Tuesday, December 30, 2008


There are lots of strange things in this world and, wanting to post a blog but not really being sure what to say is one of those things. Maybe "odd" would be better? There have been a few happenings recently at GFF that also could fit in the "odd" or "strange" category. Or, maybe not so much "strange" as "unusual" or even just "new" (which is its own version of "strange").
  • While not "high speed", we've graduated from dial-up Internet to a wireless card. COOL! Cartoons load somewhat faster and the radar images that say "yes, it is snowing" are showing up faster. But, the best part of this "strangeness" is there are now NO cords running across the floor (up the wall, across the ceiling, up the stairs, across the floor again)
  • We get asked a lot "what do you do when its not farming season". Answers vary, but let us reassure you that it is always farming season. There are just periods of time when the farming work is more indoors than out - hunting through catalogs, redesigning the veggie, plots etc. All of this tends to be done indoors rather than outdoors. Being inside in a drafty old farm house can be, well, drafty. This brings me to the next "strange" event. We got the windows! And, best of all - one is in. That in itself could be a bit strange. In this case, strange is good. Very good. Aside from the window itself, there was no major rot to content with. Strange (and really good!).
  • Strange weather. This is the first time for most of December that we've had two days in a row without precip. I think I am having storm withdrawal. Though, trying to walk across our nature-created skating rink (aka driveway) is about all the adrenalin boost needed...
  • Speaking of weather... It is strange to be in IA this time of year. Looking back, we had six years in a row of being on a beach in FL, some years sunny and nice, some years we actually had frost in FL. This year, we are here (and it has been in the mid or upper 70's all week down there!). We have no New Year's traditions in IA, so, more strangeness as we look around to see if we celebrate the New Year with others or with our chickens.
Here's hoping that 2009 is a year of both more strangeness (of a good kind) and less strangeness (of a stressful, scary world, kind).



Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Wishes

We hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season! Our best wishes to you all!

And, if you are looking for some quality Christmas music that doesn't fall in the vein of 8 to 12 traditional carols being performed by artist X, Y or Z, try these - there will be some new music and new arrangements for you to enjoy:

Sixpence None the Richer - The Dawn of Grace

Over the Rhine - Snow Angels

Alison Brown Quartet - Evergreen

Friday, December 26, 2008

Avoiding the Draft

I told myself last winter that I would not let this happen again. But, we are constantly reminded that there are only so many hours in a day and only so much energy and motivation that a couple of persons can muster.

We know that the warmer months will be focused on making our veg grow. But, that's also the best time to do house and building projects - like roofing, putting in new windows, painting, putting on a serviceable deck or a door on one of the outbuildings...etc etc

The result is that we manage to do what we can with the repairs and building work in addition to maintaining our fields. The fields always win, of course, because people (ourselves included) are depending on that food. But, the other projects always go in priority of highest emergency status. The other alternative is that family members or friends come to visit and take on a project they like. We don't say no - but it would be nice to take care of some of this and not make them feel they have to work whenever they visit!

By now, you will notice my penchant for telling you a story or some other information in order to prepare you for the item that prompted the post to begin with... It's a bad habit.

I told myself last winter that we would not endure another winter in our old (1900) house where the lack of insulation/poor windows/etc often made our normal 58-62 degree thermostat reading feel like 48-52. It's not necessarily a good thing if you have a windchill reading INSIDE your house. In addition to this issue, we have all of ONE plug in for the entire upstairs of the old farmhouse. Not a horrible thing, really. Except that, with the old wiring, I'm not sure I trust it to run a space heater. So, book and computer work can often be a bit less comfortable than one might like.

It's the end of December - and we still have ONE plugin upstairs and we have ZERO new windows in the house. There is, however, some fine insulation in the attic. Score one for us (thanks to everyone who helped on that project!).

The order has been made for some windows. They are now on their way and are due to arrive at the farm on Monday of the coming week. I'm not sure I'm looking forward to putting them in in the next four weeks - but I'm looking forward to them being on the house. I guess I'll have to get over one in order to have the other.

If you are looking at windows - some sites we found helpful include:

NFRC - the NFRC provided independent ratings for the efficiency of windows. After doing our research we would recommend always choosing windows that are rated by the NFRC.

Efficient Windows Collaborative Web Site - this site probably helped us the most in determining what we wanted and how we wanted to do things.

Glossary of terms for Casement Windows, Bay Windows, Patio Doors and more on the Andersen Windows site. A good place to learn your terms. If you are having a contractor come out to measure or give quotes - it is a good idea to know a reasonable set of terms so you can talk intelligently with them and get what you want/need.

We found that Andersen, Marvin and Pella were all fairly good window manufacturers in our region. Marvin fit what we wanted/needed best for our farm house.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A snow ball's chance

While this picture doesn't do it justice, our 11 inches of snow came with an east wind. If you look closely, you can see the hollowed out area on the far side of the oak trees.

This was followed by about 3 more inches of snow, but a howling north west wind. Here's what happens to our landscape when we get that sort of wind.

The snow that HAD been around these oaks is now drifted in the entrance/exit of our drive to the gravel road. It's only three to four foot deep there. No problem.

And, you know it is cold when you get visited by sun dogs. The sun, of course is the brighter blob and the sundog is to the right.

If you look in the foreground you can see how the wind made some cool patterns on the ground with the snow.

Below is an even better picture of the sundogs...well, the one of the left (south). It's hard to frame shots with this camera - but you get the....ya.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Snow is like...

We've had a lot of snow this week. My best count, consider the snow inconsiderately blows around making actual measurement more of actual guess work (or would that be faux measurement?). I think we had 3 inches early in the week, 11 inches on Thursday and about 4 more today. That adds up to....a foot and a half! In less than a week... Wow!

I was thinking today about how to describe all of this neat snow to my almost 5 year old niece who lives in a warm, sunny state and has never, ever seen snow. She has likely not even seen frost unless inside the freezer. So, how to describe snow? A whole bunch of snow cones, but without the flavoring? The inside of a snowglobe? Sort of like sand on the beach, but also in the air and NOT cozy on bare feet? She has seen fine white sand "drift" on the beach. Is that close? Not really.

Another thought - is it ok for a child to grow up never seeing snow? What would childhood be like without the anticipation of snow days? This northern born gal really, actually, does not want to know. Snow forts, snow angels, blizzards... all part of the ritual that makes me appreciate green when it finally returns (in, oh say, 160 days or so...).

As an FYI - check out Barrow, Alaska on a weather site that lists temps and sunrise info. Guess what? Today, Dec 20th, they have NOTHING listed for sunrise. Nothing. Know why? Yep - there is none. The sun does not officially get above the horizon in Barrow today. Not tomorrow either. There's a thought that makes today's blizzard seem, somehow, not quite so bad.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Excuse me, but there's a duck...

With a looming winter storm - it seems appropriate to talk about ducks.


1. The storm is projected to give us at the farm 7 to 11 inches of snow (the latest projection).
2. The storm will either give us 3 or 13 inches depending.
3. We're prepared for this one - it'll be 3 inches.
4. There was a duck in our kitchen today.

ed note: we received around 11 inches of snow - with the wind, it is always hard to tell what we got out here. And, today we got another 3-4 inches. The temps took a dive and the winds picked up. ick.

We have a small flock of laying hens (about 38 ladies) with a resident farm manager (Bob, the rooster) and one small white duck (named Yogi). Yogi is, in fact, a female duck and she does periodically lay an egg for us as well. So, she does her best to earn her keep on the farm. Even if she didn't lay eggs, we'd still probably keep her on the farm. There's something about hearing a bunch of hens making their...well...hen noises followed often by very loud quacking. The juxtaposition of the two is enough to make me laugh, even if I do hear it nearly every day.

So, how did Yogi find her way into our kitchen?

To make a short story long, let me first tell you about how these birds drink. Chickens dip their beak into the water and then tip their heads back to swallow the water they have scooped up. They have pointed beaks and the volume of water is small. Ducks, on the other hand, have a bill shaped like a scoop (for picking up duckweed on the surface of a pond, for instance). There is a greater volume of water involved each time the duck tries to drink.

There is also a reasonable amount of water that spills onto the duck and around the watering area.

Temperatures have been around zero for several days on the farm. The water stays unfrozen in our waterer - but it freezes fairly rapidly once it is out of the waterer. Ducks also have feathers that are excellent insulators. The heat from a duck's body will not necessarily keep the edge of the outer feathers above freezing.

Is everyone with me now?

Yes, Yogi was finding it hard to stand up without falling forward. It seems that there was an accumulation of ice on her front feathers that unbalanced her somewhat. Being the benevolent farmers that we are - we decided we would bring the duck in for defrosting.

The duck was not too hard to catch with the extra weight holding her back. She was placed in a pet carrier with some bedding and brought to the kitchen. She stayed there for several hours and said absolutely NOTHING.

But, there was still a duck in the kitchen.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Winter Blues

It is only December 16 and we've already had more winter weather than most at the farm. In some ways, this is welcomed since the gardens no longer 'require' constant attention. It is time for them, and their caretakers, to rest for a while. A slower and milder entry into winter would only encourage us to keep adding to the list of things that need to be done on the farm. You can never reach the target of being fully prepared for winter - because when you do - you simply adjust the target to a point further away from where are right now. A simple recipe for failure to reach a goal.

It probably isn't entirely accurate to say that winter is a time for the farm caretaker to rest. It is true that the physical part of the job is lessened a good deal. The driving force that is vegetables needing to be tended and picked isn't there - so there is no continuous frenzy of activity.

Instead, there is that tremendously long list of things that didn't get done when the veg was demanding full attention.

Unfortunately, I find myself needing to supply more of my own motivation - and I currently find it lacking. The daylight hours are short. The weather isn't terribly friendly for outside work. The social outlet of farmers' markets and CSA distributions don't exist during this time of year.

And then, there's still that infernally long list....

And, add to that THE QUESTION that everyone who is not a veg farmer tends to ask of those who are. Come on now, say it with me:

So, what DO you do over the winter months?

I think I've just answered your question - in case you wanted to know. I sit in a chair and do absolutely nothing for a LOOOOONG time. Then, I compose a few posts in a silly blog to see if I can get one started. And...

I try to ignore the long list.

Well...what do you know?

This is, of course, a most excellent question.

The answer, my friend....

The most difficult thing about starting a blog is the pressure to keep it up to date. Its mere existence is enough to require content. And, like everything web - a dead blog is a sad thing to see. Even if no one ever looks at it.

To make matters worse, there is either a tendency to try to be 'oh so clever.' Something I can fail quite readily at. What am I waiting for?

We're going to try a trial blog for the next two months to see if this is a worthy component for our farm and CSA. At the very least, it could become a feedback area for our farm share members.

Is This Real?

I have enjoyed reading some REAL blogs by REAL friends of mine and began to think....

What are the requirements for a real blog? Why would I even want to have a blog? Don't I have enough to do already? What am I trying to accomplish here? Who really would want to read anything I put in a blog anyway? Why would I want to share what I write with others? Do I really have friends? And, how do I know if they are real friends?

Then I realized... thinking is a dangerous pastime.

So, I stopped thinking and went through the process of getting my own blog space. Why? I don't really know yet. Perhaps, I'll come up with a reason and put it here - then again - maybe not.