Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Count... ah ah aaaaaaaah!

One of my favorite characters on Sesame Street was always THE COUNT!

One!  One (fill in the blank)!  Ah Ah ahhhhh!  (thunder/lightning follows this proclamation)

I LOVE to count!
In fact, I have been known to count the 'ringy dingies' of the phone while I'm waiting for someone to pick up my call.  And, I have been known to get caught in the middle of the "Ah ah aaaaaah" part when someone actually does answer.  This usually happens on days when I'm feeling ah countable...  (get it? No?  Never mind.)

So, Rob loves to count.  And, this is a good thing since counting is (amazingly) an important part of running the farm.  We count eggs so we can keep track of production trends and so we have an idea of what to expect to available eggs for sale.  We count our eggplant and peppers as we pick them.  We do this so we can be sure to have enough for each of our CSA customers each week and we do this so we can analyze our production and make changes to become more resilient in the face of changing conditions. We count so we can determine production cost and value.  And, if all of this is interesting to you, we have a very good post from 2010 that shows how we use these numbers for planning.

As you may have guessed - this leads us to a post about some of the past year's production.  Now, don't get too worried, I'll keep it mildly entertaining.  I hope...

Hey!  We CAN grow that!
Trying to grow as many vegetable types as we do can be very trying.  After all, it is not easy to learn all of the techniques for each vegetable for any kind of weather.  If weather were fairly consistent, then I suspect we could have success for most everything on a regular basis.  But, when conditions change dramatically from year to year, it is pretty difficult to adjust so that each and every crop succeeds.  When you add soil conditions, available tools and existing growing experience for a given crop together with the weather conditions, you will find that we are better prepared to handle some crops more than others.

A few crops that have given us more problems than success finally came through for us this year.

Ah, White Wing onions, how we love thee!

In particular, the onions were a big success for us this season.  It's not that we haven't had some onions in other seasons.  We have.  But, only in years where all of the conditions for weather and soil lined up.  But, even in those years, it was a near thing unless we spent alot of our labor resources on weeding.  So, if the year is less than perfect or the onions on the farm, the tendency is to move the labor to other crops that are doing better and will give a better return for the labor.
But, an Ailsa Craig onion on a grilled burger? Mmmmmmm!

So, this season, we pulled in just under 2300 bulb onions.  As you can see from the first picture, the quality of the White Wings was pretty consistent.  The quality of the Ailsa Craig, Yellow of Parma and Redwing onions were less consistent since they are longer season onions.  They would have liked to have been in the ground a bit sooner.  But, they certainly provided us with enough for the CSA and the Fall shares.

Efficiency in weeding onions, coming right up.
We targeted the purchase of a cultivating tool in 2013 and actually started using it more effectively in 2014 (every tool has a learning curve).  It is the initial weeding in June when so many weeds (especially grasses) are coming up in the onions that is critical.  After this cultivation was accomplished, we were able to easily hand weed when needed at a later point in time.  Unlike prior years, this weeding was ENJOYABLE rather than stressful.  Just ask Anden how stressful weeding onions was prior to this!

Other crops that made a strong appearance in 2014 that don't always do well for us include daikon radishes (538 up from 0),  melon (385 up from 153), radish (4083, up from 3035), watermelon (128, up from 37) and turnips (1333 up from 593).

Helios radish did well this Fall
 In many of these cases, such as the turnips, daikon and the radish, it had to do with planting timings being refined so that the Fall crop matured in time before things froze up.  But, another key part had to do with having better tools to reduce the preparation time for mid-season planting beds.  The new disk for our new tractor made much of this easier.  As a result, we could get more of our Fall plantings in during a time when our time is already full with harvest, weeding and deliveries.

Ancho/Pablano liked this season for some reason
 In other cases, it was a variety that hasn't been happy for us in the past.  For example, Ancho Gigantea has been on our grow list for a while because we liked the idea of them.  But, they don't typically do all that well for us.  We had a few seeds left, so we started a few (yes, just 3) plants and put them in the ground.  We've never had them size up like this before.  Apparently, they are a bit like a ball player on the "walk year" of their contract.  The impending 'free agency' encouraged them to perform.  I guess we'll give it another go next year and see if it was a fluke.

 We KNOW we can grow that.
There are many crops we are fairly confident in our ability to come up with decent yields.  Even in a down year, we can usually meet our minimum demands.  In fact, we tend to get more grumpy with these in a down year because we expect much more out of them.

While the lettuce harvest is not yet complete for the year, we are running at about 50% of last year's production for number of harvests (72 vs 141), number of heads harvested (1427 to 2490) and weight harvested (442 lbs to 1034 lbs).  Part of the discrepancy comes from a very cold Winter and early Spring.  We abandoned the idea of a Spring share in response to that problem.  Our over wintering lettuce died off and we just couldn't get a new crop into the high tunnel going.  We also backed off a bit on production in response to our CSA members leaving so many heads behind in our 2013 CSA.  The feedback we got told us they liked the lettuce - but maybe not so much of it.

Bunte Forellenschus - say that three times fast!
 On the other hand, we seem to be getting the hang of other crops and the production has continued to improve.  For example, our broccoli crop in 2014 was excellent.  Our CSA members didn't seem to tire of it and we didn't notice it getting left behind when we offered it.  The only time we left with lots of extra is when we didn't see a cooler full of broccoli and didn't know we should be offering more broccoli to our members than we were (that was NOT a happy discovery at the end of the distribution).  Our increase in broccoli production started in 2013 when we got many positive responses that more broccoli would be appreciated.  You will notice that we outlined our plan to meet this request.  For the most part, the plan has been followed and has worked.  Our production in 2013 showed us pulling in 517 pounds of broccoli.  This year, we harvested 674 pounds.  Excellent.  We hope to keep our broccoli numbers in the 600 to 700 pound range in the future.  We just have to remember that year was especially kind to broccoli, since it was cooler than normal.  Next target is cauliflower.

A cool year leads to lots of tasty broccoli.
Other crops that we typically expect success from include our tomatoes and our peppers.  This past season was cool, so it presented some problems to each.  Since the peppers resided in our best drained field, they handled adversity well, giving us production similar to 2012 (when we lost the entire crop due to spraying).  We pulled in over 2000 hot peppers and over 4400 sweet peppers (including bells).  And, the frost terminated a number of peppers that were on their way.

Two favorites: Golden Treasure and Black Krim
The tomatoes had some issues this year, but we still pulled in roughly a ton of tomatoes (1850 lbs).  One thing we need to remember is we actually reduced the number of plants in the field this season in an effort to make the number of plants fit our resources.  We love our heirloom tomatoes too much and tend to overplant them because we want to give all of the varieties a fair shake.  The result is that we can't always keep up with the caging, mulching and harvest.  So, we dropped 2 full rows of tomatoes off of the grow list.   It would figure that we would have a less than optimal growing year for them so we felt the reduction more than we thought  we should.  People in the CSA still did fairly well for themselves, but we really didn't have the outside sales we normally want for our tomatoes.  Rather than increase the plant numbers in 2015, we're going to make a few production changes in response to things we saw that were not going as well as they should.  We'd love to see a record production year in 2015.

Surely, we can grow this!

 Yes, we can.  And don't call me Shirley.
One example is the winter squash.  We've had success before and we'll have success again.  But, it just hasn't been in the cards for 2013 or 2014.  We only harvested 64 winter squash this year and 250 last season.  But, we have shown an ability to succeed with 1007 in 2009 and 1711 in 2007 (for example).  So, what is going wrong here?

Red Kuri showed some potential with a trial planting
It's a matter of seasonal variability more than anything.  Last year (2013) was the year we just could not get into the fields through most of May and early June.  It was too wet to do anything.  In the end, we planted only a fraction of the winter squash plants we started.  This year had a similar problem, but it had more to do with our insisting on planting them into a very wet field.  We were afraid of a repeat of 2013, but our response didn't help.  In fact, it was worse.  But, it had less to do with us and more to do with cooler than normal temperatures.  We DID get an alternate planting of butternut squash in at the right time and they just never got the heat to produce well.

We are developing a plan to respond to these issues starting in 2015.  If the weather is perfect, it won't matter.  But, if the weather bears any similarity to the past several, we'll be more prepared than we have been in the past.

Continual improvement as opposed to delayed perfection.  Here's to an even better year in 2015 after a decent 2014.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Traffic Stoppers

The past week has been a long one at the farm.  That came to an end tonight at about 8pm when we finally came in and decided we'd done as much as we were going to prior to the deep freeze weather that is now here.  And, yes, that was the reason for this past week being 'long.'  We've been frantically trying to do everything that we were planning on doing over the next three weeks.  At least we had the gift of a down right PLEASANT day today.  With much less wind than predicted and much more sun (until about 2:30pm).

Gravel roads have been covered with combines and tractors pulling gravity boxes full of corn and soybeans.  Then, more recently, farmers have been pulling the anhydrous ammonia and knifing that in.  If you haven't been around when they lift one of those up on the corners and fail to turn off the flow, then you aren't missing anything.  That stuff is absolutely horrible to smell.

In any event, people who live in the country are used to seeing these sights.  On the other hand, they still aren't used to the Genuine Faux Farm.  We've apparently done our share of things the past week (or so) that have slowed vehicles down just to try and figure out what we are up to.

Bucket Brigade

We use a fair amount of water when we clean produce for CSA distributions.  We do our best to collect that water rather than just let it run on the ground.  Admittedly, our system is in need of upgrading.  But, you make do with what you have.
Rosie likes to feel useful.
 In any event, we collect the water in a black tub and use cat litter buckets (that have been cleaned!  c'mon now!) to scoop the water out.  We then haul these buckets around the farm on the yellow cart to the various young bushes and trees we have.  We've been doing this all summer (and summer's prior to this as well).  But, I still notice people slowing down when I drive out with a bunch of cat litter buckets on the trailer.

I sometimes amuse myself with imagined conversations in the passing vehicles.

"Wow, they must have an awful lot of cats in that house!"
"Ya.  Or maybe just one REALLY BIG one!"

As If They Don't Get Enough of Planting

Of course, we spend most of our time working in the fields where we grow vegetables.  And, the local people who drive by often are used to seeing us out in our fields.  But, we do notice that they slow down a little and shake their heads when they see us spending time planting bushes, trees, perennial flowers and then caring for them.

Some new bushes in front of the raised beds need water.

In fact, we sometimes look at ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves if we need a mental check up.  But, we assure you (and us) that most of these efforts have good reasons.  And, when they don't have a good reason - we'll make one up.  So there.

Hey Wait! Wasn't That Over... There?

Most farms don't have a building that moves once a year in October.  Happily, ours does!  We had some wonderful help this year, with Sean, Erik and Jeff joining Tammy and I in moving the high tunnel.  Usually, we prepare for the move during the day and then move it in the evening when the wind dies down.  That leads to a race against fading light.  This time, Rob prepared to move the building in the morning.  That means we had to race against the possibility of the wind coming up.

Lowering the flaps after the building is successfully moved

We had an 'artificial' deadline as well.  Tammy could only stay until 10 am and she wanted to be involved in moving the building.  So, we had to be certain it got moved by then.  We can proudly report that we did, in fact, have the building moved before Tammy had to leave!
We still notice a few people slowing down trying to figure out what's different now.
 Rototilling in November?

Well, we did need to plant our garlic!  But, there isn't much that will cause passers by to  slow down their passing by than the sight of Rob running the tiller in November.  Apparently.

But, we've also noticed that crawling around in the dirt in November also gets people's attention.  It is never enough to get them to stop and ask if they can help.  But, I suppose it is strange to see someone actually working without an automated tool.  This is especially true in late October and early November.

How did you expect we planted garlic?  We are the garlic planters!  Fear us!

Ok, ok.  You don't have to fear us.  But, you should say thank you when you get garlic.  We crawled so you could have some!

Time Elapse Photography Would Be Interesting Here

 Through most of the growing season, there is plenty of action on the farm.  However, it is the early Spring and late Fall that sees us moving a higher percentage of our equipment and tools on a daily basis.

The net result?  Things can look a bit cluttered.
 As we bring in the Fall harvests, storage space, containers, trailers, carts and everything else are pressed into service.  There are times when things can look a little ridiculous.  But, we usually know what's going on.

For the most part.

Surfing GFF Style

And finally, we've had a few appearances of the 'surfing felines' of GFF.  Mrranda and Sandman are right on schedule.  They (and Cubbie) are increasingly desperate for attention as the weather cools.  Days are shorter and the humans are outside less.  Then, when they are out, they tend to be less willing to stop and give them their full due.

May I help you?
 As a result, they are a bit more insistent with their attempts to "help" the humans as they do work on the farm.

Now, before you begin to think that we ignore these cats, let me assure you that we do give them positive attention.  They are well fed.  They are cared for.  But, when you have over 3000 garlic to plant, you can't spend too much time lavishing attention on a friendly cat (or three).  After a few skritches, we encourage them to get out of the way while we work.  Both Mrranda and Sandman have decided that the next best thing to a skritch is to hop on the shoulders or back of the human and "surf" for a while.

That one got a few people to slow down.

"Hey!  There's one of them cats they need all of that litter for!"
"Ah Yep.  You don't suppose he got some litter stuck in that hoodie of his do you?"
"Dunno.  You don't suppose we should call Animal Control just in case that 'un is actually trying to maul that guy?"
"Naw.  Anyone crawling around in the dirt deserves a cat surfing on his back..."

Monday, October 27, 2014

A Case for Diversity within a Crop Type

One of the things we say often when we give presentations is that we believe very strongly in diversity on the farm.  We grow many types of crops, from asparagus to zucchini.  But ,this is only one level of the diversity we embrace as a part of our operation.  We also take our diversity to the point that we grow different cultivars of each type of crop.  For example, we grow four types of snack tomatoes (Jaune Flamme, Red Zebra, Green Zebra and Wapsipinicon Peach) in the high tunnel.

Green Zebra ripening on the plant
Of course, one reason to grow multiple types of tomatoes is that it is fun to do.  We can't think of anything more dull than growing only one type of tomato.  Well, ok, we can think of things that are more dull than growing one type of tomato.  But, that's not the point here. 

Another reason to grow multiple types is the variety in taste.  People have a wide range of taste and texture preferences.  And, many of those people actually like to experience different tastes as well.  So, it makes sense from a customer satisfaction perspective that we identify good tasting tomatoes with a range of acceptable and interesting tastes. 

Fuzzy, juicy and delicious - Wapsipinicon Peach
Both of these reasons are important enough that it isn't really necessary to find more.  After all, if the farm doesn't have an element of enjoyment to it, why should we continue to work so hard to do this?  Again, you can argue that this is our job and it is not required that we enjoy it.  But, if you have the option to find ways to enjoy your work and still be productive, why would you fail to explore them?  And, if you can improve your customer's satisfaction and experience by adding some diversity in a reasonable way, why wouldn't you?

Then, there is this:

This chart represents the total production of ALL four varieties in our high tunnel over the past two seasons.  I suppose this chart is a bittersweet thing because its existence means we are officially done with these plants for the season.  But, the good news is that there is a very similar curve of production for both years.  The biggest difference is the spike at the end of the season for 2013.  Since that brings out another matter for discussion some other time, I'd rather focus on the harvest prior to that point.

A good year for Jaune Flamme in 2014

Here's where our argument for variety and diversity comes into play.  It looks like, for all practical purposes, our high tunnel production for snack tomatoes is very consistent.  This is a good thing for us.  It helps us to plan and it helps us to provide a consistent quality product.

Clearly, Jaune Flamme had a pretty miserable year last year in the high tunnel.  We know exactly why that is.  But, again, that is a topic for other posts.  The point here is that we had a down year last year and a decent year this year.  But, still, we had a very similar production level from the high tunnel for the snack tomatoes, with a similar curve of production.  The difference was that Wapsipinicon Peach, in particular, did not have the absolutely stellar year it had in 2013.  Did it do fine?  Yes, it performed within an acceptable range.  But, it really busted out last season.

Red Zebra
The basic idea is that there are a huge number of variables in vegetable production.  Even in the high tunnel, there are weather considerations.  If there are cooler days with more clouds, the warmth in the high tunnel will not be significantly different from fields outside.  On the other hand, excessive rains came at different times this year and actually impacted our high tunnel production each year!

Then, there are the variables we introduce.  You might argue that, in the high tunnel, we should be able to control planting, irrigation and weeding schedules.  In short, we should be able to replicate a successful season in terms of OUR actions on the farm.  But, now you make the assumption that conditions on the farm and in our lives allow us to follow an algorithm with no variability.  Thus far, this has not occurred for us on this farm.

The very nature of our farm often precludes exact replications from season to season.  Each year, we make adjustments in our plans.  Every season, there are new aspects to our operations.  And, there is the potential for new mistakes or accidents that require a response on our part.  Add to this the possibilities of potential seed issues, leaks in the irrigation hose, mice eating seedlings, etc etc and you find you can't guarantee sameness anyway.   So, why not embrace the diversity?

With diversity within the crop type, we 'hedge our bets' and increase the likelihood that we have success for the crop.  If one of the varieties likes hot and dry (Wapsi Peach) much more than the others, then you can deal with a year where that happens (regardless of how it happens).  If the season starts late, then varieties with shorter maturity times or cultivars that respond better to warmer weather as starts will perform.  Others that need a longer, more consistent season may not.

And, it always looks more inviting with a diverse offering anyway!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Is Organic Better for You?

While we do not spend much time on Facebook, we do try to reach people with our GFF page on Facebook and we do, on occasion, see what is being posted by people we know.

Recently, we noted a post by Earth We Are One that was being shared by persons who believe organic produce is the way to go.  Before I celebrated, I thought I'd better do a couple of things.  First, I wanted to learn a little about the organization that was sharing these results.  As I viewed their website, it was clear that there would be some definite biases.  That does not mean information found there is incorrect or not worthwhile.  It simply means that there is a definite agenda.  Agendas are not inherently evil, but a person needs to be aware of them when 'facts' are being reported.  This group clearly would want to support these results being claimed by this study.  So, right or wrong, I decided I would not just simply take their word for what they were reporting.

So, the second thing I did was look for the root of the information being given.  What led them to report what they reported?  My next stop was this LA Times article.  Here is an independent media source that is reporting on this meta-study.  I'll leave you to debate all you want about media, agendas and the like.  But, the reality is that I was now able to start checking more links and the flow of information back to the source. 

The Environmental Working Group is another organization that pointed at this meta-study.  I was impressed by how easy it is to learn about this organization.  They put their financial statements and annual reports on their "about us" page I linked to for all to see.  They also display an impressive ranking by the Charity Navigator, which they proudly include on their "about us" page.  These folks weigh in with this report on their pages.

All of this led me to the original journal article that is here:

US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health
Published in the British Journal of Nutrition
Baranski et al. - Sep 2014

What was this study?

If you are not a researcher, this might sound a bit silly to you.  But, let me tell you about it and why it is useful.

This was a "meta-study" - or a study about studies on a given topic.

The problem is this: there have been many studies of varying quality that try to show that organic foods are better OR no different from conventionally grown foods.  Persons who have an agenda that are served by showing organic foods are better are likely to seize on any study that shows organic products in a positive light.  Unfortunately, they might be attracted to studies with the most dramatic results but with the poorest study designs.  On the other hand, those who are not inclined to favor organics will either find studies that show no difference (again, potentially ignoring study quality) OR they will attack the weaker studies selected by proponents of organic foods.

The net result of this is that there is confusion and disagreement about the facts of the matter.  This leaves us subject to our own preconceived notions and we learn nothing in the process.

The other problem is the fact that it is impossible to study all aspects of food production and quality at once and in one study.  By their very nature, highly focused studies are more likely to produce clearer results, but are also less likely to give us a clear picture of the entire situation.  A meta-study attempts to connect results within certain parameters.

My best example is this.  Let's say Rob did a study on whether or not plants need potassium to grow and he found that they did.  With that study only, should we try to grow plants purely in potassium?  What about all of the other things required to have healthy plants?  Perhaps it would be a good idea to gather the results of studies about plant growth in an effort to come up with a complete picture of what it takes to grow a plant?

I realize I am over simplifying things a bit.  But, my point is that it is important to gather relevant research and try to summarize what is learned on a subject THUS FAR.

This study identified over 300 studies with pertinent results.  After reading the British Journal of Nutrition article, I feel comfortable with the approach to the meta study.

Eat your broccoli!

What did the meta study conclude?

If you are able - read the abstract that resides at the last link above.  If it only confuses you, I found both the LA Times and the EWG's summaries to be clear and concise.

I boiled it down to a few things.

1. fruits, vegetables and grains grown using organic practices has less chemical residue
2. fruits, vegetables and grains grown using organic practices have more antioxidants - which are good for you.
3. there is so much more to learn.

And, in the end, one of the best quotes I found can be found in the LA Times article.  One of the study authors, Charles Benbrook (Washington State U) stated, "The first and foremost message is people need to eat more fruits and vegetables. Buying organic is the surest way of limiting exposure if you have health issues, but by all means, people need to increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables whether it's organic or conventional."

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Time to Talk Turkey

It is that time of year again!  Our flock of turkeys are getting excited about the prospect of being the guest of honor at Thanksgiving dinners in our area.  Tammy can call out "Thaaaaanksgiving Dinnnerrrrrrrrrr!" and they will respond with a "crowd gobble."  Thus far, we have just over 20 reservations and can take another 20 for these wonderful treats.  The trip to the park will occur on the 22nd/23rd of this month.  Contact us if you are interested.

As a warm up to this post, we'd like to point you to some of our previous turkey related posts:
And now...
Stages of Turkeyness!

Turklets (also known as BEEPS)
We do not hatch turkeys at our farm.  We have enough going on without having to maintain a year-round flock.  So, it is a big event when we pick up the little birds.  Of course, people should remember that when you deal with us on our farm, we do not necessarily bow to convention when it comes to names.

We initially called the baby turkeys "Beeps" in reference to the call they make when they are chicks.  Baby chickens "peep", baby ducks "queep" and baby turkeys "beep."  That's all there is to it.

Three Beeps in the hand is worth... three beeps in the hand.
On the other hand, we recognize that "Beep" sounds terribly unprofessional.  Since we want you all to think highly of us and we want to perpetuate the feeling that we might actually know what we are doing, we revised our reference to baby turkeys to "Turklet."  Yep, that sounds more professional!

Turklets do NOT drink coffee.
Of course, other people might refer to baby turkeys as "chicks" or "poults" or

Now wait for it.... this one REALLY sounds professional.


Well, most people who take turkeys seriously will stick with "poults."  We like "turklet" and we're sticking to it!  Hey, the Urban Dictionary lets us get away with it?  Why not?  And no, we didn't look it up before we started using it.  That's just how we do things at the Genuine Faux Farm.

Turkle (We're still just kids!  Really!)

As the birds grow up, they exhibit a good deal of curiosity.  They can be like a younger child that keeps asking "What's that?"  "What's that?"  The biggest difference is that their retention is MUCH shorter than most human children.

But, it is clear that these are no longer babies, so the designation as a "Turklet" no longer applies.  At our farm, they graduate to being 'turkles.'

You may ask us why and we'll make something up.  But, the most obvious reason is that by the time they get to this size, we are getting busier on the farm.  Tired farmers save their breath by removing the second "t."   That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

What are you doing?  What's that?  Why?
It is about this time that we try to get the birds outside.  They have decent feather coverage and can moderate their body temperature reasonably well.  The biggest issue is keeping them dry.  A wet cold turke often becomes a wet, cold and dead turkle.
Turkles learn to respect electric fences - usually without touching them!
Turkles see their diet gain much more variety as we let them forage and we start sending produce we won't be selling or eating their way.  Favorites are typically cucumbers, melons and tomatoes.  But, we can send a good number of things their way and they'll get to it eventually.

Turkles know they should eat their greens!
Turk (That's a good sized bird.)

Once our birds get close to full size, they graduate to "turk" status.  Yes, the farmers are tired enough that they can't include the "le" any more. 

We're thinking about fanning - but maybe not at this moment.
Male turkeys are generically called "jakes" and the dominant male is called a "tom."  Some people might call the males "gobblers."  The females are called "jennies," but less creative people might call them "hens."

You might be able to see it in the picture above, but it may not be clear enough.  The females usually have much shorter legs than the males and typically are smaller, with a rounder body, slightly shorter neck and/or less 'shoulder.'  Once you've been around them, you can easily see the difference.  It's just less easy to put it into words sometimes.

This IS my good side.
The red flap of skin under the chin is called a "wattle" and the flap that is on the forehead is called a "snood."  No, we are not making this up.  Honest.  Look it up.


At some point after the birds approach adult size, they change from "Turks" to "Knuckleheads."  In this case, the farmers find new energy for extra syllables because the birds sometimes find ways to elicit extra energy from the farmers. 
Muck and Myra were very good at getting the farmer's attention.
 Usually, the turks are pretty good about going back to their room on their own once it gets dark.  But, they have an annoying habit of deciding, every so often, that the farmers need to remind them to go in.  This usually happens on days when the farmers are stressed out.  The temptation to use words other than "knucklehead" increases at those times.

Jake is not entirely serious about fanning in this picture.
When male turkeys fan their feathers, they also drop their wings to the side, fanning those feathers out as well.  And, if you look closer, the feathers on the birds back also stand up.  The wattle and the snood expand and get redder and the color in their faces gets brighter.  The whole purpose is to try to look as big and impressive as they possibly can.

The funny thing about fanning is that we see three week old turklets trying to fan.  We try not to wound their pride by laughing too much.

We have noticed that the males will fan and gobble more when there are visitors on the farm.  Essentially, you have been identified as a rival flock.  So, they're trying to impress you (and show you who is boss).

Tuurrrkeeeeeeeeey Dinnnnnnerrrrrrrrrrrr!
The Final Stage - YUMMY!
Ok, ok.  I realize some of you don't like seeing the birds go from cute to impressive and then have us talk about eating them.  But, that is the reality of it.  We do enjoy raising these birds (most of the time) which is why we keep coming back to it every season.  We are also glad we can give them a decent place to live and be turkeys.

Now, excuse me, I have to go put the knuckleheads back into their room.