Sunday, June 19, 2016

Where Have You Bean?

'Tis the time of year when blogging time is very limited and Rob did a very bad job of lining up a bunch of posts that would require only little tweaks so that he could keep June interesting for all of you.

So, you're just going to have to deal with a little bit of dry (bean) humor. 

Ok, maybe the only humor here is the post label and the line just prior to this.  Otherwise, we are very SERIOUS people.  So there.

The bean box
We had a reasonable dry bean harvest last year.  But, per the norm, we just didn't find the time to shell the beans.  Until this Spring.  Tammy's parents were willing to take a design we found on the internet and try to implement it so we could speed the process a bit.  Happily, it sort of works.  I suspect we just need to get better at using it and it will be fine.  Thanks Mom & Dad!

Black Valentine with a few Jacob's Cattle thrown in
The good news is that we now have all of one container of unshelled beans left in the garage.  The rest have been shelled and are getting packaged up for distribution in next week's CSA.  How cool is that?

One of the great things about dry beans is that they store for a very long time with no real special storage conditions.  We just put them in a glass jar and they sit there and wait for us to soak them in water to use them when we want. 

The sad thing about beans - most of the puns are kind of redundant...  you know, things like
Bean there, done that.
If I planted in circles instead of rows, you could say I've bean around.
Or... perhaps you could go South to Cuba and visit the Carob bean Sea.

You're welcome!  And have a nice day.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Cast of Characters (part II)

We're already into the month of June and we're not entirely sure how that happened!  We hope you will join us for the coming growing season and we'd like to offer up the following in an effort to help you to get to know our cast of characters on the farm.  You may notice that some of the text is kind of a lighter brown color - that indicates a link to a different blog post.  So, you can click to read more if you wish!

This is part II of our Cast of Characters Posts.  If you want to see the first post, you can click here!

Rosie- We Can Do It!

Chumley the Big Red Truck
You will find that we do not stop at giving names to cats on our farm.  Some of our equipment has been named for whatever reason we see fit.  For example, our truck is named Chumley.  If you know anything about the Robert Lynn Asprin series featuring Skeeve, you will know who Chumley is.  If you don't know that series, then you will simply know that our TRUCK is Chumley.  Good enough, we think!

Dippet and the Dippettes

The Ladies

When it comes to poultry on the farm, we tend to go back and forth between having names for individual animals and names for the group of animals in question.  This, of course, makes much more sense if you consider the fact that we raise many of our birds for meat production.  They simply aren't going to be around all that long.  And, when you have 150 broilers, naming them all is simply out of the question.
The Cucumber Frog

Then, there's Cucumber Frog.  Ok, it is likely that there is more than one cucumber frog.  All I can say is this.  Leopard frogs LIKE cucumbers.  They also like to wait until Rob is convinced that they aren't around before they jump and startle him while he's picking cucumbers.  Let's just say that there have been a few interesting contortions as a result of a Cucumber Frog startle event.

Flutter By
Again, there isn't just one.  And, no we don't always call a butterfly a 'flutter by.'  But, they are an important part of our farm, so they deserve mention.  Rob has actually had a Monarch land on the underside of the bill of his cap more than once.  But, Red Admiral butterflies seem be the most willing to land on people at our farm.

The Spider in the Door
We have a fun story that includes the Spider in the Door that you might enjoy.  Go take a look.  Yes, we do have spiders on the farm.  Sorry if you don't like them.  We do need them on the farm, but certainly respect how it can creep one out if you accidentally back into a web.

Gang of Four (most of us anyway)
We will periodically mention farmer friends of ours from Blue Gate Farm, Grinnell Heritage Farm and Scattergood Friends School Farm.  We visit each farm during the growing season and hold a 'Nota Conference' in the winter.  They're all just good people.  We like good people because.  Um.  They're good.

And, to finish up this post, we would be remiss if we didn't mention the Snort.  The Snort has now visited the farm twice.  Once to put in a new well at our farm and once to help us run frost free lines to our new high tunnel (last year).  The new well was not a planned event and it led to a three part story for our blog that many people have enjoyed.  If you have not, here is the link to Part III (which includes links to I and II).  We recommend you read them in order if you want to be entertained.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Just A Few Observations

This blog post has no agenda.  It has only one thing going for it.  It's a list!

1. Baseball Family in Mourning

Tammy's team: Minnesota Twins 16 - 38 (tied for worst record in baseball with Atlanta)
Rob's team: Cincinnati Reds 20-35 (3rd worst record in baseball)

There is very little joy in Mudville at the moment.  It's not a good thing when you hear that your team actually won a game and you're surprised.

I know, we've shown this before.  Give us a break, our teams stink.
2. Feeling Lonely?  Visit the Ocean.

Tammy and I decided that some of our travel pictures deserved to be printed and put on the walls of her office and/or our house.  We've been enjoying the process of rediscovering some of our favorite photos that we have only really looked at on our dirty computer screen.  (I really should get around to cleaning that).

I usually feel better after the ocean waves.
3. Maybe It's Time for a Haircut
Once we get into May, Rob has a hard time finding extra time - especially during the day - to do some of the little things.  Things like - getting a haircut.  However, there is also a limited amount of time that he can tolerate hair that gets tied into knots by the wind. 
And maybe Rob should shave too?
4. Not Going Through THAT Certification Process

I am sorry that I do not recall who pointed this picture out to us. There is a reason we take spell checking seriously at our farm.

I think we'll stick with organic certification, thank you.
5. Worthy of a Caption Contest

What is Farmer Jill of Blue Gate Farm telling our friends from Grinnell Heritage Farm and Scattergood Friends School Farm?

And more important - why is she holding a metal pipe in her hand?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Rough Start

A quick blog post to celebrate the end of May and beginning of June - if celebrate is exactly the right word.  If I felt like we were caught up on everything, I might be more willing to celebrate, but we are not.  So, I'll just roll with the calendar because there isn't a choice in the matter.

Spring Sprang Sprung?  Not quite.
We had some nice weather in April that got everyone thinking "Spring," then we had this patch in May where things got pretty cold - including a freeze and a couple of frosty nights.   They had us scrambling to move plants to places where they could handle the temperatures.  Tomatoes got put into a high tunnel with a double cover of remay.  Even then, some of them got bit.

Some of our brassica went into this trailer and were covered with what we could find
We were glad we hadn't pushed much into the fields at this point, even though it might have been nice to get a few things seeded.  But, you get done what you get done and there isn't much more we can do.

We pressed some moving blankets and tarps into service on the cold frames.
While we didn't lose many plants, we did lose momentum.  Essentially, a cold snap like that one makes you move things backwards.  Plants that had graduated to various stages of hardening off were backed up one level.  It also means we spent that much of our time and energy just trying to get everything moved and/or protected.  And then moved back to where they belonged after the danger had passed.  That's alot of hours and effort that should have been spent moving forward.

The good news?  We are better prepared each year for events such as this.  We lose fewer things and the process gets more efficient.  And, we know what the next steps need to be - but that always takes time and resources to get there.  Sound familiar?  Just like everyone else we are.  We have ideas as to where we need to go and how to get there - now we need the things we need to get it done.

Mekanikle Ineptitude
Ok, we do NOT claim to be mechanics.  We can do what must be done when it has to be, but we admit we are not the most proficient at it.  That's why we pay others to do certain work.  They have the tools, shop area and expertise to do these things more efficiently than we do.

So one of the JD lawn tractors went in because it wouldn't start (at all).  Then, the tie rod on the other one broke.  So, we have no mower on the farm.  Uh oh.  We got a loaner mower - the belt to the blades stretched and came off - so it's down now.  So, we fixed the tie rod on our tractor ourselves.  It worked until it blew out a tire.  So, had to get that tire off and get a replacement.  Now that tractor is stalled out in the middle of the North fields and won't start again.  Each time we have a small mekanikle viktorie....

If it were just the lawn tractor issue, we wouldn't quite feel like there was some sort of hex working here.  But, it's been email issues and other computer things.  Various other tools have odd breaks or issues that we've had to address as well.  We're used to some things breaking as we start to use them in the Spring - but this has been a bit over the top.

And, who ordered this Spring cold that both of us caught this year?  Not fair!  "Piling on" foul!  Even the Sandman has been fighting an infection of some sort this Spring.
I am annoyed by this situation.  I, the Sandman, have spoken.
Masked Bandits and other Varmints
This is turning into the year of the VARMINT on our farm.  Look, we want to be friendly to nature - but when it gets this unfriendly to us and what we're doing...  We have to find ways to fight back a bit.

Short story is as follows.  We've seen more rabbits, raccoons, woodchuck, deer and other critters than normal this year.  With fewer options to tame areas that tend to get overgrown (dead lawn tractors - see above), these critters are feeling more welcome than usual.  We had some of our kohlrabi (about three trays of them) get nibbled by an unknown critter in our coldframes.  We moved things out of that and an adjacent cold frame until we could try and trap the culprit (never happened).

Things were placed on pallets in the cold frame area and seemed final until, one night the culprits attacked again.  We lost 90% of succession I of broccoli, most of the cauliflower and all of the cabbage.  Only things we had pulled and put on a hayrack were spared.  So, what was left got placed onto additional hayracks until we could address the issue the next day.

So, it only figures that raccoons would then climb onto the hayracks and dig into our plants and throw them around for a bit.  Why not?

Now, we have an electric fence around the area and no further issues have been encountered.  But still - that hurt.  Many of these plants were going to go into the ground the next day or two, so I suppose it could have been worse.  We could have spent the time transplanting into a field and had them all destroyed after that effort (that's me - always looking on the bright side!)

R.I.P. little plants.
Whether Wythards
Too warm, too cold, too dry and then too wet - in that order.  We farm, therefore the weather is always an issue.  'Nuff said.

Looking on the Bright Side
Ok, we will now follow my own advice and look on the bright side - because there have been several.  It can be hard to think about them sometimes when you are feeling a bit put upon by circumstances.  But, they are there, nonetheless.

We do have the onions in, which is no small task.  We have the option of putting in a bit more, but may opt not to do it.  Still, it is nice to have that choice available to us.  they probably have shown the least transplant shock of any season to date because we got the drip tape on them pretty quickly - despite the very dry soils we planted into.

Lettuce in Valhalla is looking great and the next succession in the field is on schedule.  The chard in Valhalla is also looking pretty good, so that is encouraging.  The next set of broccoli is getting closer to transplant stage and are looking good as are the plants in pots and trays that are waiting for ground to dry out enough to put them in.  And, the asparagus has been producing pretty well.  A good weeding of the taters will help them out (they are all in) and the germination has been good - if a little scattered.

And, despite the rain arriving earlier than forecast, we had a good day getting things done on the farm.

Building blocks.  We'll use this one as a solid base and put another good block onto the pile tomorrow.

Happy June everyone.

Friday, May 27, 2016

May the Flowers Be With You

It's May and the blogging time is hard to come by.  Or, even if there is time, the blogging energy is even harder to come by.
But, we have some May flower pictures that we thought we would share.  Enjoy!

They're Just Dandy!
This is worth saying a word or two.  Like most everyone else in the United States over the past several decades, we were raised to despise the dandelion.  Bane of green lawns everywhere!

We now actually like the dandelion!  Why?  Primarily because it is a food source for our pollinators at a time where there is less than maybe we would like for them to eat.  The dandelions really don't hurt much of anything as long as you keep the air filter on your mower cleaned up when they go to seed.
And, they are actually pretty.  Let your child tell you - and listen when they say it.
The Bush That Could
We were mistaken that some of our bushes didn't need to be fenced this past year.  Apparently, the rabbit population liked this decision and we have come to rue it.  So far, we haven't seen that we've lost many of the bushes.  But, they are shorter than maybe they should be at this point.  Then, there is this bush.  It kept one main stalk and it covered it in flowers this May.
Ha!  I will flower no matter what!
And More Flowers
The rest, we'll just get out of your way and let you enjoy them!

Bergenia.  We've had it in this spot since we moved here.  It likes that.

It was a good lilac year.  Just take a sniff!

Fernleaf peonies.  Never get too huge, always about 7 flowers per plant.  Why not?
I've always wanted some large hostas.  Turns out, if you leave them alone a few years, you can get them.
Oh!  Iris season!
Not sure I appreciate chive flowers nearly enough.
Did I mention that it is iris season?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Soup's Kittens (not to be confused with Soup Kitchen)

Ok folks!  The kittens have crossed the four week old mark and we're starting to actively look for homes for these two.  We've got enough cats to care for on the farm right now even though these two ARE cute. 

We thought we'd share the photos of these two that we have.

family picture

First week.  Two in one hand was easy

eyes open and one kitten per hand is better (about 2.5 weeks)

Ok, the gray one was a bit behind - ARRRR! It's a pirate cat?
 And now... what they looked like today (May 25).

Mmmmm. That food was tasty.

What?  What do you mean by that?!?
I am NOT going near that camera with the flashy thing.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Refusing to Punt

The days are still getting longer and the farmer's endurance is not keeping up!  We can only assume he will eventually figure it.  While he is working on his stamina, we thought we'd give you a brief blog post for your entertainment (and maybe his as well).

With Anemones Like These....
Who needs friend when you have anemones?
We have a nice little patch of anemones that started out as one plant 12 years ago.  It might actually be safe to say that these anemones are actually friends of ours.


Kind of slow growing year for asparagus.
Look, we've seen the cartoon with the reference to the Age of Aquarius song that substitutes Asparagus for Aquarius.  It's funny, ya.  But, why do "Age of Asparagus" when you can do "Eggs and Asparagus?"

So, we got up early on Saturday for farmers market.  It was dawn and we were selling eggs and asparagus, eggs and asparagus, aaaaaaaaaaaspaaaaaaaraaaaaaaaaaagussssssssssssssssssss!

You're welcome.

No Trays of Humility
We planted lots for one session, so there.
Yep, sometimes we go on these planting sprees and plant lots of trays.  Ok, there is actually a limit that we run up to if we're going to 'pop' the seeds in the trays on heat mats.  WE were pretty proud of this effort, so there.

Stealing Bases... er... Basses
 Both Tammy and I love baseball and we both played cello, so this pun goes right along with our interests.  This meme was going around facebook recently.

Have a great week everyone!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Signs of May

We think this year might be see a bit earlier iris bloom than many years and we are (as always) looking forward to it.  There is one iris in particular (Thornbird) that I am hoping has not died off on us and I think I remember where, in our various perennial flower beds, this one should be. Whether they are still with us or not, we'll know one way or the other in a few weeks.

Of course, I'm not just anxious to see Thornbird.  There is a host iris varieties on our farm and they are all welcomed when they appear.  We very much enjoy picking bouquets and bringing them into the house and we do like to walk the grounds and view the flowers that have opened.  The hard part is getting back to work rather than just finding a chair and sitting and looking at them.

Another sign of May is the movement of our broiler chicken trailer.  Ok.  It's a small horse trailer that we've converted to use as the home for our broiler flocks.  When we first get broiler chicks we put them into the horse trailer and surround the trailer with portable electric fence to keep out the curious predator or two.  We place the trailer close enough to a building so we can run electric to the heat lamps that keep the baby birds warm enough.

However, May is when the birds get to start going outside, which means we need to start moving their portable home to appropriate pasture areas.  After all, you can't just leave the birds in one place for too long or grounds have difficulty recovering from the 'devastation' the birds leave in their wake.

And then, there is the Cart O Tools.  It's always a bit dismaying to us the first time we go out to really work one of the East plots and we have to keep taking trips back to the buildings to get yet ANOTHER tool or item we have forgotten.  Eventually, we get used to it.  And by that, I mean, we get used to going back to the buildings for things we've forgotten AND we get used to just packing out more than we think we will need.

Sometimes I think the gathering and putting away of tools might be one of the most tiresome jobs on the farm.  The gathering can be annoying because you just want to get to the task(s).  The putting away part usually happens when you are just ready to sit down/lie down and call it a day.  But, when you succumb to the temptation to just leave things out, that's when you pay - one way or another.

And, the final sign of May (that we will mention in this blog post - we know there are others) is the appearance of GFF plants in 3 1/2 inch pots that you can buy and put in your gardens!  We brought a few last week to the Waverly Farmers' Market and will be putting a whole lot more into pots this week.  I hope we can get it all done.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Long Term Hopes

Apparently, I've had the long view on my mind recently since I very recently wrote about our reasonably long tenure with this blog and now here I am writing about things we are undertaking or have undertaken for "the long run."  I suppose I tend to get into this mindset in the early Spring because the short term is beginning to press on me and force me to "be doing" rather than "be planning."  Of course, it's never all one or the other, but there is certainly a tension and one end or the other usually dominates depending on the time of year.

If you want another purpose, we are still trying to get people to join our CSA this year.  Consider this an attempt to convince you that joining us is a good idea!  But, if you are reading this and our CSA is not a valid option for you, enjoy it for any/all of the other reasons you might have and be welcomed!

Organic Certification is a Long Term View
Certification is on my mind because I completed our application for certification for 2016 in mid-April.  We are a bit behind this year in part because we didn't have our inspection until VERY late last year.  My internal time-clock just wasn't ready for it, I guess.  But, since the deadline approached, I had no choice in the matter and it got mailed just in time!

I've been asked many times why we bother to certify organic and I've probably given a few different answers.  Not necessarily different in content or intent, but perhaps in the order or method of delivery.  It usually depends on the context of the question and the questioner.

One of the parts of my answer is that I believe it is my duty as a steward of the land to consider how everything I do as a farmer might impact the environment, the people we provide food to and the farm business I run.  Organic certification "forces" me to review my whole farm plan every year and encourages me to consider if there might be ways that I can be better at what I do.

The National Organic Program guidelines support long-term soil health and pushes growers to consider long term consequences to short term actions. If there is no other reason for someone like me to go through the certification process than to improve our ability to be the best stewards we can be - then it should be enough.

Input Effort Here - Receive Gratification Later
There are many days when Tammy and I look at each other and ask, "What in the world are we doing? Why do we make things so difficult for ourselves?"  For example, it seems like we do a lot of spending money so that we can have more work.

I'll grant you the possibility that we are a bit odd and our priorities may be different than many people in this world.  I'll also grant you the likelihood that our decisions aren't always the absolute optimal decisions we could make in every given situation.  But, every time we open up a one of our jars of canned peaches during a time of year when good fruit is hard to find, I am reminded that many of the investments we make that cause ourselves to wonder are worthwhile.

Peaches are not something we can grow with much success on our farm, but we do love them.  So, we buy a couple of lugs of peaches and can them during some of the hottest days of the year.  Tammy does most of the canning work and I am the cheerleader.  But, the reality is that I cover other things she normally does so she can concentrate on the canning.  In short, it is not a super-easy thing to do during a busy part of the year.  But, these jars of sunshine are so welcome in February that I suspect we'll go ahead and do this every year we are able.

Investing in Better Food Now
GFF squash!  Yum!
You just HAD to know I was going somewhere with all of this, didn't you?  You didn't?  Wow.  I'm either sneakier than I thought or I'm more disorganized in this post than I should have been.  Whichever, doesn't matter.  I've got you wondering, don't I?  Well, I'm wondering at least.  So, I'll just go to a different topic.

We have actually had a few families not return to the CSA program over the years as small children have entered the picture.   I can understand some of the reasons - among them is simply the amount of time and effort the kids take.  It forces one to reassess where that time and effort goes, so spending time figuring out what to do with each week's produce may land on the priority chopping block.  We get it.  We understand it.

On the other hand, we also believe that the time to get the good stuff introduced to people is when they are small.  We love it when we are informed by a six-year old that spinach is great and they want to eat it RIGHT NOW!  It would be a rare kid who wouldn't find a way to express individuality by exerting some control over what they eat and selecting some likes and dislikes.  But, give them a chance to opt to like some of the good veggies.