Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Farm News for April

It is mid-April and you know what that means? 

No?  Neither do I.  So, instead of pondering that, we'll just do a GFF Newsletter!

Spring CSA

Well, it has been a cold start to the year and you may have guessed by now that this weather has made it impossible for us to grow for a Spring CSA that delivers in April this year.  If you are signed up for Spring, we are not asking you to pay us anything in advance.  If you have already done so, we have applied the payment to the regular season.  So - as we have produce in May (maybe late April) we will contact people on our Spring CSA list and give details on what we have and how you can acquire it.  Essentially you will be able to opt in (or out) each week during this period until the regular season starts in June. 

Obviously, we're not happy about this, but it is the best solution in response to the weather.  It will reduce some stress on us to simply sell on a week by week basis this Spring and work to have a strong regular season CSA.

Our soil was ready in the SouthWest plot this weekend.

Regular Season CSA Slots Available

We currently have 97 slots reserved in our CSA.  We need to get to 120 and were willing to go higher than that to support adding Tyler Albers to our growing program.  So, if you have been considering joining us, now is the time to let us know you want to be a part of the program.  If you have already joined us, many thanks.  Now, tell some friends they should also take the leap!

At present, we should be able to accommodate twelve more members at our Cedar Falls pickup and nineteen in Waverly. 

Billing on its Way!

Finally!  They are in the mail and heading your way.  You will find a SASE in the mailing so you can easily remit payment.  If you see anything amiss with contact information or billing, please let us know.  Rob is a decent accountant - for a farmer - but that doesn't mean mistakes don't occur.

For those who wonder why the billing has been slower than usual, it has, in part been because sign ups have been slower than usual  We try to do the billing in one session.  So, we were waiting to hit the 90 subscriber mark to make the effort of setting up and doing make it all worthwhile. 

Events Coming Up!
  • April 15 - Rob presents at St Paul's Senior Lunch
  • April 17 - Rob presents at Ai Wen's UNI class
  • April 26 - Tammy presents at the Health Fair (the W)
  • April 26 - UNI class tours farm
  • May 4 - Tom Sawyer Day - Move'em or Lose'em Perennial Dig
  • May 15 - State Dream Big Grow Here contest in Iowa City
  • May 31 - Iris Festival at the farm
The High Tunnel build is on hold due to the weather.  We'll let everyone know when we are going to do this.  Technically, we had been hoping to put it up next week.  But, we haven't been able to get the excavation work done and have no building on hand.  so....

Listen for Us on KUNI

Once again, we have connected with Iowa Public Radio to show our support for what they do and promote our farm at the same time.  So, it won't really be US talking on the radio, but it will be a radio spot we're sponsoring.  I know, you were hoping to hear our dulcet tones.  Well, sign up for a CSA share and you'll get that every week!

No, we are not adding horses to the farm.
GFF Adds a Horse Trailer to the Arsenal of Tools

This headline seems like it should have appeared on our April Fools post.  But, it is true.  The picture above gives you the 'proof.'  It is a small trailer and it has alot of holes in it.  But, you can't have everything.  The intent for this building is to provide us with a mobile poultry building.  In particular, we're hoping it will serve as a brooder (for chicks) for our first meat chicken batch this Spring. 

I hope it works out.  (How's that for a vote of confidence?)

In any event, this was Rob's gift to Tammy at a recent auction.  She said she wanted it.  So, he got it for her.  Romantic, isn't it?

Soil Workable for a Moment in Time

This past weekend when the temperatures were VERY nice and warm, we went out and checked the SouthWest field.  This area is the best drained and quickest to reach a workable state.  Sure enough, it had just reached that status, so we trotted out there and tried to prep a few beds to plant spinach, arugula, mustard and radish.  We got it prepped and got the seeder out.  And, it started to rain (and hail - more on that later).  The precision seeder we have does not tolerate wet - so we had to stop. 

We *might* have gotten some spinach in.  We'll see.

Rob needs to lose some weight, the whole world tilted for this picture!
 Oh Hail!

So, we got some pea sized hail on the farm along with rain.  So, since our day outside was being terminated, we decided we should run an errand or two to prepare for some upcoming events.  We hopped in the truck and headed towards Cedar Falls at about 7pm and ran straight into a nasty cell of hail.  We estimate the hailstones were around 2.5 inches in diameter (maybe more).  The result - a cracked windshield and some sizable dents.  Our timing couldn't have been much better.  However, we are very grateful that hail stayed away from the farm. 

On the other hand, we haven't appreciated another dip into cooler temperatures.  We hit 21 degrees F on the farm last night.  Booooooo!

But, that must mean....

We Have Hen Chicks!

Yes, the hen chicks have arrived.  Yes, they are cute.  Yes, we have them in the garage to keep them warm again this season.  We don't know how the weather knows when we're getting chicks.  Maybe Mother Nature reads our website and checked out our schedule?

 Move 'em Or Lose 'em Perennial Dig

We are planning on trying to salvage the last of the perennials that are in the field south of the high tunnel.  That area used to be our beautiful perennial flower beds.  Sadly, our work on the farm precluded weeding these.  As a result, there are still iris, day lillies and other perennials out there that we'd like to salvage.  If you are interested in joining us, we'd like to identify what we can and move them to other locations on the farm.  Also, we will gladly let you take divisions of some of these plants as a reward for your help.

If you are interested in joining us, please contact us so we can plan for your participation!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Looking Forward to Eating

With a couple of nice days outside (finally) we are beginning to think about things actually growing and producing vegetables and fruits for us to eat.  This, of course, got me to thinking about some of the things we're missing about now that we're looking forward to eating later this season!

The great thing about this is - we're growing each of these varieties and if you are a member of the CSA (hey!  shameless plug, we still have spots open!) you'll get a chance to eat them too!

A fresh tomato off the vine....  I prefer mine on sandwiches, but I know someone else in this house who doesn't need the excuse of a sandwich to eat a tomato.  Right now, I'm aiming for the Black Krim.  Although, I'm not sure I would say no to a German Pink.  Or a Tasty Evergreen.  Or an Italian Heirloom.  Well, pretty much any of the 30 or so varieties we grow will do.  I guess we'll just have to keep cheering the little plants on!

Black Krim tomato - YUM!
This one is a lot closer to coming to fruition!  Lettuce.  We've got some in trays that need to go into the ground soon.  All of our earliest spring crops will be late, but we can still get lettuce in May.  When I think about lettuce, I think Grandpa Admires.  I like the softer lettuces with a milder flavor.  Others will be looking forward to the Crispmint and its distinct romaine texture and taste.  I'm thinking about this just after eating our first spinach of the year!
Grandpa Admires Lettuce
But, I have to admit that the one vegetable that really makes me happiest is still the green bean.  Seriously, we can eat a whole pot of these for a meal just between the two of us.  The only thing that might get old is snapping the ends off before cooking.  But, eating them steamed.... Yep, I think we could manage that most nights when it is peak season and not grow tired of them.

Steamed with a little bit of real butter.....
The next one actually surprised me a little.  I don't usually think of zucchini right away when I think of vegetables that I am missing.  But, they represent the grilled vegetable 'medley' that includes summer squash, sweet onion and various other delicious things.  With the right balance of veg and spices, this is a slice of summer that should not be missed.  Probably the best tasting zucchini we grow is Costata Romanesco, but we've been refining our choices and feel pretty good about the taste all of them exhibit.

Costataaaaaaaaaaaaa!  Romanescoooooooo!
I don't mind dirt.  On the other hand, I don't like getting sticky.  So, the idea of eating a melon in the field without a good place to wipe off my hands isn't on the top of my list.  Except.... when I find a Ha'Ogen melon that is a bit over ripe and won't make it back to the house.  A complex melon taste that is outstanding.  I am very much hoping for a bumper crop of these this season.
Ha'Ogen melon
And, of course, I was just thinking how nice having some fresh broccoli, cauliflower or romanesco would be right about now.  Of these, I find that I will eat more cauliflower than broccoli.  And, I just learned last year that I'll eat more romanesco than cauliflower.  I'll try to save some for the rest of you.

It may look strange, but it tastes good.
So, what are you looking forward to this year?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

If You've Had a Rough Day (or two)

The evidence is mounting that the difficult Winter has bruised us more than we care to admit.  And, by us, I am referring to the collective (the farm, me, Tammy, the animals and - of course - all of you).  It is also nearing the end of the semester for Tammy and that adds stress to both of our lives as well. 

I needed to do something to change my mood.  And, since my mood changes when I do things that help others, I thought I'd share some of the things that made me laugh in hopes that it will also help you.  Yes you!  And you too.  Yes, you as well. 

....  Ok, if I have to confirm that is for each of you individually, we're never going to get anywhere.  So... now for some fun!

Cucumbers to the Rescue!

One of my favorite cartoons is still Peanuts (Schultz).  I loved the humor even before I was ten years old!  And, if I just happen to run into a Peanuts cartoon that intersects with what we do on the farm - I've got to share it.

Peanuts Cartoon for Mar/28/2014
And to add to the confusion - a cucumber is a CUCURBIT!   ha!

More Cartoon Goodness

We try not to overdo cartoons on the blog, despite enjoying them immensely.  But, we are very much aware that there are artists who work to produce these things.  None the less, we succumbed to sharing some pictures in 2011 on this short blog post.  And, sadly, Spring was slow in coming last year.  So, we resorted to some cartoons then as well.

Non Sequitur Cartoon for Apr/08/2014
We are thinking of adding this sign to our chicken pasture.

Plenty O' Pun for All

We even had a post about chickens that was full of puns.  This is why we will often enjoy Pearls Before Swine.  Maybe he's stretching a bit for this one.  But, it still made us both laugh.

Pearls Before Swine Cartoon for Apr/06/2014
Ron Cey was known as "The Penguin"

Speaking of Baseball

We like baseball and we're both glad baseball season has started.  The sad thing is, there really isn't good radio baseball coverage in the area any more.  So, we don't get too see as much of it as we would like.  Nonetheless, our inability to hear Bob Eucker will not stop us from indulging in baseball related humor!

One time when "assault" would be the same as murder?
When in doubt, remind yourself - "It could be worse."

It's not always the best way to change your mood.  After all, why would spending time trying to figure out how your day could be more difficult help change your mood?  Although, simply recounting one of those days back in October helped my mood at that time.  In fact, I still am amused by it to some degree.  And speaking of amusing, this cartoon (Hagar the Horrible) was one I clipped out of the paper several years ago and found on my desk recently.

Oh!  So that's why the lady's favor before a joust was a kerchief!
But, It's Good For You

Difficulties build character.  What doesn't kill us makes us stronger.  Etc etc.  Whatever.  When you've had a difficult day or two, you just want things to improve.  Whether that means completing tasks that are hanging over your head or escaping them, it doesn't matter which sometimes.  Perhaps we are suffering from the letdown after reality destroyed our Farmer Delusional Syndrome?

Garlic is especially good for introverts!

Really, We All Needed a Laugh or Three

Don't know how I knew this... but I did.  Happily, BC had a cartoon that ties into this as well!

Monday, April 7, 2014

the Mulberry Hedge

Rob grew up in town. His family had a small yard. And, yet, there appear to be a fair number of stories about him and that yard. Why is that? We shall allow you to ponder that whilst we tell our tale.

The back yard was bordered by a series of mulberry trees/bushes that were trimmed into a hedge (of sorts). If you know mulberries, you realize that they can grow VERY quickly and an established group could rapidly grow from 10 feet tall to 20 feet tall in a season. It did a fine job of providing privacy for our neighbors (hey, there were four kids at our house and none at theirs - so I suspect it went this direction more than the other).  But, I liked the mulberries in part because they attracted wildlife to our yard.

Brown Thrasher aka Chirpa Chirpa Bird

Birds loved that hedge.  We learned to appreciate brown thrashers, robins, goldfinches, wrens, cardinals, waxwings and all sorts of birds because of the habitat this single hedge provided.  Tiger swallowtails liked to run the line and switch sides as they flew their route and we were periodically graced with the appearance of a mourning cloak (butterfly).  One of the downsides would have to be the bird droppings that contained mulberry.  I am guessing a few neighbors were less fond of our natural habitat when they were scrubbing their cars.

The job of taming this hedge fell to me - the boy with the pruner and the box. In this instance, an 8-foot step ladder was also pressed into service. Typically, I was trying to cut the hedge down from 16 feet to 10 feet in late July/early August. And, since I wanted to do the job well, it was important that I not leave any stragglers and that the top be as level as possible.  Now, don't ask me WHY the top had to be level.  It just did.  That's how you trimmed hedges - right?

I had some additional motivation since one of our neighbors was extremely particular about everything on his property.  This person would scrape and repaint the eave on his garage every year.  He would crawl his entire lawn looking for weeds.  While I thought he was obsessive about such things, he was a great neighbor and I didn't want him thinking I couldn't do a good job.  So, I did my best to bring this wild thing into some sort of shape for the rest of the year.

Mulberry tree on the farm at left
The hedge was also probably 10 feet wide in places. Do you see a problem with that? Consider my height of approximately 5 and half feet at that time. How does a person reach the middle of that hedge at the ten foot level in order to trim those branches? There were many hours of leaning into the hedge with one foot on the ladder. Arms and legs fully extended. Eventually leading to the successful trimming of some of the middle branches.  I distinctly remember the sore shins I would get because I would hook my leg (or legs) between the rungs so I could lean in further.

There were a few bruises, scratches and pulled muscles - but I usually succeeded. Until the day I fell into the hedge. Yes, you knew this was coming. I lost contact with the ladder and lost my grip on the bigger branch I was using to stay on top of the hedge. And, I fell. Well, no, I didn't fall. I just kind of slid through the bushes....slowly.  The Tiger Swallowtail floating by probably flew in a straight line for a second there as it suffered a fit of the giggles as it watched me fall in.

Tiger Swallowtail aka Tiger Swallowtail
Hey, if a human has a giggle fit while walking, they zigzag a bit.  If a butterfly, who flies in a zigzag pattern giggles, it probably results in flying a straight line.  This all makes sense as long as you allow yourself to believe that a butterfly can giggle  Once you accept that, the rest is easy.

Of course, I suffered more scratches and bruises from this unplanned tour of the hedge than I normally did during the entire process.   I suppose I could have quit for the day. But, the pruner was still up at the top of the hedge. Oh well.

Friday, April 4, 2014

GFF Website

We've spent some time updating our website over the last couple of months.  As always, there will be things that need attention and other things that are just going to be the way they are or a while.  It's an incremental process and it is one that tends to focus on the winter months (for obvious reasons).  Since we now try to maintain a presence in a blog, on our web page, on Facebook and on some other sites that feature CSA's and organic growers, we're trying to integrate what we do so that you can find what you are looking for more easily.

So, for the time being, we thought we'd provide an overview of the resources we have on our website.

1. More pictures
high tunnel
Yep, this picture is on the website!
One of the things people seem to enjoy the most are pictures of the farm.  Frankly, uploading pictures to the blog and to facebook are slightly easier than putting them on our website.  So, if you watch the blog or facebook, you will be treated to new pictures more often.  On the other hand, we feel that it adds interest to our informational pages on our website.  Happily, we've now had a year plus with our newer internet service, which means we have the ability to upload things in a reasonable amount of time.  The result is that we spent time adding new photos and new content to the website.  We were even able to add a bunch to our photo journal page.  Of course, that's not the only place you find pictures, but we'll point some of that out as we go.

2. Additions to Veg Variety information

Sweet Siberian Watermelon
Sweet Siberian watermelon

We enjoy all of the vegetable varieties we grow and we like to share what we've learned with others.  Over time, the descriptions on our Vegetable Variety pages has grown.  Look for the pull down box to select a sub-category and go!  The main page includes our top vegetable varieties for each year and the sub-categories include detailed observations and information about the varieties we grow (or have grown in the past).  We're probably most pleased with our work on the heirloom tomatoes, but the other pages are catching up.  If there is one place you will see benefit of the added photos, it is on these pages.  We have been working over the past three years to build up a photo library of many of the vegetables we grow.

3. Links to relevant blog posts
You may have noticed that there are links on the main vegetable variety page (as shown below):

We are trying to do this on our pages whenever we are able.  It does require a little effort to identify the best posts and then figure out where to link them.  However, it makes sense to do it.  Otherwise, some useful posts will get buried and lost.  Let's put it this way, these pages also serve as a reference for the Genuine Faux Farm.  So, the easier I can make it to find what I am looking for, the better.

4. Addition of pages that describe key beliefs
We have a mission statement that is found on our ABOUT US pages and we review this page every year.  The mission statement is our guide for farm decisions and the things that follow on that page help explain to you what is important to us as we do our work on the farm.  However, there are some things that could use further explanation, so we will slowly (but surely) add pages that may be refined versions of something once placed on the blog.  For example, we now have our position on what is Sustainable Agriculture that resides on its own page on our website.

5. Reserving our rights
Our pictures and writing on our website, our blog and elsewhere do require some effort.  Really, we do spend some time on it.  So, you may notice that we do place a notice on each page that we do claim this material as intellectual property.  If you wish to quote us, that is certainly fine.  We did put it out there to be read, discussed and thought about.  But, if you share, please give us appropriate credits.  Just as we do if we use photos taken by someone other than us.  And, by all means, if you see a photo or something we have not properly cited, please let us know.  It is easy to miss something with the amount of content we have placed out there.


6. Sharing what we know so far

beans and potatoes
Bean and Potato spacing research

Research and education are big parts of what we do.  While neither of them is a perfect representation of what we've done, they do a decent job of it.  You will find that many of our research projects are very briefly summarized on our Research page.  And, in fact, there are to the SARE reports and some of the PFI reports.  And, as far as presentations go, you will find you can look at many of our Powerpoint presentations that supplement our talks.  In a couple of cases, you can take links to farminars (PFI) Rob has led and to a video of a presentation given at the Small Farms Conference in Missouri.  Sadly, our links and library pages are dated.  But, we still mean what we say regarding the books in the library page and many of the links are still good ones.

7. Keeping the Recipes Going
There are many more cookbooks and online resources for using vegetables than there were when we started the CSA, so we have to admit that our recipe pages aren't as important as they might have been at one time.  However, they are still there and we do add to them throughout the season.  These are usually recipes we, or one of our shareholders have used and recommend.  There are any number of things I'd love to do with these pages to make them better.  But, I think we'll just simply add recipes and figure a redesign will wait until next Winter.  It's strange - but it all started in 2005 with our Summer Squash and Zucchini recipe brochure!  Now that's an idea - we could put the files for those brochures out there.  Hmmmmmm.