  Enjoy! rf ]

I was one of those weird kids who LOVED broccoli. It was my favorite. You could put a bowl full of steamed and buttered broccoli in front of me, and nothing else, and I was the happiest kid around. To this day I still love a good helping of steamed broccoli, but as I've grown up I've found other ways to incorporate my favorite vegetable so it more closely resembles a balanced meal.

One of my favorite recipes comes from one of my favorite food blogs. If you're looking for creative and delicious vegetable recipes, you should really check out Green Kitchen Stories! They're my first stop for healthy, beautiful meals that are vegetarian, but also take many other dietary needs into consideration! This recipe is called Yoga Pot, and it's my favorite way to end a long work day. It's filling without being too heavy, and comforting when all I want to do is flake out with a good book or movie at the end of the day.

Yoga Pot

1 tbsp coconut oil or canola oil
1 med onion (yellow, white, or sweet)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional, if you don't like the spice!)
1 tsp cayenne pepper (also optional)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 head of broccoli, cut into large bite-sized pieces
1 small fennel, sliced
1 small zucchini, halved length-wise and sliced
2, 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes
1/2 cup lentils
1 can chickpeas (garbanzos), drained and rinsed.

**NOTE: when you cut the broccoli into florets, save the stems and make broccoli slaw! The link to the recipe can be found below!

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil, onion, garlic, and ginger together over medium heat and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the spices and cook until fragrant, about a minute more. Add the broccoli, fennel and zucchini and let it saute for about 5 minutes, before adding the tomatoes and lentils. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 40 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked through. Add the chickpeas and cook for 5 more minutes before serving with brown rice and a dollop of sour cream!

Still need some more inspiration? Here are a few links to some other broccoli recipes I love!

Polenta with chopped broccoli and pecorino

Broccoli with Garlic and Hot Pepper

Broccoli Slaw

Jamie Oliver's Broccoli Pasta with "Oozy Cheese Sauce"

Monday, August 22, 2016

Summer Festival 2016

We'd like to cordially invite you to our annual Summer Festival at the farm this coming Saturday (August 27). If you would be so kind as to RSVP that you plan to attend, it would help us immensely with our preparations. 
While we hope for good weather, we’ll party regardless of the weather.  This year’s festival will feature a GFF turkey (prepared by Tammy), good food, family-friendly fun and live festive music provided by The Buskers.
We hope this event gives everyone a chance to celebrate a great summer with friends and provide opportunities to make new friends. Bring your family, kids and friends (but please leave pets, tobacco and alcohol at home). Our farm has lots of open space for adults and kids of all ages to run around, chase balls, meet the poultry, and share in the fun. We encourage you to bring lawn-games, blankets and chairs, and leave the electronic devices in the car.

Food at this festival features some of the best food around by the best chefs around – all of us.  I’ll roast one of our farm’s pasture-raised turkeys for sandwiches and provide veggies to top the sandwiches, as well as provide iced-tea, lemonade and water.  We encourage you to bring either a salad, snack or dessert.  [note – at past festivals we have also offered a grill, but sadly, our grill is aging and not available for the heavy use associated with a large gathering].  If you wish to bring other beverages, we would prefer that they be non-alcoholic.  If the weather is nice (low wind), we’ll also provide s’more makings (if you have a favorite marshmallow-roasting stick to share with others, bring it along!). To help those with food sensitivities or the curious, please bring a recipe card with an ingredient list and your name to tape to your dish.
One of our goals for our events is to have "minimal waste" events.  We will have table service (plates, silverware, napkins and serving utensils) and encourage attendees to bring their own beverage cups (we’ll have extras just case).  We also encourage you to bring lawn chairs or blankets as we have a limited supply. 
Directions from Waverly:  If you need directions, please ask for them when you RSVP. 
Summer Festival Schedule (subject to change if needed):

1:00-4:00 Tom Sawyer Work Time
For those who have interest, we could use some volunteers in the early afternoon to help with set up and preparation. If you are willing to help, please indicate that this is the case in your RSVP. If we get enough volunteers, we could have a few people doing other work on the farm. For example, a few people might help us collect some over ripe cucumbers to feed the birds later on.

4:00-5:00 Huck Finn Play Time

It is possible that there may be a little bit of prepping still going on, but we'll certainly start making the transition to just enjoying the day at this point. We intend to do our photo scavenger hunt again this year. We will have sidewalk chalk available for the artistic sorts. You need not attend early to participate in these activities. We don't anticipate shutting them down unless the weather or other circumstance forces the issue.

For those that have a lawn game that they might like to play (and share with other interested persons), let us know you will bring it and we'll make sure an area is open for the game you have chosen to share.
Also note: we *might* get some latex paint and provide some rocks to do some rock painting *if* there are persons out there who are willing to help supervise this activity.  Let us know if you are such a person.

4:30 Farm Tour #1
Rob and Tammy will provide guided tours of the farm at two points during the gathering for those who would like them. We'll give you the nickel tour and you can feel free to ask questions as we show you our fields and the critters on the farm.

4:45 Feed the Birds

It won't cost tuppance, but I bet the turkeys might like a few cucumbers or other things to eat. Interested persons can help us get some food to our always interested poultry.

5:00 Food!

In case some heirloom tomatoes are not enough, so the potluck and turkey feed begins at 5pm.

5:00-6:00+ Live Music
We have arranged for the Buskers to play at our festival this year. Rick Truax and Scott Hammerlinck have an acoustic set that will run for an hour and then break for some food. If we all give them the positive feedback they deserve, they just might play for a bit more after they've had a chance to eat something. If you attended some of the early Waverly Farmers' Markets on Saturdays this season, you will have had a chance to hear them and have an idea of what they play. If you haven't had a chance to hear them, then you should come to the festival and enjoy.

5:00 - 6:00 Heirloom Tomato Tasting
We will put out a spread of different tomatoes for everyone to taste. You all get to vote for your favorite. The winning tomato gets a 'free' blog post and a bump in production for next year!

6:00 Farm Tour #2
If you are not famished and want the nickel tour, here is a second chance for you.

6:00 Farm more Huck Finn Play Time
Hey - if we have all these neat games and art making opportunities and music around - why would we stop? If you can still move after eating - go for it!

7:00 Bonfire and s'Mores?

It is GFF tradition to have a bonfire and some s'Mores after the potluck winds down. The tradition only holds if the weather allows. If it is too windy, we may opt to not start a fire.

8:00 Time to Wind it Down
As it starts to get dark on the farm, the farmers start to turn into pumpkins. Well, not literally. But, they do still need to do some chores after everyone leaves. If you are willing to help with a little clean up, please let us know. We might appreciate three to four pairs of hands to help in that department.

We Compost
In an effort to reduce waste at GFF events, you will notice that we will have containers with different labels. All food waste will go into the COMPOST bucket. We do realize that some meat might go into these buckets, but the relatively low volume as compared to our compost piles will not make much difference in this case. We will have a BURNABLES container for napkins and paper produces. Another container will take the dishes and silverware we provide (if you bring your own, you'll have to take it with you, of course). A RECYCLING container will be available for standard recyclable items. And, a TRASH container will be for whatever is left (it should not be much).

Arrange to pick up or order poultry while you are there!

Our second batch of broilers will be processed very soon. We still have some broiler chickens and ducks from prior processing events. Save a dollar per bird if you order birds and pick them up prior to leaving the farm at the end of the Festival. We will also have a sign up sheet available to reserve turkeys.