Thursday, July 28, 2011

Splish Splash

We've gotten a few downpours the last few days - but last night, followed by this morning led to a very interesting CSA distribution day.

Wednesday, we did alot of work in the tomato/basil field and found the soil to be damp, but pretty good for pulling weeds.  Too wet to till, of course - but not bad at all.  But, Wednesday night found us being woken by some "right in your back yard" type of lightning strikes with the accompanying sizzle and boom.  Cool?  I suppose.  It was 2:00-2:30 AM.  We *were* trying to catch a few minutes of sleep.  Never mind.

So, what happens to the farmers when they have less sleep than they need?  They move slower than they should in the morning.  Just slow enough so that they find themselves looking at a rainstorm at about 9:00 am - and we're not as far along in the picking as we usually are/need to be.  Uh oh.

Sure enough, more rain and lightning.  But, we adjusted and did some onion/garlic cleaning and ate an early lunch with the crew of Andrea, Anden and Denis.  Then, back to the picking.

Remember that damp soil we had Wednesday?  It was now SATURATED.  As in, "look, there is standing water in that area - I wonder if I can walk on that to pick the produce" saturated.  Oh dear.

Rob had the task of picking eggplant, peppers, summer squash and zucchini.  It was about eggplant number 12 where he lost a shoe in the mud.  The rest of the produce was picked without shoes.  Fun!  (sort of).   We decided to implement a pick and toss technique that you all should be proud of.  Denis is a fine vegetable fielder.

The deepest I sank into the mud?  Up to the mid-calf.  There was some worry that I might not be able to pull the leg out on that one.  And, the 'whoa whoa whoa' dances that are usually reserved for ice rinks and balance beams were likely quite fun to watch.

Ok - we have plenty of rain now.  Thank you.  Please stop....

Monday, July 25, 2011

Bird Brains III

This one isn't exactly funny.  Unless business is funny to you.

We have birds processed and they are ready to be sold to interested persons.

Price $3.25/lb
Average size is about 4.5# with a range of 3.5 to 6.25#
Birds are frozen and in the Fredricka locker

We intend to do our best to make deliveries at the same times as our CSA distributions.  Tuesday at Waverly Farmers' Market 3:30-6pm and Thursday at Roots Market 4-6pm.  We can certainly arrange for an on farm pickup.  Specific dates once we have sales arranged.

If interested, send us an email and reserve birds.  We don't take a deposit, but ask for payment at the point of delivery. 

Our birds are day-ranged (in pasture during the day and protected at night).  They are fed organic grains from a farm just north of New Hampton.  Additionally, birds are encouraged to forage and are often given produce that is not salable on the farm.  They are processed by a local, state inspected processor (Martzahn's Farm in Greene).  They raised in a fashion that meets organic standards, but they are not certified organic.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Things On Our Minds

The creativity level is not necessarily high.  When that happens, we tend to do blog posts that just throw a few things together and maybe we'll hit on something!

  • We're working on setting up distribution of chickens and we have many still available.  If you want some, let us know.  They are currently in the Fredericka Locker.
  • We're a bit annoyed with Sierra Blanca (white onion variety).  The seed became unavailable for last year's planting.  So, we bought plants.  The plants were about the only onions that matured last year because they are an early variety.  But, this year, we weeded them, treated them nice....and they really aren't all that wonderful to look at.  They taste fine - just small and inconsistent.  Why is it a big deal?  We pay alot more for plants.  They arrive when we're not usually ready for them (our heavy soils are workable later than most zone 4b areas)... and we don't get a good crop.  hmmmm. 
  • Weeds - arg.  
  • The "War of the Raccoon" continues on the farm.  We think we're down to a couple remaining bandits.  And, they still like to harass the hens.  The good news is that we haven't lost any hens lately, but have lost some eggs.  The critters that were enjoying trashing plants (they liked digging in the potting soil) are gone.  As near as we can tell, the score is now Raccoons: 6  GFF: 13
  • Our CSA members are *GREAT*.  We had someone at each distribution kindly provide us with cold beverages.   The ice tea and the lemonade were both appreciated.  It's nice to get a little boost like that during a hot week.  Don't get me wrong - we come prepared with a thermos of water and water bottles full for distributions.  With this job, you have to be sure to take care of your fluid intake.  But.... these kind gestures still mean alot to us.  Thank you.
  • Speaking of fluid...  The record has been set.  Rob had a six t-shirt day and a five t-shirt day this week.  It certainly made me wonder why I bothered changing clothing when it seemed like it took only moments to sweat through things again.  Then again, neither of us wants to develop a heat rash.  So....
  • On that topic:  Neither of us is entirely sure what to think when clothing is tossed into the 'wash these soonest' pile and they make a resounding 'splat!'  Should we be proud of our hard work that led us to sweat through this clothing?  Should we be disgusted that we actually did sweat through clothing enough that you can literally wring them out?  Thoughts?
  • Speaking of laundry...  we are noticing that our towels we use for hydrocooling and keeping things damp/cool in our containers for CSA distribution are getting threadbare.  If anyone has towels that they are looking to retire, we may be interested in them.  Anytime we mention things like this we wish to emphasize a couple of things.  First - don't give us something you can use.  After all, they are yours and you should use them.  Second, please don't treat us like a trash can either.  If they are already threadbare, they won't do the job any better than what we do have.  Definition of threadbare - we can see many holes in them as they hang on the line to dry.  Well-loved and worn is fine.  
  • Speaking of hydrocooling...   We've added a step to the process this season.  For several seasons we have been picking greens into tubs, taking them to a shaded location and filled the tubs with very cold well water.  We push the greens that float down into the water and cover with a towel.  This makes sure everything stays wet and prevents any of it from dehydrating in wind or sun.  As a result, the greens (or other produce we do this to) will last in a crisper much longer.  Lettuce treated this way can easily last 2 weeks (or more).  We've been collecting the water used for hydrocooling in a tub this year (the new part).  Then we transport the water in buckets to the high tunnel to water plants in there.  We reuse the water (very good) but we realize it is inefficient in its current state.  We'll be investigating options for next season.
  • Speaking of greens... the ducks love greens that bolt and can't be sold or distributed.  This is a good thing since the hot weather has sent some of our lettuce past prime very quickly.  
  • Speaking of ducks...  we don't witness as much of the 'grab it and run' mentality we see with our chickens and turkeys.  In short, ducks seem to be able to share better than other birds.  Hm.
  • Speaking of sharing....  we want to share the credit for the CSA distributions this week with all of the folks who fought through the heat to help us.  Thank you Andrea, Denis, Anden, JoHanna, Bailey, Sally and Jeff!  Well done!
  • And finally, speaking of workers.  For those of you who have asked or are curious - we have no full time workers on the farm, but we do contract with several people to do work for us.  In many cases, they receive produce as compensation for a certain amount of work on the farm.  In other cases, they are compensated with pay for contracted labor.  And, we do sometimes receive volunteer work help.  Usually, our labor pool dries up when school starts again. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Beat the Heat

Ok.  So it IS hot out there.

This post ought to help everyone out there!

Remember this? Sundogs only appear when it is REALLY cold.

 How about hoar frost on the fence.  Don't you just want to jump in the snow?

This picture is currently the background photo on my computer.

And this one just looks cool.

One trick to beat the heat - have snow peas for dinner.

Another trick for beating the heat.  Make a slushy.

If you are lucky enough to have a Tammy in the house, she just might make a slushy using the lemonade she makes and the peaches she canned last summer.

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 cups of water or 1 cup water & 1 cup canned peach juice
  (you could reduce sugar if you have heavy syrup)
1-2  peaches
Approx 15 ice cubes

Place in the blender on medium (or if you are lucky enough to have an ice breaker setting, use it) until ice is broken up to a consistency you want.

Poor into two big glass mugs and enjoy.  Don't drink it too fast - you'll get a brain freeze!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Stream of Consciousness

It's Friday eve and time for a blog post for the farm.  What is there to say or write?  You want a theme?  Ok, how about whatever comes to mind as I type.  that sounds like a good one for tonight.

  • Tom Sawyer Week:  We'll term the week a qualified success so far.  A huge thank you to Megan, Ben, Sam, Kory, Max, Sophie, Emma and Zeb for taking the time to come do a little work on the farm.  Fabulous progress on the winter squash field and some loads of roofing materials moved.  Excellent.  Plusses include the fact that people were able to determine how long they wanted to stick around *and* they could get an idea of how things went on a typical farm work day with our crew.  At present, we know of no one attending tomorrow - so let us know if you were going to do so.  Hence, the qualifier... we thought we might open this up for more people, but only three family units were represented in this event.  So, that target failed.  We suspect it has a lot to do with the status of this week as prime travel time for many.
  • Just Serfin':  Our work crew of Denis, Andrea, Anden, Sally and Jo provide us with much needed help each week.  Denis and Anden are usually out for three days of the week, Andrea two and Sally and Jo each spend half a day on the farm each week.  Thanks for tolerating us and working to get things done on the farm!
  • Hot Buns:  The strong sun this time of year can heat up the black Iowa soil!  We (everyone who worked on the winter squash field the last few days) can attest to this.  Usually, we weeders will crawl, do the 'sunny-side up' or do the 'sit and scoot' in order to weed a row.  Those who crawled may have noticed sensitive knees after due to the hot soil.  Those who did the 'sit and scoot' probably had the hot buns.
  • Gasp!  Water! :   It's official, plants are starting to cry at us for water.  So, we're working on the irrigation thing.  Please, please - do not blame us if it suddenly starts raining buckets.
Recent Tasks and Accomplishments on the Farm:
  • We did manage to build a new 'portable' shelter that should be the ducks' night time home this summer.  We'll try to take a picture for a July "Picture This" post.
  • With the shelter comes a second solar charger and electric fence set up.  The henlets (baby laying hens) are in the other half of the 'figure 8' of fencing on that charger.
  • With the exception of a few feet of companion flowers, the winter squash field is weeded.  That's a 200' x 60' plot.  Nice.  We can say the same thing for the tomato/basil plot (with the exception of the outer zinnia row.
  • The pea/cucumber plot is also weeded - but has a few rough spots.
  • The southwest plot has had old  crops removed and the ground tilled once.  A second till and we plant the next succession!
  • Speaking of the southwest, we put up pea fencing and did some wheel hoe work between rows.  Beets can be a pain... 
  • We managed to order new carriers for chickens and they arrived this week. put them together.
  • Speaking of some assembly required - we ordered a couple of hose reels.  We are tired of the seasonal hose meets mower accident that happens this time of year.  We'd like to prevent it if we can.
Coming Up:
  • Oui, we STILL weed (lots)
  • Set up drip tape irrigation system and then Oui, we water.
  • Broilers go to the park on Tuesday night....  uf, that's a CSA distribution day too.  Oh dear.
  • GFF hosts Scattergood Friends School Farm, Grinnell Heritage Farm and Blue Gate Farm on Wednesday afternoon.
  • GFF hosts a local food buyer group for a tour of the farm Wednesday morning.
  • Looks like some gate making and fence repair is on tap so the turkeys can begin day ranging this coming week.  They're ready!
  • We've got to put in a batch of lettuce, zucchini, squash, cucumber, etc etc.   There will be alot of planting to do in the next week.
  • Garlic digging is just around the corner!
Life on the farm.  Never a dull moment!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bird Brains II

The sequel is rarely better than the original.  Unless it is Star Trek II vs Star Trek I.  They had no where to go but up.  It must be nice to know you can't do worse.

Nonetheless - it is summer - time for sequels, prequels and 3D versions of remakes of book adaptations.  Ask me if we've seen a movie so far this summer.  Ask me if I've seen Paint Your Wagon.  Ask me if it's been a long day.


More bird observations and various extensions to the prior post:
  • BOD  -  Beaks of Doom *or* Bills of Doom.  The ducks have had their first night and day in their new open-air shelter and in their pasture (during the day).  They just might spell doom for flies more than the chickens.
  • Ali vs Frazier rematch.   Ali and Frazier were at it again.  Rob approached them and challenged them.  They, of course did the "I can take you! I can take you!  Never mind." thing.  You know what I said to that?  "CHICKEN!!!!!"      Ya, it didn't really have the same effect it might have on other ten year old humans.
  • Broom Bird Double Header.  The problem with putting more birds on pasture and day ranging them?  We have to play more games of broom bird each night.  Happily, the ducks will go as a flock.
  • Broom Bird Rules.  We thought about making some up, but decided everything involved with it would be a fowl.
  • Time Square Ball.  I was thinking about renting the Time Square Ball that drops for New Year's.  Set it to start at the top and slowly sink to the ground as the day for taking the broilers "to the park" approached.  But, then I wondered if people might think I take too much glee in that thought.  The reality is - we just don't have a good place to set the thing up.  If we did get it, would it be a Fowl Ball?  At least you know you'd get the Chicken Dance out of it.
  • Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday....
  • Sploooootch!   Lots of people say they like ducks.  Ducks are cute.  They wiggle their tails, they waddle, they quack (these birds are too young, so they 'queep') and they splash in water alot.   These people have never been around them long enough to know what I mean when I refer to the 'splooootch' sound.
  • Turkeys on the High Wire.  Turkeys like to roost off the ground, so we put up some 2x4 as roosting stations in their room.  The birds are just getting big enough to get up there now.  So far, about eight have figured it out.  These 2x4 boards are fairly sturdy, but a turkey, once it is bigger, has enough weight to make the board wiggle a little.  It can be amusing watching a bird try to walk from one end to the other without falling.  Reminiscent of humans on a balance beam.
And now for the plot twist and surprise finale!
  • The Tom Sawyer Week has some takers already - hurrah!  We've decided that we might make the theme of this week - "Weed 'em and Reap!"
  • You all realize that when you tell me you read the blog, you encourage more of this silliness.  It's all your fault!  Good for you.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Tom Sawyer Event

We hope everyone has had (or is having) a relaxing 4th of July weekend. 

Speaking of this week and weekend - we are announcing our first ever Tom Sawyer Week

Early July is the most critical weeding time we have.  If we don't get some of the weeding done now when many of our plants are small, we can lose crops.  We have equipment to help us with between row weeding - but there is no substitute for in row weeding.  And, even if weeding is not your thing - we have other tasks that can be done that would be equally helpful if you've a mind to do them.

How does this work?

  1. No one is *required* to attend a Tom Sawyer Day.  We realize some of you join the CSA with the express purpose of wanting to do *no* gardening.  On the other hand, attending a Tom Sawyer event gives everyone some perspective as to the scale and type of work required to grow food.
  2. If you wish to 'attend' our week - please let us know by sending us a note and telling us who, how many, when and what you might like to do.  The 'when' and the 'what' may be selected from the lists given below.  Please don't just show up!  We need to know you are coming so we can be prepared.  If none of the times work for you, but you still wish to attend, you can make a suggestion.  Just be aware that we might not be able to make the time work.
  3. There is no time limit for how long you work - but we ask you to consider the length of your drive and the tolerance of the people attending for doing work on the farm.  
  4. You should bring a water bottle, wear close-toed shoes, apply sunblock and have some gloves available to you.  
  • Wednesday, July 6  9am to 6pm
  • Friday, July 8  noon to 6pm
  • Saturday, July 9  9am to 5pm
  • Weeding
  • More Weeding
  • Moving old roofing material away from re roofed building
  • scraping and/or painting
Have a good week everyone!

Rob & Tammy

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Bird Brains

Late June and early July gets a little crazy around the farm since we have so many different contingents of birds hanging around.  All of them with their own needs and ... er... idiosynchracies.

To be perfectly blunt, it is at this time every year we begin to happily count down the days before we take the broilers (meat chickens) to the "park."  Of course, the layers are still around.  The ducks are ready to go out on pasture.  The turkeys are nearly ready and the baby hens are now out in their own pasture (to prevent the adult layers from 'laying' into them.

But, they do sometimes lead to interesting musings and we do make some amusing observations.

  • Not Like Clyde: We now tell our broilers to 'not be like Clyde' when they don't want to go into their shelter at night.  Still, that bird had guts.
  • Broom Bird. Speaking of putting the broilers in - we play a game I call broom bird.  No - we do not *hit* the birds with brooms.  But, we do use brooms to direct birds to their shelter.  Our waving arms don't do it anymore - but a colorful broom - that's the ticket.  
  • Ali and Frazier.  There are two birds that appear to enjoy facing off with each other more than anything else.  The spend most of their time about a foot apart in an aggressive each other the 'evil' eye.  Occasionally, they'll move their heads up and down trying to get an advantage.  Rarely, they'll give each other chest bump and then go eat something.
  • Broiler hiccups.  Ok - they are not really hiccups.  But, the sound some of these birds are making as they attempt to learn to crow....  hiccups is about the only valid description we can come up with.
  • I can take you!  I can take you!  Never mind.   A couple of birds do try to stand their ground as we walk in their pasture area.  Wellllll, ok, they stand there until we get within a couple of feet, then they bravely run away.
  • The Beak of Doom. There aren't many flies in the broiler area.  But, every once in a while there is a disturbance where many birds move quickly at once.  Flying insects do cause quite a stir in the flock.  Until they meet a beak of doom.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Trying to Take Over the World

Many people are starting to 'get it.'  And, for that we are grateful.  But, what do we mean by 'it?'

Example 1:  Rob & Tammy are outside (of course) distributing produce for the CSA.  Temps have been in the 80's or 90's most of the day.  Someone says something about how hot it is.  We respond in a way we hope is pleasant but noncommittal.   Happily, more people are saying things like - "I suppose I shouldn't complain about it since you've been in this all day."  Hey - we understand that the temps can feel pretty oppressive depending on who you are and how your body responds.  It's even harder when you have to work in air conditioning all day, I'm sure.  And, yes, there are days we get hit pretty hard by the heat (or the cold, or....).  But, here's another way to look at it.  85 degrees F (and even 95) can feel pretty darn nice.  You just have to get used to it.  We do not want to stop you from commenting on the weather - it's perfectly fine.  Just as it is fine if we disagree with your assessment.  Ahhhhh perspective!

Speaking of which - sometimes our impression of the weather is what we have made of it.  We worked outside fine on Friday until about 2pm.  Then, we decided to go into the house and do paperwork.  We both wonder if we talked ourselves into it because we had heard the forecast and warnings about heat advisories, etc.  Sure, we had to watch our fluid intake and take breaks when we needed them.  But, it wasn't horrible.

Example #2:  "What are you doing for the 4th?"

This is a friendly and easy question to ask to start a conversation going.  We know it, you know it.  We *all* fall back on easy conversation starters with each other when we can't think of a really scintillating statement that drops everyone's jaws.  So - it is perfectly fine if you ask us.

But, here's what we're finding to be cool.  More people are making comments afterwards along the lines of "oh, yeah, I suppose you will be doing some farm work, won't you?"  Thank you for realizing this.  It is the growing season *and* we have animals on the farm.  So, we can't exactly escape it.

On the other hand, we fully realize that we need to maintain our own well-being, so we intend on doing some things out of the norm.  Just not sure what.

But - the best way to answer the question "So, what are you doing today?" is to take a page from Brain of the Pinky and the Brain fame.

"Same thing we do every night (day).  Try to take over the world."

Or at least try to keep up with the farm.