Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Backing Up First Base


Yep, that's me in the background, playing first base in the adult baseball league I played in some years back.  But, that wasn't the only position I played.  My favorites were center field and pitcher.  But, as a person who throws left-handed, the conventional (and non-creative) wisdom was that I had to play either right field, first base or pitcher.  So, of course, when I was not pitching in high school ball, I played right field (with a rare appearance at first).

One of the things they drilled into us during high school practices was that players who were not immediately involved in a defensive play should be moving to back up that play.  As a right fielder, one of the least glamorous and most frequent tasks was to run to back up first base on any ground ball hit to the infield that might require a throw to first base.

  • Every ground ball hit to third base in practice - I would run to back up first.
  • Every ground ball hit to the short stop in a game - I would run to back up first.
  • Passed ball that gets by the catcher with a runner on first? - I would run to back up first.
  • Pitcher tries a pick off to first base - run to back up first.

You get the idea.  There was lots of running to back up first.

Did it pay off?  Not usually - other than the fact that I got some exercise.

Did anyone really notice?  Well, they only noticed if the ball got by first base and the right fielder was NOT there.  Otherwise, it wasn't really something people paid much attention to.  Yes, my Dad did tell me I did I good job getting into position to back things up.  And the coach did once or twice as well.  But, really - who is looking for how the right fielder backs up first (other than someone trying to teach another right fielder to back up first)?

Often, if the ball DID get by the first baseman, I had so far to go in the first place that it was unlikely that I could get there any faster than another player.  And, hopefully, we could throw and catch well enough that there would not be that many times a backup was really needed.  But, there were times...

Times when the ball hit a pole on the fence and caromed crazily, making my effort count for something.  Times when someone else forgot to do their job, but I was there, ready to get the ball that had eluded others.  

Times like that one time - one glorious time - my effort got me to the ball so I could throw a runner out at third and get my team out of a tough inning.

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We have all got our tasks that are very much like a right fielder backing up first.  It's not glamorous.  It's rarely recognized.  In fact, it may not seem necessary much of the time.  But, when it is needed, it is needed.  And when it is missing at a time when it is needed, we all notice.

Tell a right fielder in your life that you appreciate their efforts to back up first and encourage them in their endeavor.  One day you'll need them to throw someone out at third base.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Henlet - A Sililoquy

To lay, or not to lay, that is the question:

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the double yolk misfortune

or to add to the farms troubles, by pecking end them.

The eyes of a hen are placed on the sides of their heads, though we have noticed some are a bit more forward in placement than others - even in the same breed.  It is said that a hen has approximately a 300 degree field of vision.  But, if she wants to a get a good look at you, she will turn her head to the side so she can get you in full focus with one of her eyes.

To fly, to leap -- some more

and by leap we oft end in heartache, suffering the natural shocks that poor flight is heir to. 

'Tis a frustration as flight is devoutly to be wished.

If you have seen Chicken Run, you may have the mistaken assumption that all laying hens are unable to fly because they lack "thrust."  This is largely true for "heavier" breeds of chickens.  But, lighter breeds are perfectly able to fly.  In fact, we have found that the California Whites and the Americaunas on our farm are much more capable of attaining the appropriate thrust for some flight.  There is a reason we have six foot tall fences around our main hen pasture.

However, just because you can fly, it doesn't mean you are particularly good at it.  Don't expect any aerial acrobatics out of a hen.  Sometimes, our hens will misjudge their attempt at flight and run into walls, doors, humans... other hens...

Let's just say that innovators of airplanes and helicopters did not use a chicken as a model for figuring out ways to fly.

To sleep - perchance to dream: ay, there's a bug!

For in that sleep my breath in snores and whistles may come

After we have shuffled to our perches, and gripped them with our talons.

Chickens actually do have an REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep cycle that indicates the capacity to dream - possibly catching some tasty six-legged things in their sleep or soaring over the treetops, since they typically can't do that in reality.  While sleeping, we have noted that some birds will 'snore' in various fashions.  Some will emit a long whistle, not unlike some of the exaggerated sleep sounds found in cartoons.  

And, as far as perches are concerned, there has actually been research on what the best perches for a chicken might be.  At the Genuine Faux Farm, we tend to favor 2 x 2 square boards that are slightly rounded.  Some birds prefer other surfaces in the hen room and a few prefer staying on the ground.  In fact, if you look closely, they may not be gripping the perch as much as you think once they settle in!

There's the respect that makes calamity of a rooster's life.

For who would bear the snips and scorns of hens,

The crows are long, the proud rooster's song rings about the farm.

Ignoring dawn's delay, wearing the insolence of his office.

Stu is the name of our current rooster on the farm (he wants you to spell it right - after all, "Stew" would not do).  He is an Americauna rooster and he displays a fine ruff of feathers around his neck and a pretty decent set of tail feathers. Of particular note is Stu's amazing, extendable neck.  While most chickens can extend their neck out, Stu can go from the resting position you see above to holding his head up a good six to eight inches higher when he straightens up.

One of the things we have noticed over time (and several roosters) is that roosters can have a wide range of temperaments.  Some can become overly aggressive towards both the hens and humans.  Others can be bullied by the hens (a recent rooster never had a chance to grow out a full tail because the hens kept pulling out the feathers).  Some crow a lot and others not so much.  

The biggest reason we keep one or two roosters with our flock is the reliable "alarm" call that you can learn to respond to.  No - I don't mean an "alarm clock."  I mean a call of alarm.  Once you learn the language of the rooster(s) in your flock, you can learn the difference between regular flock noise and a call that indicates there is a problem that requires a farmer's intervention.

To cluck and scratch under the blue sky, but that the dread of something swoops down,

for we live in the country, where a traveling hawk passes by and returns, 

the rooster's call makes us scatter from the ills that may befall us - perhaps to fly to others that we know not of?

thus being chicken makes cowards of us all...

It is true that hawks, owls and other flying predators can be a problem for a laying flock.  But, if you watch closely, the rooster and some of the hens will often turn an eye to the sky to watch for problems.  In fact, in our flocks, we typically have one rooster and seventy or more hens.  With that sort of situation, it is not uncommon for a couple of hens to take on more aggressive, protective roles to supplement the rooster's role.

It is also interesting to note that a flock can learn which sort of predators they need to fear (such as the hawk over head) and those they might be able to intimidate (such as Inspector).  If you look closely, you can see that the hens who are warning Inspector away have extended their necks.  The hen at the right is a flock caretaker in our current flock and will usually lead a charge towards our poor cat - who just wanted to come say "hi" to the farmer who was taking pictures of hens.

While you might think hens are really pretty smart (and they are in their own ways), please consider that there are reasons for some of the stereotypes.  We have seen chickens in the pasture get started by something as innocuous as a leaf falling.  One hen gets startled and that leads to a whole flock running for cover!

We hope you enjoyed Henlet - A Sililoquy.

Alas -fair Ophelia!

Monday, October 19, 2020

Impersonal

I have had people periodically make a comment that they would like to see more pictures of the farmers and workers on the blog.  I don't hear it all that frequently - but often enough to take note of it.

I actually understand where this is coming from, it can be a bit easier to feel a sense of connection if you can actually have visible evidence of the people with whom you are hoping to make a connection.  I also understand that many people would rather see one or two pictures than five hundred words - no matter how personal those words might be.


But, what do you do when you have a couple of people who are not inclined to pose for pictures or take "selfies?"  What if you are not inclined to stop work to take pictures?  Or more likely, you think about taking pictures early and late in the day, but your mind is on other things at all points in between?  Besides, I tend to find a picture of zinnias or frogs or butterflies to be more appealing - but I know not everyone sees it the same way. 

Well, the answer in the past was to host some sort of work day or host a gathering and ask someone else to take pictures for you.  Amazingly, a few pictures of the farmers pop up now and again! 

But, that is not really the point I was hoping to make.  

It seems to me that expectations for farms that hope to sell locally are a bit out of whack sometimes.  It is almost as if we need to be performers more than we need to have quality product.  Being friendly and approachable is good (and necessary), but it almost feels like you must be the equivalent of a friendly, approachable, non-threatening, dancing bear - who just happens to grow some pretty incredible veggies.

Yes, I understand the realities of business.  If you have a product and you want to sell it, you must have salesmanship.  That's fair and expected.  Though I suspect many veteran growers would like their experience and solid reputation to speak for them a bit so they can have a little room to breathe!

But, over the years, I have noticed there are a subset of people who act as if they should be given an award for supporting a local producer of food.  "Look at me!  I went to the farmers' market and I bought $10 worth of produce!  Woo hoo!  Now I can tell everyone I support local food and rest on my laurels for... oh... a few years.  Then, I'll go back again... if they have some live music... and special sales.... and a food truck.  Because I think local food is important."  

Just last season I had an "ardent local foods" supporter tell me that they were surprised that they did not see us at the farmers' market on some random Saturday.  In the past, I have been polite and conciliatory (remember - friendly dancing bear!).  This time, I was polite, firm and I did not brush it off.

I informed them that we had not been selling at farmers' market for the past five (or so) years, pursuing other, hopefully more fruitful, approaches to selling our product.

Did you really expect any farmer to consistently attend every Saturday, in all sorts of weather, year after year... waiting just for that moment when you tell yourself you might like a fresh tomato from a local farm...in May... when it is way too early in Iowa?  Eventually, the bear stops dancing if there is no one in the audience to applaud and toss it treats. 

My apologies if you were the person I talked to that day and I characterized you with this broad brush.  Perhaps you support local foods via a CSA or U-Pick or On-Farm sales - all things I could not know.  But, I suspect you would be the exception (good for you!) and I bet the person I am referencing will not read this and is looking forward to their next appearance at farmers' market in two years time - looking for spinach in August because they saw a neat recipe on some cooking show that told them farm fresh spinach is the best.

So, what got me started on this rant?  Well, it has nothing to do with our farm specifically.  Instead, I am aware of several other small farms that sell locally throughout the Midwest.  Many of them are very engaging with their social media posts.  They hold events at their farms.  They reach out and interact in all sorts of creative ways.  Good, hard-working people.  Many of whom are far more outgoing and willing to photograph themselves than I ever will be!  They also don't write blogs that periodically chastise local food supporters! (oops)

They get plenty of reactions and "likes" on social media.  Lots of positive strokes from people who buy $10 of produce from them every three years so they can bask in the glow of doing something good.  But, I am sure these "local foods supporters" also tell themselves how much good they are doing for local foods by liking and sharing social media posts.

Folks -  your local farmers are often doing things to show their personal side - and you reward them with the most impersonal and the least useful support you can give - because hitting a "like" button is incredibly easy - and means so very little in the end.  What means more are personal recommendations for a product and, more important, your own patronage.

Do you really want to make your support worthwhile and personal?

  • When a local business you support offers something do more than "like" their post.  Link a friend to the post and publicly state "Hey *person I know*!  This is where I got those great tomatoes I told you about. It's easy to get them yourself - here they are!"
  • Every so often, give a specific piece of praise to your local grower.  Give it to them face to face, on the phone, text, email or social media.  "Hey *local business person we appreciate*!  I really like how clean your produce is, you must put a great deal of effort into that.  Thank you!"
  • Honor them with kind and useful feedback - especially when it is requested.  "I liked it when you had lettuce nearly every week in the CSA, but I might like it better if you had two heads of lettuce every other week or every three weeks.  But, by all means, keep getting us that great lettuce!"
  • Consistently support them with your own purchases for as long as the product fits your needs.  But, if life changes and you must move on - be forthright and honest.  Do your level best to promote that business to someone you know who is at a stage in their life where the product does fit so your loss for the local business is balanced by a new customer who could replace your support as you move on to a new phase of your life.
  • Be persistent and consistent in your support.   
  • Be honest with yourself.  How much do you actually purchase from local sources?  Could you do better?  Is it the right thing for you to be doing or is there something better you can expend your energy on?  In the end - do something good!
  • Let the dancing bear have its human moments and extend grace when it is needed.  


Thank you so much for reading our blog.  I suspect, if you read this, that you probably already do some fine things to support local businesses of all sorts.  But, we can all do better in all sorts of things in all sorts of ways - myself included.

Let's all do what we can to take care of each other.  See - we even shared a farmer selfie with you all!

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Here - You Pay For It!

Here we are!  Must be time for some Postal History Sunday on the Genuine Faux Farm blog!

If you'll recall (and even if you don't), we had a post two Sundays ago that talked about how the clerk or carrier would know whether a letter was fully paid at the point of delivery.  The main reason this was important was because it was a common practice to send mail unpaid or partially paid until the middle of the 19th century.  As we get into the 1860s, the system was moving steadily towards prepaid mail as the normal process.

It should be no surprise, then, that markings were important to indicate whether an item was paid or not.

India to France

Below is a piece of business correspondence that was sent from Calcutta, India to Lyon, France in 1863.

Let me explain quickly some of the markings that are clearly visible here.  The black circular marking (that is upside down) reads "Calcutta India Unpaid," which makes it very clear that this item will have to be paid by the recipient.  The red circular markings is a French transit mark that doesn't really play a part in today's story.

The numerical markings, however, do play a part!  The "27" in black ink tells the clerk in Lyon that they need to collect 27 decimes from the recipient.  And, just as a reminder, 27 decimes is equivalent to 270 centimes.  This is essentially the same as a person in the United States saying 270 cents or 27 dimes.

The other numbers (in blue) read "17/3."  The seventeen indicates how much this letter weighed in grams (17 grams) and that much weight required triple the base rate of postage (3).

The rate of postage from India to France using British sailing ships to Marseille was 90 centimes for every 7.5 grams of weight.  The recipient owed three times that amount or 270 centimes (27 decimes).

Pieces of the Puzzle 

Whether you knew it or not, you have just been exposed to one part of how a postal historian checks out an item for consistency and authenticity.  While it is not unusual for an item to have odd and unexplained markings that might even contradict, the vast majority of items should show a consistent story.  It is really a matter of reading the evidence.

The contents of the letter (click on the picture to see a larger version) clearly show a dateline from Calcutta that is consistent with the marking on the front.  The recipient and their location cited in the letter is also a match with the addressee and the Lyon postal marking on the back.  The number of days between the dates given with the postmarks for Calcutta, Marseilles, and Lyon are consistent with traveling times in 1863.  And, as we showed above, all of the postal rate markings can be explained as being consistent with the rates for mail between these two locations at the time.  We can even identify at least one of the ships that carried this letter if we wished to do so!

Thank you for joining us for our Postal History Sunday post.  We hope you enjoyed at least a little of it and we shall endeavor to keep helping you to learn something new each week!

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Around the Bend

When Tammy and I take a hike on a trail, we do like to take a moment and enjoy our surroundings as we go.  This is even more pronounced if we bring a camera along because we like to try and look at things different ways and capture different viewpoints of where we are at that point in time on the path.


Most of the pictures don't turn out to be much of anything from a 'photo' perspective.  In fact, most of them end up being deleted.  But, some few of them look pretty good and many of them help transport ourselves back to that moment.

Then, there are pictures that - even though I remember that moment and place - make me wonder, "What would I find if I stepped into that picture and followed the trail I see?  What would be around the bend?"

Would the trees welcome our presence?  Would there be a light breeze or would it be perfectly calm?  Are there birds in the underbrush to the right and left?  Would they grow silent as we stepped through or would they continue to chatter, not caring that someone magically appeared on the path nearby?

Would we remember to look carefully at where we are now and appreciate things like the texture of bark, the smell of leaves and the rustle of sound as a small creature darts around in the brush?  Or will we focus too hard on our destination - the area after we turn that bend in the path? 

I just hope that we can be happy to be on the path in the first place.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Mishmash of Goals

Are you the sort of person who sets a whole bunch of goals for yourself with the full knowledge that there is no way you can manage to accomplish most of them?  Perhaps we are kindred spirits then?

Frankly, I prefer to reframe this in a more positive light.  I see a whole bunch of opportunities to accomplish things and I have a pretty good idea of where I might like things to go.  But, at the same time, I am fully aware that they can't all be done 'soon.'  I tend to believe that it is better to have some idea where you want things to go and to be aware of things that need to be addressed someday than it is to be unaware and unwilling to consider what might be needed down the line.

So - today I am sharing a small batch of 'goals' I have for 2021 that may or may not come to fruition.  We'll see if either the opportunities arise or the priorities line up!

Get Durnik Out and About

Durnik (the Ford tractor shown above) joined our farm in 2010 and was an excellent tractor for us to learn some of the basics.  After a few years, it was clear that a newer tractor would fit us better and would likely be a safer alternative for the things we were trying to do.  Add to it the fact that neither of us is inclined to do much with mechanics and it just made sense to get a newer machine.

Don't get me wrong here.  If you aren't particularly good with mechanical things, the simpler engines and equipment from the period this tractor came from are much easier to learn on and work with.  On the other hand, if you do not particularly LIKE to do these sorts of things, you DO have to do that sort of work more with an older machine.

In any event, once Rosie joined us on the farm, Durnik did not get used all that much.  Part of the issue is that we do not have a great place to keep both pieces of equipment sheltered and easy to access.  So, an odd little goal I have for 2021 is to get Durnik back out and running.  Then, we need to decide if Durnik sticks around the farm or if we find him a new home.

More Painting

We have a number of things that could use some paint.  I actually like to paint, but it requires chunks of time with the weather being right for painting.  That is normally prime farm work time - so it is difficult to take the time to put a coat of paint on something and enjoy doing it.  And, let's be honest, if I've been outside working hard day after day on the farm, I might rather do something that is a bit more different than ... painting on the farm.  

Even so, I have this goal that I want to paint more on the farm in the next year.  It sounds good right now.  But, I also know that the conditions won't be good for painting over the next few days - so it is easy to say it.  What happens when conditions are good for painting again.  Will I still think it is a good idea then?

More Zinnias

This one is a goal we know we can do.  Hey.  We had a four hundred foot row of zinnias this year.  We can do zinnias.

Sometimes, you have to set a goal you can have a really good chance of meeting.

Grow a Burgess or Marina Winter Squash in 2021

Here is a "shoot for the moon" goal for our farm.  We used to LOVE our Marina di Chioggia and Burgess Buttercup squash.  But, as we scaled up, we found they were largely incompatible with everything else we were trying to do.  

For 2021, I am not looking to grow these squash commercially.  I simply want to grow a dozen or so plants and harvest a couple dozen squash of one of these two types.  Perhaps, as we scale some things down, we can grow these varieties successfully again.  Or, maybe, our definition of success for the larger scale just didn't allow for the kind of success that is possible with these types on our farm?

It's hard to know - but that's why we make goals.  The results are not foregone conclusions.  

It will be interesting to see how they turn out in 2021.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Buggaboo! - Look Back

I actually enjoyed sharing some older posts from prior Septembers last month, so I thought - why not?  I can do ye old "Throw-Back Thursday" on our blog like others have done in the past.  

As with the September editions of this series, I add a little commentary and do a little editing to clean it up or add a little depth - but otherwise, it is pretty similar to the original.  This one was first posted on October 23, 2011.

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It's October and relatively close to Halloween.  So, we thought we'd show you some scary pictures.

The scene - our high tunnel.  Home of some beautiful tomatoes and green beans in October.  The tomatoes are on the left, the yellow box holds some green beans we were picking... in case you want to know.



This picture seems tranquil enough.  Harvest was going relatively well.  We decided we should scout the tomatoes and see what was going to be available to pick.  
 

We found this beautiful Black Krim tomato.  It tasted pretty darned good too.  All is right with the world.  The birds are chirping.  The sun is shining.  The farmers are happy.

Suddenly, a scream chases thoughts of pleasant work in a sun-enhanced enclosure on a mildly chilly day.  What could possibly be wrong?

Ok, now wait a minute.  You are ruining the mood with your questions.  We are not going to tell you who screamed or how they screamed.  Seriously... no, we aren't telling.

Look.. It's a metaphorical scream.  Just a symbol of the unhappiness felt by this discovery.  Ok?  No one actually screamed.  yeeesh!


NOOOOO!  The horror!  Defoliated leaves on the tomatoes.  It is awful.  Horrifying!  Whatever has done this?

And it gets worse!

========== SENSITIVE VIEWERS ALERT========= 

What you are about to see is uncensored.  Some viewers may find the following to be unsettling and, frankly, a bit gross.  Viewer discretion is advised.
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The farmers let out a collective gasp as the magnitude of the situation sinks in.  It is not just the loss of some leaves.  That loss, while disturbing and less than positive, is not the end of the world.  The plants are nearing the end of their life cycle as temperatures sink lower each night.  It is the loss of ripening fruit that hits home. 

Who is responsible for this reprehensible behavior?  Is it the butler?  The maid?  Professor Peacock in the solarium with a megaphone?
 

Aha!  The culprit.  A hornworm.  Evil little feller.  Actually, it was more like a few dozen of them throughout the tomato row.

An excellent summary resource about tomato hornworms (larva for hawkmoths) can be found here: http://www.vegedge.umn.edu/vegpest/hornworm.htm

How do we handle the hornworm on the farm?
We have had very little issue with hornworm damage in the past.  But, then again, we have not grown in the high tunnel all that long.  The high tunnel provides a beautiful location for a late hatching.  We look for hornworm damage and then look for the hornworms themselves.  Once found, we pull them off the plants.  If we are feeling ambitious, we take them to the turkeys.  If we are not, we find that they do not survive a quick compression with the sole of a shoe.  (step on it, Rob!)

Green tomatoes damaged by hornworms or other critters should just be pulled off the plant - especially earlier in the year.  this allows the plant to focus on other fruit.

Note - you will find that hornworms can grip the plant or leaf in a way that it could be difficult to pull them off.  They may startle you a bit as they curl towards your fingers - and there is a bit of an 'ick' factor for many people.  They will pinch you a bit if you carry them any distance (as we do when we take them to the turkeys), but it is more startling than painful.  They cannot do any permanent damage to you.  And they certainly cannot do the damage you can do to them.

Parasitic Wasps

 If you find white growths on the worm, you probably should find a way to let the worm live by moving it somewhere you can tolerate it.  This will increase the parasitic wasp population.  Thus, building up a natural control.  Thus far, we have not noticed any of this on hornworms we have found.  Sad.

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Sooooo - did you see the other scary critter that we did not mention in the original post?  Go back and look at the 3rd picture from the bottom.

Are you back yet?

Good.  You should have noticed the striped worm on the tomato that was closest to the center of the picture.  That little nasty was clearly NOT a hornworm!  That critter was an Armyworm, which is known to primarily damage fruit, though they will munch on leaves too.  Over the years, I would say we have lost more crop to the Armyworms in high tunnels than we have to Hornworms.  But, it has never been so much that we've been tempted to do any more than pick them off and squish them.

And, have we seen evidence of parasitic wasps since the original post?  No.  But, we also have not seem much of the Hornworms in our tomatoes since that time.  It would not be hard to guess that we may have a population of those wasps on the farm as well, even if we have not seen evidence.

Have a great day everyone - and don't dream of Hornworms or Armyworms!  Ooops..... maybe I shouldn't mention that?

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

More Foresight 2021

A week or so ago, we put a pair of postings that discussed the possibilities for the Genuine Faux Farm in 2021.  We have yet to be able to set aside time for a 'mini' farm retreat, so we don't have any huge revelations.  But, we can share some progress in the ongoing discussion.

For those who wish the background - here is our Poultry Prognostication post and our Predicted Production post.


The Individual Connection Quandary

We have maintained a connection with people via direct sales either at farmers' markets, through our CSA or via the farm credits program since 2004.  There are many people we have met and with whom we feel a connection to because of these direct sale methods.  Yet, one of the options we are considering is moving away from direct to consumer sales entirely.

The 'why' of it is not so hard for anyone to figure out.  The entire process of direct, individual sales of any sort requires a fair amount of effort and time.  Sure, you can create tools and processes to make it easier.  But, these tools will never remove all of the requirements, nor should they, because part of what makes direct sales what they are is the personal touch.  Get rid of the personal connection by overusing tools and you might as well save the energy and not do it at all!

So, here we are, trying to balance the new realities of time and energy that come with our new situations at the Genuine Faux Farm.  When you add in the reality that we are likely to continue to need to be applying pandemic strategies for several months into 2021, it opens up a whole host of considerations.  We're already more isolated than we were in the past.  We have already been cutting back our contact hours with customers over the past several years.  How do we balance a need for social contact with a need for balancing available resources?

Nothing is set in stone and nothing is decided - so if this worries you, please do not let it.  If you have input, however, we're always happy to receive that gift.

What to Grow?

We do not see 2021 changing the number of labor hours we will have available on the farm.  At the very least, we have learned what that means in 2020 so we are better prepared to plan for success in 2021.  With that in mind, one thing is very clear - we have to continue to simplify and adjust our scale to fit the available labor hours we anticipate that we will have.

After being stymied initially on this question - we started asking ourselves a series of questions that are helping:

  • What do we enjoy growing the most?
  • What do we enjoy eating the most?
  • What grows particularly well on our farm with our established tools and methods?
  • What will fit our limited labor resources the best?
  • What could we find outlets for?
  • What growing tasks have caused the most stress over the past several years?

For example, I (Rob) have personally enjoyed growing peppers, broccoli and melons.  I love eating green beans, snow peas and spinach.  Our farm has seen excellent success with cucumbers, garlic and onions.

If that were our only candidates to grow (and they are not), we then ask ourselves the next three questions.

Last year we took the opposite approach by identifying crops we didn't enjoy growing, the ones we typically didn't eat and those that did poorly with our farm and systems.  We pruned them from our growing list (in most cases).  In itself, that feels a bit more negative in approach.  Identify failures and things you don't like and remove them.

This time, we're turning it around and asking what we might like to do.  At the least it FEELS more positive.  So, we'll go with it!

Feedback Appreciated

Do you have feedback or ideas?  Feel free to share them with us - especially if you know who we are and what we do and how we do it (at some level).

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Music I'm Glad I Didn't Miss

I am one of those odd people who refuses to use a music streaming service for a whole host of reasons.  One of them has to do with the fact that we have had poor internet at our farm historically - though it has gotten better in the last couple of years.  

The other reasons are more personal in nature.  First, I like to create my OWN playlists and make my OWN decisions about what I will listen to.  I suppose you could say I would be the person who might make playlists for streaming much more quickly than I will be a customer.  Second, I prefer to purchase my own copy (whether physical or digital) so that I can more directly support artists for their efforts.  Third, I like to start, stop, replay and do what I want when one of my playlists is running.  And, finally, I like to pay a bit more attention to whole albums or works of musical art.  I think that gives a bit more of a connection to the artist.

Over time, I have gathered a sizable collection of music that I enjoy immensely.  I was creating a new playlist for October and had the same thought for a few albums - "Wow.  I am so glad I found that album - and it would have been easy for me to miss it too!"  In fact, in each of those cases, I did not 'find' the album until it had been out for a while.

I thought I'd share a few of the albums that made me grateful that I did not miss them.


Kerosene Halo - Kerosene Halo

We have been long-time fans of Mike Roe and Derry Daugherty and their bands (77s and the Choir), so it isn't hard to see that it was unlikely that we would miss this one.  But, the reality is that we did not pick up this music until we caught the Choir and Mike Roe on tour through Iowa a few years ago.  It is likely the album had not been out very long, but it had escaped our notice up to that point.

Kerosene Halo's first effort highlighted the wide range of music these two artists can cover.  Everything from a Leonard Cohen cover to a Larry Norman song and some of their own work.  The instrumentation and vocals are a bit more sparse than much of the work their bands put together - and that's just the way it should be.  The songs do a good bit of story-telling, so start the album up and enjoy. 

Kevin Max - Playing Games with the Shadow

Over time, I have picked off a song or two by Kevin Max and enjoyed his vocals and vocal phrasing.  But, for some reason, after listening to the previews on a few of the songs from Playing Games with the Shadow, I went for the whole album and I am glad I did not miss out on this one.

Kevin Max has a voice that lends itself to ballads and songs with some swing to them.  But, what I like about this album is that you can play it at different volumes and enjoy each tune for a different reason depending on the volume.  Feel like bouncing around a bit?  Well, turn it up!  Need to calm down?  Play it quieter.  It works either way.  It's not every album that finds every song showing up on at least one of my playlists.  This is one of those albums.


Zoe Keating - Into the Trees

Tammy and I both love cello music - in part because we both played cello at one point in time.  Happily for both of us, there has been a groundswell of cello dominated instrumental music over the last decade or so.  In our eyes, it is hard to go wrong with cello - but there is certainly a difference between "cool, there's a cello" and "that's really, really good music with cellos."

We were introduced to Zoe Keating by Anden & Elizabeth a few years ago and enjoyed the album they pointed us to.  It was good.  But, it didn't really draw us in to the whole album - it was one of those "pick a song or three" and listen to them situations.  For some reason, I thought I would take a flyer on Into the Trees.   And, we got an album I'm glad we didn't miss.

Perhaps the emphasis on nature helps us to want to like this particular piece of work.  But, I actually think it is more the fact that the music helps bring our minds to those natural places of beauty.  It doesn't hurt that this is cello, artfully and inventively played.  But, I almost feel I can hear the trees talk when I listen to this album.

Vector - Simple Experience

This is a group I have known since high school, and while I liked the first two albums quite a bit, it wasn't until Simple Experience that I felt the need to play one of their albums over and over again.  It is interesting to remember how so many albums at that time followed the formula that the catchier and more upbeat tunes typically were first or second on each side of the vinyl or tape.  They were also often the shorter songs that might find some airplay on the radio.  The quieter tunes, the more complex songs, and the longer songs tended to fill out the 'back half' of each side.

I recall all too well that there were many albums that might have been just fine if they were three or four songs long.  That is not the case with Simple Experience.  For the longest time I would end my day by listening to this whole album after a workday at my first job (after college).  

While I love the music - it's the lyrics that mean the most to me, with an emphasis on social justice and personal introspection.  I've listened to the whole album again a few times recently and it still catches my interest.  I am very glad I did not miss this one.  

Dug Pinnick - Strum Sum Up

Perhaps you know Dug Pinnick from King's X - and perhaps you don't.  Let's just say he is talented and he has staying power.  Not only that - he knows how to put down a really good groove.

You can get an idea that this is an album that has some continuity to it since multiple songs are given in two parts.  But, I have actually found that I prefer to grab couplets and put them into a playlist more than I want to listen to this one all in one setting.  That has nothing to do with the quality of the album because I will gladly listen to the whole thing.  It's more that this music fits my listening style better when it is mixed with other artists' work.  The great thing about this album is that I can put it in all types of playlists and it works well. 

Sam Phillips - Cruel Inventions

First, I want you to remember that the title is "Music I am Glad I Didn't Miss."  It is not, "This is the artist's very best work" or "My top ten of all time" or some other thing.  I mention that because I like this album a lot - but it is not likely Sam Phillips' very best work.  This one is a matter of timing for me.  And I was reminded of my first exposure to this album as I slipped a couple of songs from this album into my October playlist.

It should not be a surprise that, as a male, I might relate more readily to a male singer-songwriter and the lyrics they might write.  Then, Sam Phillips came along with Cruel Inventions and I found numerous connections that helped me to better appreciate a wider range of artistic material from people who weren't just like me.  It was an amazing gift to receive and it is some excellent music that I am glad I did not miss.

Monday, October 12, 2020

That's Not Orange


What is it about people being frightened of complication and complexity?  And why do we seem to have trouble telling children about that complexity?

Case in point - we tell kids that pumpkins are ORANGE. Period.  No exceptions.

Except, of course, when pumpkins are not orange.

As many of you know, we have a history of growing a number of heirloom vegetable varieties.  It has been uncommon for us to grow an orange pumpkin at our farm in part because we wanted to raise pie pumpkins rather than decorative pumpkins.  Very few of our pumpkins even begin to approximate the 'classic' Jack-o-Lantern type of pumpkin that kids draw in October at school.  For example, the picture above shows a Musquee de Provence - one of our favorite pumpkins to grow at the Genuine Faux Farm.

These pumpkins start out as a deep, dark green and begin turning into a tan/brown/orange color as they ripen.  They even continue to change color after they have been harvested.  But, have no fear, if you wanted to cook one of the pumpkins shown in the picture below, they all would have tasted just great!  I do think they taste even better after they've had a chance to cure for about a month, but we've had no problem cooking up one of these if there were some problems with a fruit we had just harvested.

We had some kids come out to the farm a few years ago and they asked if they could see some pumpkins.  I showed them where the pumpkins were, but there was a great deal of disappointment (at first).  It was early and the fruit were small and they were all very GREEN.  No big orange pumpkins anywhere in sight!

But, then we talked about how those tiny little balls were going to grow into the big pumpkins.  And we talked about how different types of pumpkins had different shapes, different colors, different uses and different tastes.  And several of them said they wanted to come back and see what kinds of interesting shapes, sizes and colors they might be when they were ripe and ready.

Kids who are not given a chance to learn that things are not always as simple as they seem (or as they had initially been explained to them) end up being adults who can't seem to figure out some basic things about veggies too!

The classic example is the colored pepper issue.  For some reason, I have run across a whole host of adults who never got the memo that colored bell peppers generally start as GREEN bell peppers and then change color as they age.  In fact, most bell peppers, if left on the plant will turn to a red color (except of course for the yellow and orange bells).  Even the purple bells will start to turn red if given a chance.  But, many purple bells are an exception because they are purple for their entire life... until they aren't!

For example, the picture above shows a batch of Quadrato Asti Giallo peppers.  They are an heirloom bell pepper from Italy.  Isn't the name great?!?  You know what it means in Italian?  Quadrato means "square" and Giallo is "yellow."  Let's just stop there and just sound impressive when we say the Italian name!

These peppers taste great when they are green and taste slightly better when they are yellow.  But, you might notice that they change colors in patches.  I tend to consider them ripe at any point when there are some big solid patches of yellow on the fruit.  They will continue to change some after they have been taken off the plant.


Pumpkins aren't always orange and colored bell peppers start as green bells unless they're purple bells.

After that, striped eggplant aren't so hard to believe.

We hope everyone has a good week!

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Not Called For

It's postal history Sunday!  The day of the week on the Genuine Faux Farm blog where we explore a subject the farmer enjoys and those who read the blog can be completely amazed that anyone would want to get into such detail over old pieces of mail!

You Must Not Delay!

 

We are actually going to look at this one 'backwards' from the normal approach I take with a piece of postal history.  The contents of the letter actually give us some depth to the story that might help everyone understand both the irony and the difficulty this particular letter encountered.

The letter appears to be written to someone on the Brig (ship) Union.

“You must not delay being in Falmouth. This is why I am sending you this to tell you that Mr. Labar etc have given me the balance of your departure, as well as the copy of the account and see to it credited for this amount of 1,412 francs.”
The letter is written in French, so I took the liberty of attempting to translate the introduction into English.  Please remember that I am fighting three things here:  1. handwriting is not always perfectly clear on old letters, 2. I am not perfectly fluent in French and 3. there may be references to culture, current events or other common knowledge of the time that I may not recognize.

But, the content of the letter conveys clearly that the writer was concerned about the speed of both the ship and that this letter get to the recipients in time.  But, this is no surprise as much of the business content I have viewed from the 1850s, 60s and 70s reference some level of urgency or expedience.  On the other hand, the writer seems to be giving advice regarding what the recipient(s) should be doing next.  So, I could see why it might be important to the writer that this letter get to them before they head off to some other less desirable port of call.

We Don't Necessarily Deliver For You

Monsieur Badille in Bordeaux was clearly anxious to get his directives to the recipients on board the Union - at least his letter seems to think imply that.  But, his address makes one wonder a little bit about how certain he could be that his letter would be received:

"Messiures Fox? per consul of France ask the captain of Brig Union - Falmouth, England"

In short - he seems to be implying that the postmaster or a representative at the French Consulate in Falmouth should ASK the captain of the ship to get the mail for passengers on his boat or at least to get the captain to tell his passengers to go get their mail.

It was common practice for mail to be sent to ports of call in care of a foreign legation for persons on board ship.  However, just because the foreign legation was used to serving as a holding location for mail to the captain, crew and passengers of ships that flew their country's flag, that does not mean they would trot on down to the docks to hand deliver each letter.  On the contrary, a captain - or his representative - would typically go to the legation to check for any mail pertaining to the ship.  It was likely presumed that passengers might take care of their own business.

So, let me back up a second.  It was actually fairly common in 1869 for people to go to the post office just to see if they had mail.  Much of the mail was simply held at the post office to be picked up - not delivered to the address.  In fact, much of the mail addressed at the time had no street address given!  Some people who read this blog may even have a memory of "General Delivery" services at the post office where an item was held there for you to pick up.

Part of the issue is - not everyone would go every day and if a person was not expecting mail, they might not even think to check.  Did Messieurs Fox check to see if they had mail?  It doesn't look like it.

Either that or the letter arrived after they had left!  Poor Monsieur Badille!

Not Called For

If you look at the front of the envelope, you will see that the words "Not Called For" appears twice on the envelope.  Once in black ink and another time in red ink.  It is possible the black ink was applied by the post office, but there is no way to be certain.  But, the red ink actually says "Not called for @ consul's."  So, that shows us the foreign consul was at least consulted by the post office - and maybe the letter even resided at the consul's for a time.  Frankly, there is no way to tell for sure how it was handled during that period. 

What we do know for certain is that the letter arrived in Falmouth on March 25, 1869, just two days after it was mailed in Bordeaux.  So, it is safe to say that the post office did its job with efficient mail travel.  We do know that the letter sat either at the French Consul's office or the Falmouth post office for some time and they diligently marked "not called for" on the envelope to show that no one had come to claim it.

And we know that the letter then LEFT Falmouth on January 28, 1870 - ten months after it arrived.


The Returned Letter Branch Office in London

Many post offices labeled unclaimed or undeliverable letters as "dead letters,"  the United States even had a "Dead Letter Office."  This letter was probably bundled into a batch of dead letters that the Falmouth post office had accumulated over time and the whole packet was sent to London.  London's dead letter office was known as the Returned Letter Branch Office.  That seems a little kinder than "Dead Letter Office,"  but it came down to the same thing.  These were orphaned letters that could not be delivered for one reason or another.

This office would determine what to do next with each item.  The vast majority would get sent back to the sender of the letter.  It is not hard to picture Monsieur Badille picking up his mail on a February or March day in Bordeaux and thumbing through the pile of business correspondence.  Among those things would have been this letter.

A letter he hurriedly penned a year before with urgent instructions for the his people on the Union.  

Well, at least this explained why his instructions might not have been followed!

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Crazy Maurice's Monarchy

In the process of checking with Crazy Maurice, our young Weeping Willow tree, about his last blog post, he expressed an interest in providing me with more on the blog.  This was positively hasty on his part, but it was a good topic and worthy of putting out there.  

You can see Maurice (this picture is from a year or two ago) in the background of the picture below.  He's a bit bigger now!

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The Fuzzy Guy with the Red Top was nice enough to come out to ask if it would be ok to expand the Knuckleheads pasture (he means turkeys -Fuzzy Guy) to include the area around where I live.  I told him if it means more visits from Pretty Lady...   Well, and Fuzzy Guy, too, I suppose.   

As I mentioned in my last post, trees simply do not forget.  Trees are also very observant.   That's my new word for today - I described what I wanted to say and Fuzzy Guy helped me discover the right word.  But, this might be why I get along with Fuzzy Guy pretty well since he tends to put some value on observation as well. 


We were talking about the little fluttery things that can't seem to fly straight.  He called the orange and black ones "Monarchs," but I like calling them "little fluttery things that can't fly straight and occasionally glide, love flowers, and roost in tree limbs at night, sometimes tickling the host tree..." (note, there was more to this name - Fuzzy Guy).  

This is where Fuzzy Guy and I sometimes have a problem.  You see, trees give names that are always growing as we observe more.  Humans tend to rely on a short name and hope that it conveys enough for others to understand what is being said.  I believe that this is why humans have so much trouble communicating.  They are always in such a rush to get things said that they don't see what needs to be said.  They rely on these silly abbreviations (another new word today!).

I would say that Fuzzy Guy does pretty well as far as his observations of the "little fluttery things...." and so does Pretty Lady.  But, I have observed other humans on the farm, and I do not think their names would be nearly as long for the "little fluttery things..." because they know so much less about them.

How can a short name, like "Monarch" possibly help another being understand what it is?  If we tell a being's full story with their name, wouldn't it be harder to discount their existence and importance?  

I told the farmer he should be more like trees.  I think he might agree, but he had to run off and do something else.

There are days I envy his legs, but I do not envy the short attention span.

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Farmers note:  Crazy Maurice's name for Monarch is a fair bit longer than what I shared above.  Part of the name has to do with how many Monarchs Maurice has seen in his relatively short life.  Even this young tree includes words like "infrequent" and "fewer" in his descriptive name for this butterfly.  But, perhaps the word that shocked me the most was the word "precious."  

At the time, I did not think to ask about that.  What makes a butterfly "precious" to a willow tree?  

I will say that this year has featured very few Monarchs on the farm and I find that fact to be distressing.  I, personally, have taken great joy on the days when dozens of Monarchs have visited our hedges of zinnias we plant each year.  We had zinnias again this year.  In fact, there was a 400 foot long row of them in the East fields this year.  

And very few Monarchs.

My fear is that Maurice's name for Monarch will include "and were never seen again" at some point in the not too distant future.  If the Monarchs leave for good, the trees will see it.  And they won't forget.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

But It Wasn't Funny

Crazy Maurice is a young Weeping Willow tree in the northeast section of our farm.  For a significant part of the Summer, Maurice was keeping watch over the older hen flock as they went about their business, kicking up the dirt around his trunk and taking shelter under his limbs.

Being a young tree, Maurice is still fairly 'hasty' (as an Ent might say), so he frequently has conversations with the humans on the farm.  In fact, he has even authored some blogs for us in the past.  We hope that he will remain hasty enough to continue to talk with us.  But, even if he gives in to the slow, contemplative ways of the older (and possibly wiser) trees, we'll still enjoy visiting him.

This is Crazy Maurice's latest - dictated to me over the course of the Summer.

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I do very much enjoy the visits with the Pretty Lady and the Fuzzy Guy with the Red Top.  It almost is worth it having all of these fussy, noisy, feathered fussbudgets running around me.  After all, I know they come out here to give them food and water.  I am also aware that they collect eggs from those little buzzards every day.  But, I also know a day will come this Fall when I won't see either of them much.

It's ok.  I usually take a bit of a nap for the colder months anyway.  If they visited then, I am afraid I wouldn't be the best company.  But, it does get a bit lonely out here sometimes.

Blaise (the maple) isn't much of a conversationalist and is destined to be much more tree-ish than ent-ish, in my opinion.  Minnie (the oak) is still too small to tell what she's going to be like.  The conifers think they're better than the rest of us because they stay green all year.  Ya, ya.  Whatever.

But, occasionally, I get to hear the whispered conversations of my elders - the Burr Oaks on the southern part of this farm.  I have learned that, when they talk - I should listen.  And, when I listen, I have to be prepared to listen for a while.  I mean - they are kind of... well... deliberate.   That's a new word the Fuzzy Guy taught me this year when I tried to explain it to him.  I like that word.  And that's not an accident.

See!  I have even learned to make jokes.  That's the Fuzzy Guy's fault too. 

Anyway, this Summer was enjoyable because the Fuzzy Guy was telling me about a story of trees... and some other creatures....  Burrrahobbits?   Eh.  Whatever.  Some little fellow called Billedfrobo?  Well, anyway, that doesn't matter because some of the key characters were Willows and Rowans and an Oak-like creature called an Ent.  

I was a little dismayed that the Willow was portrayed in a less than flattering light - but Fuzzy Guy assured me that he felt my mannerisms held no resemblance to that Old Man Willow character.  Perhaps that tree didn't get to hear stories from nice farmers when he was young?

He told me a story about going to see a, what was it?  Mohvee?  A book that had sound and movement?  Whatever.  I know what a book is, because Pretty Lady explained that one.  I like Pretty Lady, she is ever so kind.

Anyway, he told me that the Ents were sad because they had lost the Entwives.  When asked what Entwives looked like, the Ent said he could not remember.

And Fuzzy Guy told me that some people laughed.

But, it wasn't funny.

Trees do not forget.  And, if they do, it must be a tragedy.  That's another new word my friends taught me - but I am not as pleased to have learned it as I was with the word "deliberate."

I listen to my elders, the Oaks to the south.  They tell me about the ball of fire that took one of their number away.  They remember her shape and feel, still refusing to encroach on her space even though she has been gone many seasons now.  They have grudgingly allowed admittance of a young sapling (or so I have heard), nearby, but they still see their missing sibling when they look at that open space.

They have not forgotten.

And it isn't funny.

What would it take for a tree to forget?   After all, the Oaks tell me it is tree-ish to remember.  It is tree-ish to endure.  And it is tree-ish...to not talk to the farmers.

I whispered back to them that that wasn't funny.

And they laughed.

I'll remember that.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Feeding Workers All Season

People have a tendency to think about bees and pollinators in the Spring - a point in time when there is an abundance of choice for our pollinators when it comes to food.  But now, as we enter the tail-end of the growing season, our attentions are being drawn elsewhere.  Even those of us that care about cultivating flowering plants are tempted to move on.  The idea of cleaning up flower beds and gardens is more on our minds than encouraging more blooms.

But, if we all do that - what do our pollinators do for sustenance?  Not just now - but for the rest of the year until Spring busts out all over again?

Asters to the Rescue

I put myself together to collect eggs yesterday afternoon, stepped out the door and noticed a small reddish pink aster plant we let do its thing in a neglected corner of our lawn by the house.  Then, I looked at the purple aster in the weedy perennial bed nearby.  And, I observed all of the Thousand-flower Aster that have volunteered in places we have not kept up with.  In fact, those little white flowers are often part of the reason we decide to let those areas go in the late summer.  In fact, we let the area around our mailbox go when we saw how many of these plants were there this year.

I suspect the mail carriers may not be the biggest fans of this - though they said nothing about it when I was outside taking pictures as they drove up.  They probably wondered what kind of an oddball I was to be outside taking close-up pictures of little, white flowers.  But, that (as they say) is another story.

This year has been much, MUCH drier than the past five or so years, so it has been friendlier to many of our aster plants.  In fact, none of the perennials we planted some years ago are still in their original place (though I suspect some of their progeny are what populate our grounds now).  We got that nice soaking rain in early September and that was all these plants needed to give us a glorious bloom.

Sometimes letting go works best

Tammy and I would, ideally, love to have some cleaned up perennial beds right now.  We tire of the plantings that have been overrun by grasses and other, even less desirable (to us) plants.  We really would like to have a few places on the farm where we can just enjoy the beautiful flowers and plants (and hopefully some bees and pollinators).  After all, we are aware that you can have a planting that looks good AND is friendly to those critters.

But, sometimes, the best answer is to let it go.

You see, the pollinators don't see the world the same way we do.  What looks like a tangled mess to us is a beautiful buffet to some of them.  It's a place that our bumbling human feet and bodies don't go to trample them as they do what they do.

We also need to remember that pollinators come in all shapes and sizes.  They don't need the big, easy to see blooms that humans might prefer to see in their gardens.  Sometimes, they just want a bunch of little white flowers.  White flowers on a plant that we all think is a weed.

I guess it makes sense that we might think it is a weed because they have pretty aggressive root systems, crowding out the competition.  If you have some cultivated plants in your flower bed, you might not be as happy to see them as we are when we see them in the ditch or in our ditches by the high tunnel.

But the pollinators?  They love those plants.  

So, we love them too.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Broccoli - Seed to Transplant

I was realizing that my Sunday postal history posts tend to be upbeat and push the idea of learning new things.  While there is something to be said for the difference between a hobby and a profession, I want to make it clear that I did not get into farming because I absolutely HAD to.  There was/is much that I enjoy.  So, I thought I would share some things on Tuesdays about green and growing things for those who might have interest!

Let's give it a try - I hope you all enjoy this.

Protected from the Start

The first time we tried to grow broccoli in our gardens, we bought plant starts from a local nursery, planted them, surrounded them with marigold starts (from the same nursery) and then came out the next day to see that the rabbits had snipped all of the marigolds and a number of the broccoli plants.  As some point fairly early in our farm endeavors, we tried direct seeding broccoli and had very poor success due to predation and weed pressure.

It really didn't take much to conclude that the early stages of the broccoli plant are typically those most fraught with danger for the plant.  Even in recent years, we have lost HUNDREDS of broccoli starts when a woodchuck got into the area where our trays of young plants were waiting for their moment to go into the field. 


In any event, we like to start our broccoli plants two to four times a year in 72 cell trays and put them on heat mats with overhead lights until the seedlings "pop."  If the weather is warm enough, we prefer getting them out of the artificial light setting as soon as we are able, putting them in a cold frame, a high tunnel or some other protected environment.  Over a period of four to six weeks, we gradually harden them off to full outdoor conditions.  

Ideally, we might like to 'top-dress' the plants two to four times depending on how soon we can put them into the ground successfully.  For those who do not know what that means - you can essentially top dress your plants by adding some of your starting soil to the top of the tray where your plants reside.  This adds some nutrients to the soil that is rapidly depleted by frequent watering and growing plants.

Getting to Transplant Day

Ideally, we like to put the plants in the ground when they are between four and five weeks old, but we rarely get what we want for a whole host of reasons.  But, if plants get much more than six weeks old, it is probably better to move on to a new planting.  This is not to say that older plants won't work - they can.   It is just more likely there will be other issues later on.

We have found (in years where the ground just won't dry out) that we can opt to spend the time and transplant trays into larger pots - like we do for the tomatoes we sold in years past.  But - you do the math - what costs us more in supplies and labor hours?   Start a few new trays three weeks after the first batch in case the first batch can't go in when planned OR use the time, space, soil and pots to pot all of those little plants up?

Below is a batch of tomatoes and eggplant that have been potted up.  You need to remember that plants take up more space when they are in individual pots!


Remember - we typically have planted hundreds of these at one time. The great news is that either option could be made to work.  The trick is to keep the plants growing.  Every time their growth stalls is a negative for possible future production by the plant.  But, before you look at your plants in dismay, you need to remember that they are often tougher than you think.  If what you have is all you've got, give them a try anyway and see if you can't coax them to produce.

Or, if you farm like we do, you decide if they are worth the gamble or not.  Heck.  You're not a real farmer unless you have ten or more crop failures a year - give them a try.

Transplant Day

Over the last several years, we have gone with a single row of broccoli in one bed (the width of our tractor makes a bed) and we have one foot spacing between plants.  This typically gives our plants plenty of room to have some good size and space for excellent root development.

And, since we grow in rows that allow for some mechanical cultivation, we want fairly straight rows.  We often use our drip tape (irrigation) to help us there.  We've found that if you lay the tape out (and anchor it in place to keep it from blowing away) it provides a decent guide for both the straight line and the spacing.  After all, this drip tape has an emitter for water every 6 inches.  Plant one plant every other emitter and you have twelve inch spacing - cool!

One more thing we forgot to tell our workers once (much to our chagrin) - make sure the root ball is covered!  If even a little of it is uncovered, it has a tendency to wick moisture away from the small bit of soil (and their roots), especially on a windy spring day.  If you are not immediately getting some water on them, you can be surprised how quickly the plant will wilt and possibly die on you!  Some farms have transplanting tools that put water directly on the plant as it is put into the ground.  We tended to start the drip tape running once we are about a quarter of the way down the 200 foot row.  

Why wait to start it?  Well, if you have transplanted before, you know what happens as you put plants into wet soil?  Yep, it gets kind of hard to work with that much much on your fingers!


Beautiful Broccoli

I realize that most people who read this blog will, at most, plant a few broccoli in their own garden.  I think I included enough to inform some people who are in that position.  For those who plant at our scale (or larger), you are either concerned that I have not given enough detail or you recognize that I wasn't trying to spend time on a step by minute step process that will lead any grower to have successful and profitable broccoli crops every season.


Like the postal history posts, there is usually so much more detail and information that could be put out there.  But, that's not the point.  The point is to learn a bit about something new... or learn something new about something you already know about.

I hope you did and I hope you have a good day!