Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mishmash #3

And, once again - we do the mishmash thing.  Why?  Because it seems like a way to get a batch of things off my mind and out into the... what is this place anyway?

1. The first batch of chicks for our broilers come tomorrow.  Per the norm, there is always more that was left to the last moment to do in order to prepare for their arrival.  And, as seems to happen most of the time - they'll grow up and we'll figure things out.
2. Speaking of chickens - we were?  Oh, yes.  I guess we were.  We found an auracana hen that had died for no apparent reason today.  It wasn't an old bird, no visible injuries and was one of our more active and healthy seeming birds.  I suppose these things happen.  But, when these things do happen, we tend to get nervous that there is something else going on that we should be responding to.  We shall see - we're at least on alert just in case.
3. The new BCS tiller/tractor is now in our possession.  It's a good looking machine.  With a quick test, we can tell you that full throttle in high gear requires you to keep up at a run.  So, we won't be doing that speed.  I suspect high gear will get very little use on anything but low throttle.  We knew this would be the case, but we had to try it.  And for the record, Rob did not fall down or let go.  He was able to bring it to a stop under control.  So there!
4. Since February 28, we have been able to pick over 60 pounds of spinach out of the high tunnel.  For a point of comparison, we tend to sell spinach in half pound bags at market and people seem to like that amount.  Another point of comparison - a standard rubbermaid tub will hold 3-4 lbs when it is full (loosely packed). It's nice when something works.
5. From the "why didn't we think of this before?" category.  We ordered a self-inking stamp for our logo and address.  Prior to this, we would either print labels or hand write our address when doing mailings or other farm business.  Hand writing takes more time than we want to spend.  Labels take less time, but uses more resources than we would like.  Labels require backing paper, adhesives, etc  AND the ink we print.  It's a little thing - but it's a little thing that will save us time, save us money over the long run and use fewer natural resources as well.  Sometimes it's the little things...
6. Hi Dad!
7. Ah - about that weather....   Last time I posted I tried to use positive reinforcement with Mother Nature.  Unfortunately, I think she suspected that I was trying to manipulate her and she decided we could have more wet and cold.  Sorry about that.
8. The grading is done!  The grading is done!
9. Paperwork is currently dragging Rob down.  One might be surprised how much of it there is to do and how quickly things fall behind.  And, no, others aren't usually able to help.  The process of getting it all together in order to accept the help is nearly as bad as just doing the work.  Ah well.  Guess I post something here instead of doing the paperwork.
10. An interesting, but relatively easy dish to make.  Grill some bratwurst.  Boil up some pasta.  Saute some swiss chard with onions, garlic and whatever you like.  Cut up the brats and combine the whole thing.  Pretty good taste combination.
11. We've signed up our farm as an underwriter for the KUNI public radio station.  You just might hear our farm plugged by them during the second week in May.  We support public radio anyway - so we decided to take it to the next level.   If it gets us a new member or two for the CSA in the process - all the better.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mishmash #2

Since I can't seem to come up with a single theme for a post - we'll do the mishmash thing again.

1. Easter at the farm was enjoyable.  We were pleased to be joined by Rob's parents and his brother and family.  And, there was a visit from that bright orb in the sky.  What was that thing called again?
2. Now that I have begun typing, a catten (not a kitten anymore and not quite a cat) is trying to sit on my arms.  She will either win or leave.  We shall see.
3. The giant maple tree we had taken down early last Winter is slowly, but surely getting cleaned up.  We rented a chipper for the afternoon and got as much as we could done.  My hands and arms still feel like they're shaking around a bit.
4. We've been pleased to be able to provide greens to the Waverly Child Care from our high tunnel this Spring.  It's good to know that some fresh produce is getting to the kids and staff that works so hard to care for the children.
5. Grading is now in earnest for Tammy.  She abides by her own rule that she will not grade during Easter weekend.  But, of course, it has its consequences.
6. In a continuing effort to work smarter and be more resilient in the face of potentially adverse weather - we have made another purchase for the farm.  We hope to receive delivery of a new BCS walk behind tractor for the farm.  It's more than a tiller, but not quite a full tractor.  Trust us, it's a good investment that comes highly recommended by others who do what we do.  Our hand was forced a bit with the breakdown of the JD tiller attachment last Fall.
7. Speaking of the weather.  Have you noticed something about the rain so far this year (don't say this too loud)?  Forget your worries about it not being perfectly warm and sunny.  That will come soon enough.  Consider this:  How many downpours have we had this year?  Thankfully - we count ZERO so far.  Just some liquid gold coming down at a rate that can soak into the ground and give us wonderful moisture for growing things.
8. We spent time with a service trip group stacking cages neatly on the east side of the farm a while back.  Well, strong winds have rearranged that a bit.  Ah well - when you work with the weather it can sometimes have its little jokes.
9. The farm was able to donate five dozen eggs to our church for the youth breakfast on Easter Sunday.  It's nice to be able to do that.  Often, we find that we are rich in many ways that have little to do with money.  And, if is even better when we can find ways to help others share in that richness.
10. A new high tunnel learning curve issue.  Aphids like high tunnels in the Spring.  And, the natural predators a slower to catch up to them.  It's not the end of the world, but it does require lots of extra time cleaning the lettuce.
11. And, finally....Number 11.  People wonder why I sometimes seem a little reticent to embrace the coming of Spring.  Don't get me wrong - I love Spring.  It's a wonderful time of year.  The Chirpa Chirpa bird (brown thrasher) just showed up here, as did some swallows.  I just saw my first Pasque Flower this morning as well.  Excellent stuff.  But, April and May are the months during which my body has to go through the 'toughening up' process.  I won't lie - it hurts.  And, if you think working out during the Winter can remove this - just ask some of the folks who have worked on the farm.  They can vouch for me when I say - you're still going to hurt for a while.

So, until the next post.  Ow.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


This blog post is going to be very newsy - and hopefully to the point.

1. Our CSA still has many openings for the regular season (June-Oct).  Send us an email if you are interested.
2. We just learned that the Cedar Valley RC&D office will be closing (in New Hampton).  Yet another situation where the budget requires changes.  If there was a positive force in the area for local foods, smaller farms and rural improvement - this was one.
3. With the help of the superhero Bandsaw Man, we now have a primary tillage implement for Durnik the tractor.  The result - primary tillage for one 60'x200' used to take 2.5 hours.  With the new tool?  22 minutes.  Nice.  Gas used?  Less.  Nicer.
4. The Waverly Farmers' Market will begin the first Saturday in May (May 7).  We will split the market for that day only between two locations.  Some vendors will be a part of the Health Fair at the W and some will be at our regular market location.  We will all be at the normal location from there on out.
5. Our organic certification paperwork was in on time for early application.  Materials are approved, all that is left is to undergo the yearly inspection.
6. The Climate Prediction Center is showing a slightly cooler and wetter April/May, but likely normal weather patterns late May-July.  That's ok with me.
7. Winter term is in finals week for Tammy at the college.  The normal silliness that ensues with end of term hold true yet again this year. 
8. We're wondering whether Facebook is worth our time?  If you use facebook notice that there are two settings - "Top News" and "Most Recent."  FB assumes "Top News."  But, if our posts are not deemed to be "Top" for you, it will be hidden some way down the page.  If you want to see most recent posts from all of your 'friends' you need to choose "Most Recent."
9. The conversion to the 'new' computer is almost complete.  The hard part is getting all of the drivers and software updated and making necessary conversions.  Remember, I had the old machine for over six years.
10. We've appreciated the work done by the Printery in Waverly.  We found that their costs for printing new business cards were well worth it.  While we were at it, we had some invoice books made.  Good investment.
11.  Work in the high tunnel is still very much a learning process.  Planting trays in that building is far nicer than in the basement or garage.  The early Spring greens are nice.  But, it is another thing on the farm that makes it hard for us to go elsewhere.  If it is sunny with outdoor temps in the high 30's, you have to vent the tunnel.  Then, close it up at night.

This list - it goes to 11.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Feeling Handy

It is definitely Spring.

Green grass, snow, robins, workable soil, wind, more critters out and about around the farm, rain...  and the beginning of dry, rough hand season.  Dirt begins residing in the cracks that form on my hands and will not go away unless I'm outside getting soaked in a rain.  No amount of scrubbing with soap and scrub brushes will get it all out until then.  And, if you've ever done any amount of gardening without gloves - you also know the early season feeling you get when dirt is shoved up under the nails.  Not pleasant, but you toughen up eventually.

Yes, yes, I know.  Wear gloves.   If you want to see logic regarding such things - go to Road Map to Zucchini look in the left margin and scroll down.  I think you'll figure it out. 

Other interesting farm things:

- Chickens in the wind.  You know it is windy when most of a chickens feathers fan out when their back end faces the wind.  It can be interesting watching them attempt to maintain their balance.  Needless to say, on days like that, they usually stay in sheltered locations.

- The seedling tray dance is in full swing.  The high tunnel has many trays of onions and leeks on the ground.  There are also trays of lettuce, broccoli, kale and other items there.  The garage has a growing unit with peppers and eggplants and a few trays of marigolds.  One four-tier has tomatoes, basil, spices, snapdragons and cockscomb.   A cart holds recently transplanted Silvery Fir Tree tomatoes.  The downstairs seed starting shelves hold more tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, broccoli, cauliflower, kale and whatever else there is.  Soon, the cold frames will hold plants as well. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A new farm report

It's been a bit since the last farm report - and since the two of us spent a fairly busy day outside on Saturday...

I think Tammy will agree that we had our first day of the year where we both were barely able to crawl into bed at the end of the day.  Even if you don't do the 'farming' thing, I think most people can relate to the special kind of tired that one gets after spending the first really full day outside in the Spring.  And, this is not necessarily a bad thing - even if it can be somewhat painful.

In our case, we spent some time doing the Spring cleaning for one of the two rooms the hens use at night - and for a large part of the Winter when they will not go out.  For the record, chickens do not like walking in snow and will come to a screeching halt in the doorway when they see it.  It is mildly interesting watching the birds in back bowl into the birds in front.  There is always one (or two) that get the bright idea of flying OVER everyone else.  Those birds that do this usually land in the snow and just sit there.  It's almost as if the shock of the snow freezes them into place.  This is one of the few times we can walk right up to a bird and pick it up with no chasing and no squawking.  But, I suppose that is neither here nor there with respect to the point of this post.... But, you probably don't care since this was more fun!

We seeded many more trays of peppers, eggplants, broccoli, marigolds and lettuce.  The process seems fairly simple, but it is amazing how much work it can be.  This season, we have been doing most of the seeding in the high tunnel because it is just more pleasant out there than it is in the garage or the basement.  It has some advantages - but the disadvantage is that there is a bit more moving of soil, trays and other materials back and forth.  But, the simple fact that the work space is more pleasant makes it easy to forgive any of the inconveniences.  And, it happens every year - we've already made our first few "oopses."  The temps got a bit colder than expected and we lost a tray of beautiful marigolds that didn't get under cover.  Ah well, we might as well knock over three or four trays of tomatoes and get that mistake over for the year too.

One of the service trip groups from Wartburg College volunteered some time at the farm Saturday and we were able to move all of the tomato cages out of last year's field and out of the way until they are placed in the new field.  With eight of us working, we had them all pulled, cleaned and moved in ninety minutes.  To put it into perspective, we had to pull about 380 cages - not a small task and always easier with a crew.  Rob has had years where he has moved most of them himself.  Usually in sessions of 50-60 per day for a week.  The process entails alot of walking since cages and stakes have to be out of the way so the fields can be prepared for planting.

Tammy and I also made sure to spread compost on this year's melon/watermelon field.  These crops are heavy feeders, so this should help them make a good go of it this year.  Once again, you must consider that we do not have a spreader for compost/manure.  So, the trips were made essentially one wheelbarrow at a time.  They are, at least, bigger wheel barrows.  Then, we spread the compost around with a garden rake.  Slowly, but surely, we are finding ways to make many tasks more efficient - this one just isn't there yet.  But, it is also a task that occurs in very late fall or very early spring -so it isn't all that bad of a thing to work oneself into shape.

The high tunnel has spinach, kale, lettuce, onions and leeks growing in it right now.  We have several plants ready to be transplanted and lots of seed ready to go in.  We're looking to put in early spinach, arugula and radish in the next week.  We'll see what happens.

It's Spring - who knows?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Short Memory

Ok, we've forgotten - or more appropriately - our bodies have forgotten.

It happens every Spring - a nice weekend comes along and we spend as much time as we can doing active things for the farm.  It's not as if we don't move around or get exercise during the Winter.  But, those who have worked on the farm with us can vouch for us on this.  A couple of full work days on the farm can make you feel as if you haven't gotten off your duff all Winter long.

We spent most of Saturday on our feet at a farm auction.  Yes, you heard that right.  But, if we're going to make Durnik (the tractor) work for us this year, we have to find implements.  In the process, we also were able to find and acquire some things for the poultry as well.  We'll try to take some pictures and show you what we're adding to the farm as a result of this auction. 

Things we were reminded of on Saturday. 

  • The sun is strong enough that sun tan lotion *would* have been a good idea.
  • We need to get used to walking ALOT.  The time spent walking and standing at the auction was a reminder that we add squatting, lifting, etc to days on the farm.  So, if a day of walking and standing seems like work now....
  • We should never underestimate the value of good friends with good knowledge of things you are trying to learn about.
That brings us to Sunday - another beautiful day.  Once again, we spent most of the day on our feet.  The Dance of the Seedling Trays has begun for the season.  But, it might be a little less complicated with the additions of cold frames and the high tunnel.  We managed to plant 26 seedling trays today and move around another 40 or so.  Our starting tables are now nearly at capacity - so we'll probably be doing some things to increase capacity.  The high tunnel yielded somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 lbs of spinach today and enough kale and chard to make an excellent stir fry for dinner.  In short, we kept moving most of the day.

Now - brace for tomorrow.  After today's mild and warm weather, tomorrow's wind and temps in the 40's are going to feel like a slap in the face. 

But, hey!  It's Spring.