Monday, November 11, 2019

Disbelief

Every year about this time I take a look at some of the pictures we have taken during the season and this year I was struck by two things.

1. We don't have very many pictures for this season.
2. I found myself saying "That was THIS year?  I don't believe it!" ... a LOT.

Record Snowfall - Winter 2018 / 2019
Yes, really.  that was just this PAST Winter.  Considering the current weather seems like we have already entered Winter 2019/2020, I am guessing you don't want to be reminded about the last one.  But, you know me, I'll just do it anyway!

In a very real way, I find this therapeutic.  Why? 

Well, I've found that I am VERY grumpy about the colder than normal weather and the fact that we've already had multiple snowfalls by November 11.  It's not just because there is still so much to do on the farm before the ground freezes.  After all, if I am completely honest with myself, I am always rushing to get it all done before the ground freezes.  Every.  Single.  Year. 

Picture from atop a drift on the farm in late March.
I am the sort of person that suffers from "Moving Target Syndrome."  My to do list is never done because I keep adding more on to it.  "If I could only get X done before the snow flies" becomes "if I could only get X and Y done" which then becomes "X, Y and Z."  This doesn't mean anything on the list is unimportant.  It is simply a recognition that there is much to do and less time to do it in.

Getting back to the point I was failing to make.  The grumpy feelings may well have something to do with how much we were feeling Winter not that many months ago.  We had drifts at our North bush line that had me standing tall enough to easily see OVER the top of our high tunnel.
Late April snows don't usually help May flowers too much

That's not all of it.  We had late snows again this past year with a measurable snow in late April.  Yes, that snow went away fairly quickly.  But, if you were thinking it was less than half a year between our last snow of one season before we had our first of the next...  you were correct.

This has nothing to do with amounts of snow.  It also has nothing to do with this being completely out of the ordinary.  We know full well that snows can happen in late April and in mid to late October.  But...

It took us until late June before our roads recovered (most of the way) and I was just getting used to the idea that it was ok for me to wear short-sleeved shirts.  Now I am back to wearing enough layers that I have to turn my whole body in order to look to my left or right.  The laying hen flock is already giving me "that look" that they give me when the weather gets cold.  The Outdoor Farm Supervisors (the outdoor cats Inspector and Soup) have already taken to giving me the 'pitiful look' in hopes that I'll let them into the basement.  The Indoor Farm Supervisors (Bree and Hobnob) won't let me sit down to do office work without one or both of them attempting to command lap space so they can feel warmer.

Looking on the bright side.  I got to throw a frozen tomato.  Instead of 'splatting' it kind of cracked apart.    And, I am already looking forward to the forecast that has daily highs in the 30's.  My how quickly we can re-frame for ourselves what 'nice weather' can be!

Now watch this... we'll hit 60's in December.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Downstream

It's only natural.  We curse those upstream from us and ignore those who live downstream from us so they can have their turn cursing at us.  I am not particularly found of curses, so I wonder if that is why this particular tendency bothers me so much.  I am guessing, however, that this is not the reason I am bothered... read on if you want to learn more!

Big Picture Issues with "Sending it Downstream"
When we established the Genuine Faux Farm in 2004/2005 we ushered in a phase in our lives where we were to become ever so much more sensitive to the weather, the climate and the things we all do to our environment in the course of doing whatever it is we do.  I'd like to think that Tammy and I were aware of many of the issues that come with living in the 'commons' that is our world and that we were doing our level-best to not be part of the problem.  And, maybe, just maybe, we were sometimes part of the solution.

"Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."  – Maya Angelou


It turns out that we were woefully uninformed and lacking full appreciation for what is going on in our world.  And, oddly enough, I am hopeful that I will continue to experience life and learning in the years to come so that I can say the same about us now at some later point in time.  In the meantime, we'll get by with what we think we know now and we'll continue to do what we can to do the right things in the right ways, whatever we think these actions/goals might be.

Iowa has experienced an increased number of excessive rain events since the inception of our farm and the flooding has been setting record after record throughout the state.  Whether you "believe in" climate change or not, we are foolish if we fail to learn from the floods that have been happening and prepare for future floods (or fires or droughts or...  you get the idea).  Failing to plan for the future is the equivalent of sending the problem downstream for someone else to deal with.

“Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it.”Maya Angelou

And my own corollary to that?  Forgive others for not knowing as well and help them to learn it. 

Let's say for a moment that we all agree heavy rainfalls have happened and that more could certainly happen in the future.  So, what are the things that could be done that might alleviate this situation?  Clearly, our most common solution for far has been to "get the water AWAY from here."  In other words, we are passing the problem downstream to someone else for them to deal with it.  If we really want to be effective, we are going to have to make ourselves a bit uncomfortable and do some difficult things.  Things like taking acres out of row crop production and putting them into hayfields, wetlands and woodlands.  Some solutions that might mean some personal property is lost, production of commodity crops may not be the best option and perhaps even whole communities may need to be moved.  Any worthwhile solution is going to have its painful moments and are going to require some soul-searching and commitment.

But that isn't going to happen until we stop looking for someone to blame - we need to start looking for someone (many someones) to begin the work of adjustment and restoration.

A Personal View of What it Means to NOT Send It Downstream


I want to turn the focus of this post on to the things we think we need to do right now so we are not passing current Genuine Faux Farm problems downstream to a point where the problem is only bigger and badder - or just not "ours." 

1. I don't want to ignore a problem and pass it downstream to a later point in time if I can help it.  A known problem usually doesn't just go away - it tends to get more difficult to solve.
2. I don't wish to pass any of our problems/mistakes on to someone else.  Though I admit to being imperfect, so I am sure we'll make a few mistakes in the process that will result in someone else feeling some pain.  Sorry in advance.
3.  I hope that I can stay alert for unintended consequences that only result in passing things downstream.
4. There comes a point when a band-aid will not work.  If all you can do is a baling wire and duct tape solution, then that's what you have to do.  But, if you have a choice to do better, you should do that - even if it is frustrating, annoying, inconvenient and even ... painful.

Bringing It Home to the Genuine Faux Farm
As many of you know, we found ourselves trying to fix our old farm-kitchen when it became apparent that it was falling apart and it needed to be done soon.  This was not a 'I hate the paint color and want different cabinets' thing.  This was a 'hey look - there's a hole developing in the floor' thing.

We could have 'band-aided' the whole thing by taking out the sink, the lower cabinets on one wall and the offending area of floor and fixing/replacing that.  But, there were a couple of underlying problems that were causing the rot issue.  One was that the plumbing was placed on a cold outer wall over a granite foundation.  The other was that the blown insulation from a prior generation was collecting moisture and causing rotting issues in the walls.  Without going much further into it, there were a host of other problems we could have covered up and passed that issue downstream to either a later version of ourselves or to some future owner.  We opted to do our best now in hopes that our choices were the right ones and there were a couple of times where the irritation of being delayed so we could just do it right was pretty high!

With the kitchen (mostly) done.  We find ourselves looking at some big problems with our farm that we can no longer push downstream.  We realized as this season progressed that we have been applying band-aids for the past few seasons just to continue to serve the demands of our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.  For those who do not know what that means - we have run a subscription program for fresh produce since 2005.  In recent years, we have had deliveries for 32 weeks each season.  That means we have had 64 deliveries where we needed to have a sufficient quantity and diversity of product to supply members with a good CSA product each time.

So, what exactly is the problem with that?

Well, if you are focused on doing whatever it takes to grow produce for the share program, when do you have time to address other issues that crop up over time? (I am not sorry for any puns, intentional or otherwise, that appear in my writing - so there).

This is where we find ourselves after fifteen seasons of running a successful CSA program.  A combination of changing weather patterns, chemical drift issues and declining local food sales are making things difficult.  When you add in mounting crop failures due to the first couple of problems you might understand how this could have an effect on the psyche of the farmers.  It is very difficult to feel successful when you are surrounded by so much failure.


One example of the issue is shown at the left.  This is one of our onion beds that was planted in June(late for an onion crop).  Wet fields forced the delays in planting until we found we could wait no longer if we were hoping to get anything in.  That meant we had to till a bed when the soil was too wet.  This is bad for the overall health of the soil, so we hate to do it.  But, it isn't just bad for that reason.

Take a look at the 'pebbling' in the planted area.  Those 'pebbles' don't break down for most of the season.  The soil contact with the new transplants is inconsistent with this type of soil, so transplant loss is often higher.  Cultivation, if it dries up enough to allow it, doesn't work so well either when you have all of these solid clumps of soil, which means you often have to resort to hand weeding.

The good news - we actually got some nice onions anyway.  Why?  That's a topic for a future post. 

I don't want this post to be all about the negatives, but it is important to get a better idea of the scope of the problem first.  The picture at the right shows one of our fields that had melons and winter squash planted into it.  We put down paper mulch in the planting rows this year, which was one of our responses to the wetter seasons.  If you can't cultivate, try to prevent weed growth with mulch.  And, to some extent this worked.  Until we started noticing our squash and melon plants showing signs of inhibited growth. 

You can argue that some of the issue was the late planting.  You can't argue that the transplants were poor - these were some of the best we've put in over the last several years.  You could also argue that the wet conditions may have contributed to the issue.  But, the variable that may well have got us the most was the extended herbicide application range on the corn/soybean fields in the area.  Remember, dicamba drift does not have to come from next door, it can come from a couple of miles away in the right (wrong) conditions.  To make a long story less long, we harvested no melons from the two eastern plots that held them.  We harvested a single butternut squash and very few other winter squash. 

The signs are there that tell us we have to change.  We can change what we are doing and do something else entirely or we can change how we do what we are doing.  Maybe we can even do a little of both.  But, the reality is that we cannot work to find a solution without getting a bit uncomfortable.  We simply cannot do a CSA program and make the changes we think we need to make next year.  But, even with declining enrollment, the CSA still provides our farm with the majority of its income. 

So, what are we going to do?

We're going to do better.  Once we have a better idea as to what all we need to accomplish in order to do that, we'll let you know.  We just know we aren't sending this downstream if we can help it.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Self-Critical

I've been doing some thinking as I've been out digging the potatoes.  And, we all know thinking is a dangerous pastime!

I've been hearing so much criticism by everyone leveled at everyone else lately that I was wondering if anyone was actually looking in the mirror and considering how they measure up.  I realize there are several people in this world who are entirely too hard on themselves, so I recognize my characterization is likely unfair.  But, it seems the loudest voices right now are getting pretty mean without realizing that perhaps the critique being pointed at others just might apply to the source as well.

Case in point:

It is important, if you own a small, working farm that tries to sell locally and direct to consumer, to always put on a 'good face.'  Give the people what they want and maybe you'll make a few sales.  Do what it takes to always make things look good.  Obscure anything that doesn't meet that end and stretch definitions when it seems like it is important.  And, perhaps, above all - make the customer feel like this:

 
You can take the this several ways.  It could be a critique of how out of touch so many of us are with what it takes to be in touch with nature and supportive of the environment.  Or, you can consider it a statement that calls out all of the small farms that keep putting out the beautiful farm pictures on Facebook to collect as many likes as they are able in hopes that it translates to other support (our farm included).

Instead, I took it as a reminder of how very far away the Genuine Faux Farm is from being perfectly friendly to the environment - despite everything Tammy and I think we do to work with nature.  Do not get me wrong.  It is very important to us that we try to do the right thing with respect to keeping the damage we do to the environment to a minimum.  But, there is no getting around the simple fact that our very existence as a farm is often in conflict with nature.

Deer, woodchuck and rabbit are all likely to destroy many of our crops - especially at moments when we can afford to lose those crops the least.  Foxes, raccoon, mink, hawks, owls and other predators threaten the poultry we raise.  Trees shade gardens that need full sun - or solar panels that don't do their job quite so well in the shade.  We till our soil and make life a bit more difficult for the micro-organisms that try to live there.  The snakes hate it when I turn the compost pile and the rats are generally not welcome where our poultry feed is. We grow plants and varieties that are not native to our soils.  We drive a tractor that creates soil compaction and uses fossil fuels.  We use single use plastic bags for green beans in shares.

I could probably make an extremely long list of things that we do that are contrary to the image we hope to project.  But, I have to avoid crossing the line into despair. 

We have to hope the difference we make because we actually TRY to work with nature is enough to start with.


We're happy to have some bumblebees on the farm and we'd love to have more.

It would be too easy to just throw up our hands and say, "Well, I guess that was useless.  It's just easier to stop caring."  Well, ok.  I'm wrong.  I think it would not be easy for the two of us to say this unless it was a moment of sheer frustration.  But, I don't think I am entirely wrong in saying that many people have opted for this attitude.

The - "oh well, nothing I do really makes a difference, so why try?" - attitude.

Bill Watterson (creator of Calvin & Hobbes) often got it right.
Being willing to be self-critical might actually help us do better than just trying.


I had the dubious 'honor' of having to euthanize a song-bird today.  I didn't enjoy it at all.  But, I was enjoying watching it go through its suffering even less.  This bird clearly had either been injured or it was dying from some sort of disease.  I realize that creatures of this world are constantly dealing with threats to their well-being and have been doing so well before humans started piling on additional threats and obstacles.  But, I still found myself questioning whether I had some part in the circumstances that led to this particular bird's demise.

Does the concentration of poultry on our farm create some sort of imbalance that might impact wild birds?  This is certainly a possibility that I can not discount.  I also know that the habitat we have installed attracts more birds to our farm than the surrounding corn and soybean fields do.  So, I suppose I should feel good about that.  And the Goldfinches love the sunflower seeds right now.  But, sometimes I wonder if I just lure these birds into a trap that exposes them to the unhealthy things that surround our farm at certain times of the year.

It is not required that every criticism I level at myself should have legs to stand on its own.  What is required is that I ask the questions so I can continue to seek out better answers.

By providing what might be considered a very small oasis by migrating song birds in the middle of corn-soybean fields, we probably expose ourselves to more instances of exhausted creatures who just don't have enough in them to continue their journey.  So, I guess we will continue to provide habitat because we think that is better than the alternative.   And, I will once again provide the dubious service of easing suffering if I am called to do so again. The difference is that the Genuine Faux farmers will move on and look critically at the habitat we provide in hopes that we can improve it.  We will also continue to consider the size of our poultry flocks in an effort to keep them, our pastures and the rest of the farm as healthy as we are able.

In the end, we know we can do better and we are willing to be self-critical so we have a prayer of actually becoming better.  We'd love it if more people joined us in this endeavor.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The GFF 2020 Foresight Survey


The Genuine Faux Farm 2020 Foresight Survey

We are looking for feedback from those who have purchased products from the Genuine Faux Farm or those who are considering doing so.  We are looking for feedback from those who would buy from us locally. 

Thank you for providing us with your guidance as we look for ways to navigate our farm’s future in a changing world. We have paper copies at our distribution sites, but if that does not serve you, please feel free to print this out or copy/paste to a word processor and fill it out.  You can email it to us, give it to us at a distribution or even mail it to us.

1. What is the best way to contact you with announcements about farm produce or farm news?

___ Email     ___ Text    ___ Social Media                

Other ____________________________

2. Which do you prefer when ordering productions from the Genuine Faux Farm?

___ Pre- Order      ___ First come first served   ___ pre order with some add-on

3. Which do you prefer for selecting product from the Genuine Faux Farm?

___ A la carte (choose what you want and how much)

___ Farmers' choice package (predetermined)

4. Which payment option appeals to you most?

___ Pay as you go  

___  "credits" system (pay in increments and use the credits to purchase)

5. Which payment method do you prefer?

___ Cash     ___  Check    ___ Electronic payment method

6. How often would you prefer to have available product delivery?

___  Once per week at a given location     ___  Once every other week at a given location

7. Which locations would suit you for product pick up?  (check all that apply)

___   St Andrew's Waverly     ___  Jorgensen Plaza Cedar Falls   

___  Hansen's Outlet Cedar Falls   ___  On farm Tripoli        ___ Deliver

Other _____________________________________

8. Which day(s) of the week do you prefer for delivery?  (check all that apply)

___ Mon   ___ Tue    ___ Wed   ___ Thu    ___ Fri    ___ Sat

9. How long would like a delivery session to run?  If you have a time range preference, please share that with us here.


10. Check each of the products below that interest you.

___  Plant starts for the garden

___  Cut flowers

___ Eggs

If eggs, about how many dozen per month? _____________________

___ Turkey

___ Broiler (Meat) Chicken 

If chicken, about how many per month? _____________

___ Vegetables  (see next questions for preferences)

11.  Do you have other product suggestions you would like to see from our farm?


12. Vegetable Grow List for 2020

Tier One:
The following are vegetables that we intend to grow in 2020.  You do not need to give us any feedback on these unless you wish to.

Asparagus, green bean, broccoli, carrot, cauliflower, garlic, lettuce, onion, bell pepper, sweet pepper, kale (curly), tomato (slicer, snack and cherry), butternut squash, tan acorn squash, zucchini, potato (red and blue flesh)

Tier Two:
The following vegetables require feedback to help us make choices on what and how much to grow.  If you print this out, circle the veggies you want us to grow.  Put an "X" through any veggie you really don't want to see.  If you don't have an opinion about a particular crop, don't make a mark.  If you are doing an electronic copy, somehow indicate your choices in a clear fashion.

Basil     Golden Beet     Striped Beet    Red Beet   Romano Bean     Eggplant    Herbs     Melon   
Napa Cabbage    Hot Pepper     White Potato    Yellow Potato       Romanesco     Spinach    
Tatsoi     Summer Squash      Komatsuna      Watermelon     Pie Pumpkin     Snow Pea     
Snap Pea     Lima Bean     Cucumber      Buttercup Squash       Papricka Pepper      Roma Tomato

Tier Three:
The following vegetables are on the 'chopping block.'   We do not intend to grow these commercially unless we get feedback that convinces us to change our minds.  Indicate veggies on this list that you really want us to consider growing again next season.

Dry Bean     Cabbage (white)   Cabbage (red)       Chard      Daikon        Kohlrabi       Pok Choi
Radish         Turnip        Spaghetti Squash       Delicata Squash        Rutabega     
Mustard Greens     Arugula       Rhubarb         Brussels sprouts      Parsley      Cilantro       
Parsnip        Collards      Shell Peas       Kale (flat leaf)       Kale (dinosaur/lacinato type)      
Okra        Watermelon Radish         Leeks         Bunching Onions   

If you wish us to know who filled this particular survey out, please give us you name here.

Thank you! If there is someone else you think should participate in the survey, take an extra copy and a Genuine Faux Farm business card for them.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Not Smart Enough

 I still clearly remember my second trip to the elementary school library when I was in the first grade.  I know that might seem odd to you that I would remember the second trip, but I think you'll get it once the story is completed.  I only vaguely recall the first trip when the entire class of 25 students went all at one time to get a tour.  They showed us the 'section' where the books 'for first graders' were located and the librarian probably waved around at the rest a bit as well.  I am not sure.  I suspect I was probably looking at a book...


Yep, he doesn't look all that smart.  Notice the cat has its back turned to him?
The second trip was when I was sent with the rest of the advanced reading group to go to the school library and select a book.  One of the perks of being in the 'advanced' group was that you could pick things from other shelves that were NOT in the first grader section.  Looking back, I realize the sections were an attempt to help guide us to things we were likely to enjoy and/or have success in reading.  But, I guess I feel that if any kid saw a book in any other section that might have been of interest, they should have been allowed to check it out and at least thumb through it.  Who knows where it might lead?

In any event, our group was actually SENT to the library while the teacher stayed in our classroom with the rest of the students.  I wonder if that still happens now?  We arrived and headed for some of the advanced books and for some reason that is still a mystery to me, the librarian singled me out and said, "These books aren't for you, you need to go over here."  And, she steered me to the first grade section.  My childhood memory tells me that she was pretty harsh about it, but I really can't tell you for certain if that was just my perception that has built up over time or if it was the actual tone she used.

Those who know me probably recognize that as a kid, I would not seek out confrontation.  I would normally keep my mouth shut and do one of two things.  If I was certain that the other person was very much in the 'wrong' I'd find a way to circumvent the situation.  If I wasn't sure what just happened, I would retreat to the point where things still made sense.

In this case, I felt a combination of confusion, shame and embarrassment with a dash of 'but I've already read some of the books located in the advanced section, so there!' thrown in.  So, while my somewhat confused classmates moved on, I turned around and went back to the classroom.  I went back to my desk and started doing whatever it was we were supposed to be doing on our return.  This was the place where things last made sense to me - so there I was.

I seem to recall that I opted not to go back to the school library for some time, though I would go to the city public library and happily browse, read and check things out.  I don't recall how word got to my teacher that I had been stopped from looking at other books, but she did go back up with me at some point and she made a point to tell the librarian that I was allowed to check books out from anyplace in the library I wanted.  I recall I checked something out that was a stretch - but I am sure I read it (as best I could) just to prove the point.

Smart idea?  Might be worth its own blog post someday!
That story is probably one of the first of many that illustrate someone either underestimating or overestimating what I was capable of doing.  I am sure that everyone has some of these in their own life-story.

I re-tell myself this particular story to remind me of a two things:

First, it doesn't take much to hurt someone - and there doesn't have to be intent.  I still recall feeling the burning shame and the beginnings of self-doubt putting cracks in my self-confidence.  Maybe I really wasn't all that smart after all?  Thankfully, I had plenty of additional support from family, my teacher and others and enough of my own self-confidence to heal up rapidly.  I circumvented the limited access problem by going to a 'friendlier' library, so things were fine as far as I was concerned.  But, this story reminds me that not everyone has enough of a support system or sufficient self-worth to weather things that don't seem so big to the rest of us.  And, that's why I try to consider what I say.  And, why I make myself apologize when I err in what I say.  And, perhaps it is why I often just don't say anything!

And second, I tell this story to remind myself that I am not as smart as I might think I am - but I am also not as stupid as I think I am either.  There is such as thing a healthy self-doubt and self-criticism.  But, they must be balanced by a healthy doses of confidence and self-assurance.  I just know that if there is something I am not particularly good at it's assessing my own capabilities accurately.  Let's just say that I know enough to know that I don't know enough.

Maybe I should go to the library and check out a book on the subject.

Maybe it's in the first-grade section.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Frost's Eve

Feher Ozon papricka peppers.
 Here we are at "Frost's Eve."  No, it's not an official name as far as anyone else is concerned.  It is a name I've used with myself for the last several year's of farming.  For us, at the farm, Frost's Eve can be an event that lasts for a week as we prepare for the inevitable cold that will terminate many of our crops.  This year, Frost's Eve will actually be the same as the freeze date.  That's not unheard of for us at the farm, but it certainly puts an exclamation point on the whole thing.

We will certainly be doing some things to 'celebrate' Frost's Eve.  We have already done our best to bring in crops that will not survive the cold.  Some things, like the carrots and potatoes still in the ground, will not be affected by the cold (it's more the wet that concerns us there).  The kale should be fine and maybe the chard will be ok.  Frankly, I'm not too worried about the chard because the Japanese Beetles have rendered most of the leaves unmarketable.  It looks more like Swiss cheese rather than Swiss chard.

The crops in the high tunnels will get another layer of cover for the next few days in hopes that we can continue to extend the season.  We're moving the indoor plants back indoors (they reside outside during warmer months) and harvested crops are getting moved into warmer storage areas.  Hoses need to be disconnected from water supplies and waterers for the poultry will need to be dealt with so we don't have freezing and expansion that splits them out.  I am certain I will miss something - I always do.  But, it won't be for lack of trying.


Goodman, Amazing and Mardi
Cauliflower and broccoli are among those plants that can handle a freeze - as long as it doesn't stay below freezing for a couple of days straight.  However, most of the cauliflower is in and the broccoli hasn't been interested in sending up much for sideshoots this season.  That may have something to do with the timing of the rain and wetness of the soil.  Ok - it has a good deal to do with soil moisture.  I haven't had enough days with the soil being firm enough to go exploring for side shoots.  So, perhaps I missed a few out there that I couldn't see from the grass/clover paths.

Speaking of wet weather - something we have done a fair amount of over the past year or two... or four, I grabbed a graphic that illustrated some of the recent Fall wet weather issues we have had for three of the last four seasons.  Waterloo is probably our best comparable most years.  However, we are just far away from each of these places that you might be surprised by how much difference there has been.  This past September, we were closer to Dubuque's numbers for rainfall, sitting between 10 and 12 inches of rain.  It was better than last year's 14.66" - I guess.  

So, what is happening right now at the farm on Frost's Eve?  It is sleeting.  I know you can't see it in the photo below, but it is.  And, yes, the farm is still quite damp.  The benefit of sleet at this point in time?  You get a new blog post while I wait this squall out.  I realize that you might think I should be feeling more urgency to prepare for the freeze right now.  But, I am sooooo over that.  Really.  I might feel differently if the wet weather hadn't already terminated a number of our crops or if our squash harvest had been better.  But, I don't.  I'll get what needs to be done... done.  It will be fine.



 The comment about the squash might be easier to understand if you look at the next photo.


Those two containers are the extent of my harvest for 200 row feet of acorn and delicata type squash.  That's it.  In a decent year I would expect to fill up six to ten of those tubs from the 200 feet alone.  So, winter squash harvest was quick.  If it had been a normal harvest, I would still be hustling to bring them in.

Well, actually, I would have been bringing them in over a period of time anyway.  But, that's neither here nor there.

So, let's move on to something that is getting closer to being HERE!  Turkey TIME!  The turkeys have sized up nicely and are getting excited about the upcoming opportunity to be guests of honor at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners in our area.

I also went out and asked them if they might like to be called Gnarly Gobblechickens (see graphic at left).  The general consensus was that they liked being 'gnarly' and they were fine with the 'gobble' part.  On the other hand, they were not so certain that the proposal that all of these birds be some type of chicken was such a good one.  Now, if they were all some sort of turkey...

So, perhaps we will call them Gnarly Gobblers and leave it at that.  I'll go talk to Crazy Maurice our weeping willow and get his insight at some point on this matter.  After all, he does observe the turkeys far more often than the farmers do since he stands sentinel at the corner of their pasture.

And, continuing to move from positive things to more positive things.

What?  I was positive right from the get go in this post!  Positive that this is Frost's Eve.  Positive about things I have done and will be doing to prepare for it.  Positive that Gnarly Gobblechickens think it is cool to be gnarly...

We continue to have lots of forward movement on the back house entry project, thanks to Duncan Home Services.  Travis and Rory have done a fine job working around the weather and what we need as we continue to do farm things.


It is very nice to have a better back door that seals out the wind appropriately - especially on Frost's Eve.  Imagine what this might look like once the deck and siding are on!  We might even have an outdoor light at some point here.

Ok, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.

On the inside, we've been getting used to the new orientation of the stairway to the basement. 


The door to the outside is at the left of the picture and the door to the right goes into the house.  Straight ahead is the stair to the basement.  It is wider and sturdier than our previous stair, which was actually oriented in the opposite direction prior to this.  Clearly, there is still work to do, but we are liking this stair very much.  It will still take time getting used to it, but I think we can handle it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Clueless No More

We know most of you don't get it.  But, we still love you anyway.  And for those that do get it.  We love you too.

I've had a couple of conversations recently with other growers so I could actually talk with someone who really understood what I mean by "it's really wet out there."  It's certainly not your fault if you don't quite understand what I mean.  But, perhaps it IS my fault for not helping you to understand what we mean when we tell you it is really wet and it has gotten difficult for us to do the things we need to do as farmers.

Look!  Really!  It's wet out here.
Let me tell you what it means when we say it is REALLY WET on the farm.

1. It Means You Can't Use Most of Your Tools Effectively
What you see in the picture below is one of the paths we maintain so we can drive our tractor, or the lawn tractor, or pull carts to and from various parts of our farm. 


We actually maintain clover/grass paths so we have a place that isn't muddy to travel after some rain.  But, what happens when things are so wet you can't drive on those paths?
Well, you can try to drive on them.  And, there are times that you have to.  Until you get stuck.  Thus far, we haven't pushed our luck too much this year.  But, still, it does mean that I have the option of hoping not to get stuck OR I walk out with a couple of harvest crates.  Fill them.  Then walk back with full harvest crates.  Repeat.  Until you are out of time.

2. It Means You Lose Significant Parts of Your Harvest
But, don't worry so much about how much time it takes to harvest.  Why?

Well, because your harvest is melting away in front of your eyes, that's why!  If you'll recall, we couldn't plant on time and we were running four weeks or more late on much of our planting.  The field tomatoes, for example, were just getting into peak.  But, too much water and you lose the plants, fruit and all.

Sure, you can try to pull the green tomatoes out ahead of the rains.. or during the rains... or...  But, it's not easy pulling in tomatoes when it is this muddy.

With the old weather patterns that typically resulted in drier Fall months, you could expect that you wouldn't have to fight fungus problems with your cauliflower.  Well, never mind.  These heads can look great one day and not so good the next.  Not helping, Mother Nature!
Here, this picture is actually kinda pretty.
 3. Chores Become... well... More of a Chore
We pasture raise our poultry because we think this is a better way to maintain the health of the birds and the health of the flock.  Unless it gets really wet out there.  Then, well, it's still better for them as long as they have some shelter to go to if they wish it.
But, it still makes the effort of raising poultry and working with them that much more difficult.    The picture above is actually before today's rain.  It's much wetter out there now.  And, the more the birds travel on the pasture, the muddier and more beat up the pasture becomes.  And, the indoor areas?  Well, they go out, they bring mud and wet back with them.  So, we need to clean up the rooms a bit more often.  And the eggs.... we clean them anyway, but it takes more time to clean them when it is wet and muddy outside.

We have to fight to find 'higher ground' to put feeders and... ironically enough.. waterers.  We have to dump the slurry of wet feed and rainwater out of feeders that collected rain and try to find ways to get birds their food where it is drier.  We have to wear our muck boots and try not to slip and visit the surface of the ground... er... the surface of the puddles, in a rapid and undesired way.  And the longer it goes, the uglier it gets.

We find ourselves walking differently to handle the conditions and then we wonder why feet are sorer than usual or back muscles or other muscles are cramping up.  And.. the chores take us three times longer to complete than they usually do.  We find ourselves having to make adjustments and changes to our systems on a daily basis simply to handle the fact that it is REALLY wet out there.

4. You Get Shorter Windows to Do Your Work
This one may be obvious.  If it is too wet to do work four days out of seven, then you have three days, instead of seven to get your week's worth of work done.  That's ok, because we know that is going to happen sometimes when you farm.  But, when it happens over and over and OVER again?  Oy.

4.5 It Means You Need to Walk Around
Oh.  Heck with that.  I'm walking through.

5. Farmers Struggle to Keep Moving
Sep 1 to Oct 1 rainfall in 2019, we're in the 10-15" range
Some farms may not struggle with the wet as much as we do.  Our farm has heavier soil and it is quite flat.  In other words, it takes less to make us struggle a bit with too much rain.  So, we do things to attempt to address the situation.  But, when you do what you can and it still isn't enough, it gets pretty difficult to keep at it.

We'll certainly do our best because that's what we should do.  But, we're not going to be sad to see this season end.

Because it's really wet out here.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Reality Check

It is so easy to be upset, angry, disappointed, frustrated and depressed.  In fact, it is frightening exactly how easy it is to give strength to all of the negative feelings.  It has rained too much on the farm again this Fall, so several things aren't going the way we want them to.  I could easily move from there into a mini-tantrum regarding all things 'bad' and that, in itself, bothers me.

Why should I have to work so hard to identify and then enjoy some good things in life?
The answer is, I should stop working so hard to STOP myself from seeing and appreciating positive things.  That certainly doesn't mean that I should turn a blind eye to the rest.  What it means is that I can't effectively deal with the rest if I don't maintain a healthy balance.  And that's why this post is appearing now.

A Strong September for Bees on the Farm
I readily admit that I have been very much feeling that 'doom and gloom' for pollinators on the farm is appropriate.  I remain worried for the health of pollinators and beneficial insects - and for good reason.  But, I have also been reminded this month that Mother Nature has sufficient strength to recover if we just give her a chance.

Our hive of honey bees finally took hold and is very active right now.  We even took a little honey out to give them some more space.  I know better than to get my hopes up that they will survive the Winter.  But, it seems to us that they are setting things up to have a fair stock of food for the Winter.  We have had hives on the farm before and this group is looking better than all previous efforts.

We are also noticing a fair amount of activity on the asters that can be found ALL OVER our farm right now.  Everything from the Thousand Flower Asters to some of the purple and red varieties.  I still believe that the activity is lower than it should be for the amount of habitat we are providing.  But, at least there IS activity.

We have noticed that the bumblebees have declined dramatically over the past three years, but we are encouraged by the bumblers bouncing around on the large marigolds that are inside Valhalla this year.  Does it mean they aren't still in danger?  Of course not. What it means is that some of our efforts are doing something for the bumblebees and other pollinators around our farm.  It's an area we have some control over and it helps to see that our efforts have some positive impact.

Solar Energy for the Genuine Faux Farm
I realize we've put a post out there regarding our new solar array.  We have a good deal more to say about it, but that will come another day when I have the brain space to work on it.  For now, we provide you with a graph from the system that monitors production by our solar panels.

The cool thing about this series is that it shows you how much energy is being generated each day for a week.  Obviously, no power is generated when the sun is down.  Also, the sun reaches the best angle for the solar panels about mid-day, which is why most of these data lines show a peak at that point. 

What I hope everyone can see is September 23, the last day of the week being shown.  Other than a very short period in the afternoon, there were no clouds obstructing the sun.  We were "that" close to a a perfect parabola of production.  Ahhhh.  A goal for us!  And, I got to use alliteration.

Not All Harvest is Delayed or Hindered
Another thing that I know I tend to do is dwell on the things that I cannot do on the farm.  For example, I really want to dig the potatoes and carrots.  I want to pull the onions.  Etcetera.  But, the wet weather is making some of this impossible.  And, the longer it is impossible, the more likely it is that we lose the crop. 

But, that's a negative and we're about positives right now!

The photo at the right shows Rob's typical setup for harvest.  Rosie pulls a running gear with a flat deck to a field that is going to be worked (in this case, the Southwest field on the farm).  Appropriate containers are available along with a scale.  The cart often carries a nipper or a lettuce knife as well as a camera.  Well, ok, the camera doesn't often come along for the ride.  Rainy days often preclude its appearance.  There is also usually some sort of machine playing music for the farmer (also often missing if it is raining or looks like it might rain).

One of the recent projects was to pull in the cauliflower that was ready to harvest.  The wet fall is causing some problems with the quality, but they heads are decent and they taste just fine, thank you very much. 

We are participating in a variety trial with Practical Farmers of Iowa this year and we are measuring how Mardi, Amazing and Goodman perform.  I decided not to allow myself to know which variety got planted into which section, so I harvest by labeling them as A, B, C, etc.  The idea was that I wanted to be as objective as I could be as I took notes on quality.  So, what's the problem? 

I already know the difference based on their appearances.  So, never mind. 

Regardless of whether that worked or not, I will say that I continue to be impressed with Amazing and I am happy enough with Goodman.  I'm not sure what to think about Mardi just yet.

Some folks might be curious to know how I marked sections so I would know when I am harvesting a different type of cauliflower.  So, here is an example at the right.  Use a flower!

I haven't noticed any issues with planting an old-style marigold.  I believe this one is Starfire Signet.  The neighboring cauliflower plants are consistent in growth quality with the rest of their group. 

You might observe that there is still paper mulch under these plants.  This is another positive - despite all the wet, we still have paper mulch holding down weeds.  That, uh... weed free things doesn't apply to the rest of the farm.  Oh well.
We are also pleased with how the grass mulch is performing in the kale crop this year.  The initial harvest after applying the grass mulch was a little annoying because we had to try to clean out the grass that got into the curly kale leaves.  However, since that time, the kale has actually been CLEANER because we don't get soil splash on the leaves. 

The other nice thing about the mulch is that it makes it nicer to harvest on wet days than it would be if it were bare soil.  I think we are sold that the addition of the power rake system was a win for this year.  Now we just have to figure out how to maximize its use and prioritize placement of the mulch. 

The most obvious downsides to this system are that you can't get grass mulch if there is a dry season AND collecting/spreading mulch takes time.  But, I have news for you... cultivating and weeding takes time too.  If we can find crops that like the grass mulch option and identify those that prefer paper mulch and those that like cultivation, I think we will be in our best position to handle the difficulties of growing and dealing with weeds.

I am hopeful that we can keep working on optimizing this particular part of our operation in the future - assuming we continue to grow veggies on the farm!  I suspect we will, but the questions are what types of veggies and how much?  These are ok questions to ask in this post because they are not inherently negative!  Ha!  Snuck out of that one, didn't I?

About Those Onions
Yes, we still have onions to pull out of the field.  Tammy and I managed to pull about 400 this morning.  We really do like Redwing on our farm.  I think we have another 500-600 to pull!  Just remember - don't count your onions before they're out of the ground.


Thursday, September 19, 2019

Gathering at the Gateway to Autumn

editorial note: The following was sent to our customer list via email midweek.  We realize there are others who are interested and are not in our email distribution stream.
 
Important GFF details follow and we would appreciate it if you read through this particular email so we can avoid the spread of misinformation and miscommunication between us and interested persons!  There are TWO items of importance here.

1. Gathering at the Gateway to Autumn at the Genuine Faux Farm
If you plan to attend, please RSVP so we can plan to have enough turkey for everyone.
Sunday, Sept 22. 
11:30 am - 3:00 pm
Food at 12:30 pm
Potluck event.  We will provide a roast turkey, buns and other items to make roast turkey sandwiches.  We would like attendees to bring items to supplement the meal.
We do have plates and tableware, though it would not hurt if you brought your own.  Please bring lawn chairs.
We are celebrating our 15th and final season of the GFF CSA program and we would be honored by your presence to help us close a chapter of our farm's life and consider options for our farm's future.

2. Final CSA Season.
We have apparently gotten some attention by stating that our Sunday Gathering will be celebrating our 15th and final season of the GFF CSA.  If we have not yet gotten your attention yet (or if we just got it recently), please give it to us now so we can be sure that everyone who receives these emails or reads this blog post understands what is happening.
 
The only certain things are:
1. We will not continue as we have with the program.  Numbers have continued to decline and the model doesn't seem to fit the farmers or our farm as it once did.
2  We must change if the farm is to survive.
3. We know that the uncertainty and diminished reach of local farmers markets is not a solution either.
4. We still want to operate the farm in some fashion, continuing to use our certified organic, sustainable methods to grow quality food, ideally for local consumption.
5. We do not wish to sever ties with those who have supported us.
6. We respect your input and welcome it.
7. Many options ARE on the table, including exiting farming entirely and taking a year off of CSA and returning in the future is also possible, though unlikely.

So, this does not necessarily mean that we are giving you a final 'good-bye.'  We are considering continuing to offer eggs, poultry and vegetables, but doing so as 'flash sales' and/or by using a credit system with those who might enjoy continuing to receive food products from us.  But, this is by no means certain.  After all, we still have the current season to deal with.

We appreciate your attention thus far and we'd love it if you would continue to give us your time for just a bit longer.  I apologize for length, but this is important to us and hopefully to you as well.

Why are we doing this?
You deserve to hear the 'why' of it.  You have been the farm's extended family and we would like to help you see where we are at.

First, we do love growing things and we believe we have developed a decent skill set and acquired a fine complement of tools to do the work.  We do not mind hard work.  We can tolerate setbacks.  We believe farms like ours are important.

But, we are also smart enough to realize when we are beating our heads against a wall that is only getting stronger.  Here is what we are fighting right now:
a. the climate is changing and our weather patterns are challenging 
Tammy and I have ideas about how we can change things on our farm so it can continue to produce.  But, we cannot do those things AND maintain a full CSA program.  We have to release some of the pressures of growing that the current CSA model creates so we can address these issues.  For example, we will need to create permanent raised areas on our farm to keep the roots of our crops out of the water table.  The list is long and will take some time to implement it all.

b. chemical misapplication and overuse is getting worse, not better
We see more and more evidence in our crops of growth inhibitors - agricultural chemicals that don't necessarily kill our plants, but they stunt their growth.  We continue to see a decline in pollinators and beneficial insects, despite increasing our flower plantings (among other things).  There might be some things we can do here as well.  But, again, it is difficult to find the time to make these changes if we are trying to grow enough product to maintain CSA shares.
 
c. it's getting harder to produce the volumes of quality produce that we are used to growing
We have the normal reasons to struggle.  Weather.  Weeds. Pests.  Diseases.  Time.  And our own human shortcomings.  We have always expected these challenges and we still believe we can address them with reasonable success.  But, when your zucchini crop struggles, you have to pay attention!  Look at a and b above and that gives clues as to some of the reasons.  The deck is stacked against consistency in successful vegetable crops in Iowa at this time.

d. the idea that local foods and organic foods are strong and getting stronger is old news and not accurate in Iowa
We were well-placed when we started because CSA and farmers market were growing in strength at the time.  In the past few years, the small segment of the population that believes local foods are important are being split between direct sales from local farms and items labeled local and organic at grocery stores and larger outlets.  Add to that a trend for less food preparation at home and the rise of national home-delivery food services and a willingness to accept the words 'local and organic' as accurate without verification and we have a problem.  In short, the small dedicated portion of the population hasn't grown all that much and they are dividing their attention between many more suitors. 

e. it is even less clear how a farm reaches customers than when we started
There was a time not long ago when the number of methods for reaching out to the public to promote something were fairly limited.  The advantage of that was that everyone (customers and purveyors alike) knew where to go.  That's not so clear anymore.  Yellow pages?  What's that?  

f. CSA is a difficult model to grow for in the first place
Simply put, you can't become an expert at every crop.  But, CSA tends to force you to TRY to do just that.  We still believe that diverse crops are a positive.  But, when you look at a through c above, it isn't possible to respond to those problems successfully with every crop.  At least it isn't for us - there just isn't enough of us to go around and make that happen.  Clearly, we need to cut our grow list in order to set ours up for the possibility of success.

g. Our adjustments over the last few years have failed and perhaps alienated some of you.
And for that, we apologize.  But, the Genuine Faux Farm CSA was once 120 members strong and is now sitting in the 40's for members  We had to consider and implement changes in hopes of regaining membership.  We missed on our adaptations and accept that, but it doesn't make sense to keep flailing about if the trends are consistent.

To be clear - this is not about blame.  It is about realities.  If what we do isn't working, we need to change.  So here we are.  Looking to change.

Would you be willing to help guide this change?
And, whether you are or not willing to do so - we still thank you ALL for supporting our farm in the past, present and, perhaps, the future.

Rob and Tammy Faux
Genuine Faux Farm
Tripoli, IA

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

September Showers Bring October Flowers?

It's another wet September at the Genuine Faux Farm.  We have to admit that this has been nothing at all like some other Septembers, we're looking at YOU, 2018.  According the averages, Septembers should not be all that wet anyway.  Case in point are the conditions we found in 2017.  But, we can still remember harvesting watermelons in the mud in a September in years gone by and we also recall losing a big batch of green beans at the end of August at one point when we were hit with heavy rains.

In other words, we are not unfamiliar with heavy rain events at our farm in September.  But, sometimes it does seem like we have a target on our farm.  Check out the rainfall amounts for September 8 to 13 this season.  Click on the picture for a larger version.
The Genuine Faux Farm is in the higher rainfall area to the right of the arrow.
This graphic came from KWWL and was highlighting the higher rain amounts near the Mississippi River.  We recorded over 5 inches at the farm during this period and the rainfall map seems to concur with us.  I guess we should expect this by now.  It's just that we hoped we wouldn't have to fight the weather quite so much this Fall.  

Don't think we are complaining about it all that much.  The soil did dry out enough in August that conditions are drying up in a normal fashion.  The problem is that it is just now drying up and we have... you guessed it... rain currently at the farm and more forecast.  Hey!  I know some people in south-central Iowa would like a bit more rain... 

One of the reasons wet Septembers are an issue for farms like ours is that we are trying to bring in crops that are difficult to deal with when it is wet.  For example, we still have two beds of onions to bring in.  Ideally, they are easier to clean and handle when they are dry.  But, we may not have that choice for them.
White Wing and Monastrelle
Carrots are a real bear to clean if you harvest them wet, as are potatoes.  Can you harvest them?  Of course.  But, do YOU want to clean a couple hundred pounds of carrots that have a couple hundred pounds of mud attached to them?  Neither do we.  And, those dry beans needed to come in so they can keep drying.  That's the whole point of 'DRY' beans.  They aren't as good when they are 'slightly damp' beans.

The good news is that we did bring in a four beds of onions already and most of the beets and some of the carrots are also in.  So, again, it is not all doom and gloom.  It probably has more to do with the fact that the forecast for today (Wednesday Sep 18) made it look like I had the day to work before it did rain.  Never mind.

But, I can pick high tunnel tomatoes!
 Speaking of high tunnel tomatoes, we are running a trial in the high tunnel for Black Krim, Italian Heirloom and Paul Robeson.  They all seem to be doing quite well right now and we're enjoying the harvest.  Thus far, Black Krim and Italian Heirloom are providing some slightly larger than normal fruit.  Paul Robeson is sticking to a half-pound average.  The largest Italian Heirloom weighed in at 2 1/2 pounds and the largest Black Krim was a pound and a half.  In all cases, the tomatoes have had great texture and taste.  BLTs anyone?

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Give the Frog A Name

What should we name our little frog friend?
Blogging 101: When in doubt about what you should write about, start your post with a picture of a tree frog that likes to observe you washing eggs in the basement sink.

In addition to Bob, the green frog that likes to hang out in the water tub outside and Russell, the Cucumber Frog, we now have this little one that likes to hang out in our basement.  It took to sitting on our faucet handle until the day Rob nearly squished it when he reached to turn on the water without checking to see if there was an amphibian sitting there first.  Happily, no injury occurred and the frog hopped over on to the spray bottle where supervision of egg washing could safely be performed.


The solar panels have had some pretty nice days to collect rays and convert them to eckletricity.  What?  I can call it eckletricity if I want!  So there!  And, we finally have access to the monitoring site so we can see how well these panels are doing.
Solar energy for the week at the Genuine Faux Farm

We both find it interesting to see how the power generation actually provides us with a partial history of the weather as well.  For example, I remember working outside on September 10 and enjoying a nice, sunny morning.  Then, suddenly a bank of clouds came through and I recall commenting to them that they had NOT been in the forecasts I had read the prior day.  My words shamed them into leaving and the rest of the day was pretty sunny after that.

 A task earlier in the month was a harvest of beets and carrots from the southwest field/plot.  On this day, I chose to removed the tops in the field rather than pulling them into a building and setting up to remove the tops then.  It was a nice day with a light breeze, perfect temperatures and just enough clouds to make it the nicest place to do the job.  So, why not?

This harvest had us pulling in come Dolciva carrots, Guardsmark Chioggia beets and Touchstone Gold beets.  They are in storage for now, but they'll come out to be a part of CSA shares soon!  Actually, some of the smaller beets have already been distributed because we find the smaller beets store less well than the larger ones. 

Now, I am getting hungry for beets.

But, I don't think I'll ever get hungry for carrots.  Yes, that's Rob.  The farmer who grows, but doesn't like, carrots.  That means more for all of you, I guess.

Cauliflower rows
Another crop that is approaching harvest are the cauliflower.  I am not entirely pleased with the damage the grasshoppers are doing to some of the heads, but that's just the way it is sometimes.  There is enough there that I am guessing we'll do ok with the harvest.

I am actually showing this picture for a few other reasons.

1. We did a better job this year getting flowers into our rows at the same time as the crops.  This, despite the late planting and the huge push that had to go on to get the plants in.

2. The brassica successions became ONE succession for cauliflower and broccoli this year.  That was NOT an optimal solution, but it is what happened - for a whole host of reasons.

3. The paper mulch is holding on pretty well for the cauliflower.  On the other hand, the cultivation between rows has not happened as we wanted it to this year.  Once again, for a whole host of reasons.

But, the biggest reason of all is to show you (and ourselves) that we had at least one crop that grew threw the malaise that most of our crops seemed to show in July and early August.  Some of the change in plant health seemed to correspond with the point that our soil started working like 'normal' soil.  It was not until July at some point that we started feeling as if we had more than one inch of soil that wasn't mud.


The garden in Eden
 The net results for production in our Eastern plots is going to be very disappointing this season.  The broccoli was ok, but we didn't have the normal spread of production that successions would bring.  The onions have been pretty good and the cauliflower looks fine.  The garlic was also fine this season.

On the other hand, the summer squash, zucchini, winter squash and melons have all struggled mightily this year.  You know there is something going on when you can't get overwhelmed by zucchini.  There were some nice green beans and we're still trying to find time to pull in the taters.  But, we're not expecting much from them.  As long as we get something, we'll be fine.

As has happened other seasons after excessive moisture, the grasses have been the most successful plant type.  Not exactly what we were going for this season.

To end on a good note, let's go visit Eden.

Ahhhhhhhh!  The tomatoes are attempting to touch the top of the high tunnel.  I don't think they will make it this season, but I don't mind if they wish to try.   The sweet alyssum plants are doing well planted at the base of the trellised tomatoes and we both like how this appears to be working.  The raised beds in Eden have done their job and we're very happy with these plants.

In addition to tomatoes, we've had some quality lettuce, basil, green beans and peppers out of Eden this year so far.  The melons were excellent and we are now pulling the dead vines out so we can put in a Fall crop in their place.  I think, perhaps, the nicest surprise has been the quality tomatoes from Tasty Evergreen, Black Sea Man and Cosmonaut Volkov in this high tunnel.  All have excellent tastes and textures and it is nice to have some good, consistent production from them this season.

And, now, if we could just find a name for our frog friend.