Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Fried Egg Fairy and More...

The good news for us was that Tammy had Fall Break on Thursday and Friday of last week.  While she had plenty to do for her job...grading and prepping and etc   Oh my!  It also meant we could do some work on the farm together.

This is a good thing.  Why?

1. Carrying/moving certain things is *always* easier with *two* people

Things like that cabinet that was in the barn and is now in the poultry pavilion...  Yes, those sorts of things.  It's also easier to push buildings on wheels such as the Duck N Cover.  And, yes, moving square bales is much easier with a little help.  We just realized we may have moved as much as we've moved for some people's moving day... hmmmm.

2. It's much easier to celebrate.

Durnik (the tractor) returned to us on Saturday.  Yes, Rob would have been happy to see that anyway.  But, it's more fun when both of us can be there.

Ok, ok.  Most of you see no reason to celebrate the return of a tractor.  In order to reach a broader audience....  We celebrated the opportunity to spend more time together!  So there!

3. Motivation.

It doesn't always work this way.  But, it often helps to have someone other than yourself involved to keep you moving forward.  It worked for the extended weekend.  That's a good thing.  Besides, I don't want Tammy to see that I really don't do any work when she's away.  Just sit on my hands.  Yep, that's me.

4. Easier to watch the World Series.

If you don't like baseball, too bad.  We both enjoy it and we were able to listen to...and even watch... more of the World Series than we would have without break.  We consider this a very good thing, especially with an enjoyable set of games this year.

5. The Fried Egg Fairy visits us.

I am not sure how this works, but the Fried Egg Fairy visits us more often when we are both here all day long.   As far as I can tell, if you want the Fried Egg Fairy to visit, you have to wash the fry pan and say out loud, "It would be neat if I could have fried eggs in the morning."  It doesn't always work, of course.  But, the percentage of visits goes up with both of us here.  I suppose I could figure out the pattern somehow, but I'm pretty happy if it just keeps happening.

6.  Two cats, two laps.
If you have cats and you find yourself sitting down in the evening, you know what we're saying.

7. Chicken soup is... good.
Home made pizza with fresh tomato sauce that includes Black Krim tomatoes, Jimmy Nardello's Frying Peppers, Music garlic, Red Wing onions, oregano, marjoram, thyme....mmmmmm!   Ok, don't want that? How about chicken soup with chicken raised on the farm, Purple Viking potatoes, collards, chard, White Wing onions and whatever else?   Well, how about Galeux d'Eysines winter squash, pork steak (from the Berlage's), Rosa Bianca eggplant, zucchini and summer squash?  We even had green beans this weekend.  Cool.

8.  Being glad 'that' is done.

We all have things that are perpetually on our "To Do" list that never seem to get high enough on the list to get done.  Happily, we were motivated enough this weekend to get to some of those things.  And, it is a big relief when they finally do get done.  Some of them seem pretty small, but there always seems to be things that get in the way of doing them.  Things like, getting that storm window back on an upper story window.  Unfortunately, our "To Do" list tends to be unrealistic for any given day.  But, we made some serious dents in them.

9. Squawk Box

The chickens that resided in the barn at night and used an east pasture are now moved and have joined the other birds.  Ever tried to catch chickens before?  No?  Hint - it's easier with two people.

10. Did you see that?

When strange things happen, there is someone you can check with.  Just a variation of "Am I crazy?"  It helps to have someone answer.  Doesn't matter whether the answer is "yes" or "no."

11. This list goes to 11.

Because it is required under this label/topic.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Every once in a while, there  are cartoons that really hit the spot.

B.C. is a long time favorite.  Read it, let it sink in....

Pearls Before Swine occasionally gets me good.  The solution shown below isn't recommended, but sometimes....

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Late October Farm Doings

It's been a few weeks since our last farm report.  So, I've heard it is time to do another one.

There is a mistaken perception that we are not growing anything by the time we hit late October.  But, we do have lettuce, greens, turnips, radish, chard, kale and other crops going.  And, believe it or not, we still have green beans to pick in the high tunnel.  The dry weather has slowed growth, so we'll be doing a little watering the next few days to encourage it.  We may even do some low tunnels on some of the lettuce.

We're always a bit amazed by how quiet the farm gets and how much easier daily chores become once the ducks, broilers and turkeys all take their trips to the park.  It's true, we do have layers in two places right now - and there is still lots of work to do to get them ready for Winter.  But, it is nice to be able to get chores done in 15 minutes in the evening.  Mornings are a longer, of course.  On another front, there are still ducks and turkeys available for purchase.  Spread the word.

Fall CSA
Our extended season CSA filled up, and for that we are grateful.  The first distribution went reasonably well.  It was nice to surprise everyone with a some nice tomatoes, green beans and zucchini/summer squash.  A last taste of summer.

Regular Season CSA
The regular season CSA is done and we are now taking reservations for 2012.  Anyone who is interested may now reserve a spot.  Deposits are $25 to reserve a spot.  The website will be updated soon with the new application materials.  It's number 32 on my office I can get to this within ten days.  But, if you are anxious, you can print the 2011 application, cross out 2011 and replace it with 2012.  ( I am sooo clever that way!)

Many of our fields need to be cleaned up.  Some need to be chisel plowed, some need late cover crops.  But, we're still awaiting the return of the tractor to do some of the work.

The tractor is still out of our hands.  We opted to put in an electric start to improve reliability on the farm.  Unfortunately, that decision has resulted in a longer period of time without the tractor.  If it's not one thing...

Our focus is beginning to move here.  We need to complete a room for the hens in the Poultry Pavilion.  This includes a permanent fence for their pasture.  The barn needs to have everything moved away and out of it so it can be taken down.  We need to put a door up on the truck barn.  The thing about the impending cold season is it does tend to help one focus.  Alot of things just cannot happen at this point.

We are entering the season for presentations.  It looks like Rob is scheduled for an online Farminar in December.  We'll try to figure out what else is on tap and let everyone know.

Other Things That May or May Not Be of Interest...
  • Tammy's research class is heating up.  Every Fall she teaches this class and it includes breaking students into groups to do actual research projects.  It is at this point in the semester when everyone figures out there is some real work involved.  
  • Rob was coerced into being captain of one of the two U.S. teams in the Ticket to Ride Nation's Cup event.  So far, the team is 4-1 in the round robin and is in danger of making it to the playoffs.
  • Bree and HobNob, the house management staff (aka our indoor cats) reached their 1 year anniversary with us.  And, so far, we all still like each other enough to get along.  They have decided that Tammy is HobNob's human and Rob is Bree's human.  I don't think we had a choice.
  • Cubby, the farm management feline (FMF for short), is doing well.  Hunting has been good, as it is most Fall seasons on the farm.
  • We have a new barnyard co-manager.  Our prior manager, Bob the rooster, did not survive the Spring.  We're not sure who he argued with, but it was not successful.  As a result, Harold was promoted late Spring.  Since then, our new batch of chicks grew up to reveal another rooster in the flock.  Please welcome Fu.  He is a Barred Rock.  Why Fu?  Because it is fun to say and fun to rhyme with...and he's a Barred Rock.

End of a Good CSA Season

October 20 was our final CSA distribution for the 2011 regular season CSA.  As a number of you remarked, it seemed as if the season had only just started.   How can twenty weeks go by so quickly?

We would like to thank all of the fine people who participated in our regular season CSA program this year.  It seemed as if members knew when we needed a good word, since someone always seemed to supply one at points when (and where) they were needed most.  There were many recipe and produce use ideas shared with us and with each other.   In fact, it seemed like interaction between members was more prevalent than in prior years.  Thank you for being a great group to work with and for.

We felt that our shares were reasonably well filled all season long, even if there were a few favorites that some were wanting more of and others that some were wanting less of.  We reached our value goals we set for ourselves (for share content) and succeeded in making a few adjustments that seemed to provide a better experience.   Tammy and I look forward to serving many of you again next year.  Welcome back!  We have identified some targets for improvement and hope to do even better in 2012.  For those of you who are not returning, you will be missed - and thank you for being with us this year.

Rob & Tammy
Genuine Faux Farm

Sunday, October 23, 2011


It's October and relatively close to Halloween.  So, we thought we'd show you some scary pictures.

The scene - our high tunnel.  Home of some beautiful tomatoes and green beans in October.  The tomatoes are on the left, the yellow box holds some green beans we were picking... in case you want to know.

This picture seems tranquil enough.  Harvest was going relatively well.  We decided we should scout the tomatoes and see what was going to be available to pick. 

We found this beautiful Black Krim tomato.  It tasted pretty darned good too.  All is right with the world.  The birds are chirping.  The sun is shining.  The farmers are happy.

Suddenly, a scream chases thoughts of pleasant work in a sun-enhanced enclosure on a mildly chilly day.  What could possibly be wrong?

Ok, now wait a minute.  You are ruining the mood with your questions.  We are not going to tell you who screamed or how they screamed.  Seriously... no, we aren't telling.

Look.. It's a metaphorical scream.  Just a symbol of the unhappiness felt by this discovery.  Ok?  No one actually screamed.  yeeesh.

NOOOOO!  The horror!  Defoliated leaves on the tomatoes.  It is awful.  Horrifying!  Whatever has done this?

And it gets worse!

========== SENSITIVE VIEWERS ALERT========= 

What you are about to see is uncensored.  Some viewers may find the following to be unsettling and, frankly, a bit gross.  Viewer discretion is advised.

The farmers' let out a collective gasp as the magnitude of the situation sinks in.  It is not just the loss of some leaves.  That loss, while disturbing and less than positive, is not the end of the world.  The plants are nearing the end of their life cycle as temperatures sink lower each night.  It is the loss of ripening fruit that hits home. 

Who is responsible for this reprehensible behavior?  Is it the butler?  The maid?  Professor Peacock in the solarium with a megaphone?
Aha!  The culprit.  A hornworm.  Evil little feller.  Actually, it was more like a few dozen of them throughout the tomato row.

An excellent summary resource about tomato hornworms (larva for hawkmoths) can be found here:

How do we handle the hornworm on the farm?
We have had very little issue with hornworm damage in the past.  But, then again, we have not grown in the high tunnel all that long.  The high tunnel provides a beautiful location for a late hatching.  We look for hornworm damage and then look for the hornworms themselves.  Once found, we pull them off the plants.  If we are feeling ambitious, we take them to the turkeys.  If we are not, we find that they do not survive a quick compression with the sole of a shoe.  (step on it)

Green tomatoes damaged by hornworms should just be pulled off the plant - especially earlier in the year.  this allows the plant to focus on other fruit.

Note - you will find that hornworms can grip the plant or leaf in a way that it could be difficult to pull them off.  They may startle you a bit as they curl towards your fingers - and there is a bit of an 'ick' factor for many people.  They will pinch you a bit if you carry them any distance (as we do when we take them to the turkeys), but it is more startling than painful.  They cannot do any permanent damage to you.  And they certainly cannot do the damage you can do to them.

Parasitic wasps - If you find white growths on the worm, you probably should find a way to let the worm live by moving it somewhere you can tolerate it.  This will increase the parasitic wasp population.  Thus, building up a natural control.  thus far, we have not noticed any of this on hornworms we have found.  Sad.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Peppers Part III

Some Like it Hot

Prior posts on Pepper Variety Reviews are here:  Part 1 and Part 2

We've already mentioned Joe's Long Cayenne (top keeper) and Numex Big Jim (not returning) in Part 1.

We're not really going to rate these at this time except to say that we're pretty happy with this rotation of peppers.


Cool plants with variegated leaves.  They tend to be brittle (breaking easy when you pick, breaking easy in the wind) but seemed to do little better in the high tunnel, despite our thinking this might be the case.  Lots of small peppers that eventually turn completely red.  Great taste and quite warm.  Easily 50+ peppers per plant.  If you like a hot chowder type soup, I bet these would be perfect.  (picture courtesy of Seed Savers)

Wenk's Yellow Hot
Jalapeno shaped and sized peppers.  Moderate heat.  Very productive and seem to prefer being OUT of the high tunnel.  We suspect that, if you keep them picked clean, you could easily get 80-100 peppers per plant - especially if you're ok with smaller peppers.  We tend to like a little size on them and harvest around 40-50 per plant.  If we could convince everyone they were better than jalapenos, we'd quit growing jalapenos all together.  We've noticed heat levels can be variable dependent on the weather.

Hot Portugal and Maule's Red Hot
We still have not determined which of these we like better and keep running in perpetual trial mode.  Very good taste and  warm (4 out of 5 on hot scale).  Nice longish red peppers.  They even look hot.  One of these days, we'll be forced to choose.  But, probably one more head to head year since we have some "carry-over" seed in our possession.

Hungarian Wax vs Aji Crystal
Our first year trialing these two against each other.  We have grown Hungarian Wax in years prior to the CSA for our own garden, but have never grown Aji.  These can get quite hot and have a great taste.  Hungarian Wax are...well, waxy smooth.  Aji Crystal has similar shape and size, but they seem to have angular sides and are not so smooth.  Production so far is 32.7 to 32.8 per plant.  Plant health is similar.  Hungarian seems to want to keep trying late in the year a bit more than Aji, but not much more. 

Beaver Dam

A great pepper for taste.  Excellent for stuffing as it has good size for a hot pepper.  Heat is variable, even within the pepper.  We find that it gets hotter as you get towards the point of the pepper.  You can pick them at any time from their lime green stage to completely red.  Plants are small in size, but peppers are larger.  We have had as many as three flushes of fruit from these plants.  High tunnel friendly.  These do not like wet feet and are the first peppers (along with the small papricka pepper plants) that show stress if drainage is poor or rain is excessive.  (picture by RFaux)

Tam Jalapeno
A new introduction this year.  Our prior jalapenos were hybrids and we wanted to try to go with an open-pollinated variety.  Besides, seed was discontinued for one of those hybrids.  You can guess why we picked this one.  Seems like this variety will do best if you pick the fruit smaller.  Otherwise, they tend to exhibit dryness and cracking on the skin.  In any event, it gets a pass this year since we like to give varieties two years to prove themselves.

Alma Paprika and Feher Ozon Paprika
 Both of these peppers are smaller plants, with Alma being a bit bigger.  Both can be very prolific.  Feher, in particular can make you wonder how the little plant can support the volume of peppers it produces.  You can pick either at the point they are creamy yellow, but they may have their best taste as they turn towards red.  Not hot, just spicy - as in paprika spicy.  Great with cheese and poultry dishes.  We like these on nachos.  Feher holds carrot-shaped peppers 'upside down' (point up) in most cases.  Alma has smallish tomato shaped peppers.  Some people confuse them with tomatoes on first sight if picked full red.  We are tempted to increase production, but our heavy soil and the last few years of wet weather hold us back.  A trial in the high tunnel is coming in 2012.

Ancho Gigantea
This is a pablano type pepper.  Tends towards the smaller sized pablano, despite the name.  It's the only variety of its type that we have any success with in our area.  Others we have tried can get nice and green, but barely produce a thing.  We suspect they'd love a dry and hot year.  We also suspect they might like "poorer" soil than the rich loam we grow in.  Still, we grow a few so people who love them can get a taste.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

October Farm Report

What's happening on the farm?

End of Regular Season CSA
This is the last week of the regular season.  For many of us, it seems like we just started.  There are many mixed feelings at the end of the year.  We're both pleased and sad about the conclusion of the regular season CSA.  However, we can say, without any reservation, that this has been the best bunch of CSA subscribers we've had the honor to serve!  Thank you all!

Look at Me From the Side, Do I Look Fat To You?
Honest!  We didn't do anything measurably different for the turkeys this season.  Same feed supplier.  Same feed rates.  Actually 10 fewer days on the farm than last season.  Same breed of turkey.  Same chick supplier.  Yet, the birds are really big this year!  Only difference is the weather - it was much nicer for them.  In any event, to make these birds more accessible to you, we dropped the price to $3/lb.  They are now ready to be dinner guests.

Extended Season CSA
Cost for the extended season will be $200 this fall.  It covers 8 weeks of produce starting next week (Oct 25).  We will be sending details to all who gave us notice of their interest.  Rob just needs to get through Tuesday's CSA (among other things).  And, we have a limit on sending email.  So, we can't send that note out the same time we send the regular season CSA note.

Going to the Birds
The ducks went to the park, the broilers went to the park and now the turkeys went to the park.  Lots of lifting going on (over 1300lbs of turkey processed).  Many turks still available.  Many ducks.  A fair number of broilers.  We have dropped the price on the turks to $3/lb in part because the birds were so large.

Buildings and Equipment
The tractor is in for repairs.  Evidently it needs new points - which is a pain to do on this type of tractor.  As a result, we're going to upgrade to an electric start.  The barn will start coming down as soon as we move the hens and other materials out of it.  The high tunnel needs to be moved in the next week or two.  If anyone is interested in helping with this process, let us know.  We can't announce a date/time because it is dependent on the wind.

Harvest Progress
Nearly all of the winter squash are in.  Harvest levels were fair, but not great.  Everyone in the CSA should be getting a few squash during the last week.  Not a bounty, but nothing to sneeze at either.  Potatoes are trickling in.  We were planning on using the tractor to speed up the harvest.  But, if you've been reading, you know the tractor went off line about 2.5 weeks ago (right after testing the potato digger tool).  There are still dry beans, tomatoes and peppers to pull in.  Whatever we fail to bring in for tomatoes and peppers will likely freeze this week.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Peppers II

 Continued from Part I

Showing Potential

Quadrato asti Giallo

The picture above gives you a decent representation of what you get when you grow this pepper.  Variable size and shape fruit that turn yellow, but not uniformly so.  In 2009, we had fewer fruit, but the fruit were giants (and much rounder).  We suspect these plants would be stars in a personal garden, where every plant is in thick organic mulches (cut grass, etc) and the gardener gives them a certain amount of water every week.  They are 'tough enough' for our farm as well, but market quality fruit runs at 2 to 4 per plant.  That's not bad for a colored bell.  Fruits progress from large to smaller as the season continues.  Great taste, thick walled, four lobed fruit.  In some ways, Quadrato is on a curve similar to Wisconsin Lakes - next year could be fantastic.
Tried and True

Golden Treasure

Golden Treasure is one of our all-time favorite peppers.  This is one of the best sweet peppers we grow for use on sandwiches.  It adds a nice color and taste to salsa/pico.  Each plant tends to produce about 14 marketable fruit.  This year was an off year due to their location, but they still fought through circumstances to produce nearly 8 per plant.  Response to the high tunnel was favorable, but we're not sure the benefit is sufficient to use the space on this variety - they usually do nearly as well in the field.

Jimmy Nardello's Frying Pepper
Our 2007 Veg Variety of the Year.  Jimmy Nardello's looks alot like a hot pepper, so you'd better set them on a different part of your counter so you don't confuse them.  These are fabulous sweet peppers that get even better when cooked.  They freeze well, they dry well.  Plants produce twenty plus peppers per plant.  Fruit shapes can be curled and knotted.  Sizes later in the season are smaller when they turn red simply because there isn't time for them to grow bigger.  Harvest begins peaking mid-August and continues until the plant dies (usually October).  Excellent response to the high tunnel environment with increased uniformity in fruit size and shape.  Taste *may* be slightly better, but that's hard to measure.

Napolean Sweet

An excellent tasting green or red bell pepper.  Tends to be longer than many bells and can reach extraordinary sizes under certain conditions.  We expect about 6-7 marketable fruit per plant.  Tends to favor warmer summers more than King of the North.

King of the North
Decent taste, uniform shape (probably more like what most people envision for grocery store peppers in shape) and decent size.  Good eaten green or red.  Six to seven fruit per plant and tends to favor cooler temps more than Napolean Sweet.  Now you see one reason why we grow both.

Because They're Different

 Garden Sunshine

Garden Sunshine has a neat color and the peppers hold very well on the plant for a long time.  Our first bit of learning on these was that you want to pick them for best flavor when they have at least a little orangish/rust tinting to the pale yellow fruit.  If they are greenish-yellow, they'll be fine, but not that good for taste.  Plants are small.  Production numbers are low (4.1) in large part because they seem to be susceptible to fruit blights and rots.  They have a hint of paprika in their taste.  Our suspicion is that they would prefer a drier climate.

Purple Beauty
They're four-lobed, blocky bell peppers.  Purple on the outside, green inside.  Taste is passable.  Color is spectacular.  Smaller plants are very bushy, hiding the fruit deep inside the plant (most of the time) protects them from sunscald.  We're happy getting a few (about 100) of these every year to add color

Marconi Red
The shape of these is alot like a stretched out bell pepper since the ends of the fruit usually don't come to a point like Golden Treasure.  Yet, it occupies a space in our mind that puts it in a similar category to Golden Treasure.  Part of the reason is the superb taste.  They're pretty good green, but far better red.  The down-side is how long it takes to turn red.  They like longer growing season years.  It doesn't necessary mean they need super hot weather, they just need more days that are warmer than some of the other peppers we grow.  Plants can be somewhat sizeable (but not quite as big as Napolean Sweet).  We love what we get in a good year, but suspect those in southern Iowa and points south (zone 5 & 6) would get more consistent production.

Trial Balloon

Chervena Chushka
These landed in the same 'bad' patch of ground as the Golden Treasures this year.  Not entirely fair to this variety, so it will get another go.  We liked its 'fighting attitude'.  Looks like bigger plants with peppers similarly shaped to Tolli Sweet. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Peppers Part I

Something we often did in our newsletters was review varieties for gardeners who might read what we write.  Since the season is concluding on our pepper crop, we thought we do a little bit on them to finish up what turned out to be a series of posts on them this year.

Prior Posts of Interest:
Criteria for our assessments at the Genuine Faux Farm
We'll discuss this elsewhere, but it may help to see them here.
1. Taste
2. Plant health
3. Production of 'marketable fruit'
4. Period of production
5. Seed supply/availability
6. Niche in our production scheme

Getting an A for the Year

Tolli Sweet

Historically one of our earliest to produce and one of the latest to stop.  The peppers tend to be on the smaller side (and variable), but the taste is excellent.  Prior data suggests about 16 marketable fruit per plant.  They ran at 19 fruit this year in the field and our two trial plants in the high tunnel responded with bigger fruit in similar numbers, even though these small plants were no bigger themselves. (picture courtesy Seed Savers)

 Wisconsin Lakes

We finally give this pepper a place of prominence and look what it does for us!  Picture is from our farm.  One of the earliest bells to turn red.  Fruit tend to be three lobed rather than four, but who cares?  They taste great.  Production was 8-9 fruit per plant.  Prior years suggested four, but we had to admit that it was never given a prominent place.  What that means on our farm is that when the going gets tough, the farmers ignore lower priority varieties or crops.  So, they fight a bit more weed competition, etc.  They showed enough in 2009 to get a promotion, and they actually exceeded the 6-7 marketable fruit we tend to want per plant for our bells.  The two trial plants did well in the high tunnel with slightly larger fruit.  But, they were slower to turn red.  And, did we tell you they turn red early and taste good?  Oh, we did? (picture from the Genuine Faux Farm)

Joe's Long Cayenne
You'll see a Joe's in the middle of this picture - and it may be a below average specimen at that (not fully turned to red and smallish).  But, you take the picture when you have the camera.  Typically 6-9" long cayenne peppers that ripen in September.  We are often still picking them well into October.  Twenty-five to thirty high quality fruit are normal.  Great taste, and only moderately hot.  Performed similarly in the high tunnel, but sample size was small (one plant).

Don't Come Back Awards:
  • Buran
  • Jupiter
  • Numex Big Jim
Buran was supposed to be a short season,  green bell that was supposed to have high yields of smaller fruits.  Taste is pretty good, production is generally fine.  But, seedlings tend to lie down due to a weak stem at the base (we don't have this problem with other peppers), fruit do not hold on the plant (so you almost have to check them every day it seems) and they really didn't add anything special to our grow list that we don't already have.  They don't really run much earlier than other bells.  Or, if they do, they don't produce enough at that time to make a difference.  We've tried them for four years and decided we lose more fruit on the plants than we pick.

In the case of Jupiter, it's a fine, plump green bell pepper.  We have no real complaints about it - except that our favored seed suppliers do not carry it.  Sometimes, you just have to draw the line.  And, we're happy with our other green bells, so we'll just grow more of them since Jupiter falls into the same niche (production time, fruit type, production levels) as other varieties we are happy with.  Its direct competition in our gardens are Napolean Sweet and King of the North.  It compares with King for taste, but Napolean far outstrips it.  And, we've detected no significant weather pattern preference that differs enough to keep it.

Numex Big Jim?  Both a seed supplier and a niche issue.  That, and we're not as enamored with its taste.  This could be different if we had more demand for hot peppers, but we do not.  We will say that it has been the most successful chili pepper we have grown at the farm.  Others, such as Anaheim College, don't seem to favor our soils or weather.  So, if we hear from enough people that you really NEED us to grow a chili pepper, this is the variety we will bring back.

Thus endeth part I - part II is scheduled to post early next week.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


You know, Lafou, I've been thinking...
A dangerous pastime.
I know...

Our farm is a good place.  We like it here, most of the time.  But, we cannot deny that there are certain things that build up pressure and stress over time.  Sometimes, it increases so slowly that we aren't fully aware of it until we come to a harvest point - such as the one we have entered recently.

It is poultry harvest season for us on the farm.  They require care every day, at least twice a day.  They require fences, shelters, food, water and emergency responders (us) when weather or predators are involved.  They also require a financial outlay from the beginning.  We buy the day old chicks, we transport them, buy proper bedding for the chicks, provide heat, buy food throughout their lifespans and we pay the processors (aka the "Park").  We also provide transportation to and from the processor, pay a local locker to freeze them and then pay electricity to keep our own freezers going until we take the birds to their new home.

Once again, we don't say these things to acquire sympathy, we bring them up to encourage understanding.  The process of raising poultry (or any animal) is a matter of investment of resources.  The more investment is made, the more the pressure builds to provide a return that, at the least, doesn't leave you (much) worse off than when you started.  So, it is no wonder that we discover that we are at the crux of a stress point and the relief begins as the birds are delivered to their new homes for consumption.

We are grateful to all of you who have placed orders and are doing what it takes to get your birds from us.  Your prompt payments help with the money resource.  Your willingness to work with our schedule to make delivers helps with the time investment.  The simple fact that you enjoy these birds and continue to support us gives us fuel to continue.  Our thanks.


Now for the business side of the post.  We do have poultry remaining for sale at this point.  There are approximately 30 turkeys still to be reserved.  We'd like to move as many as we can this coming Monday.  We do have three freezers on premises (a new one as of Wednesday), but that will not hold all of these birds.  We have about 15 ducks remaining and 60 or so chickens also remaining.  Prices are $3.85/lb (turks), $6.75/lb (ducks) and $3.25/lb (chickens). Bird health has been excellent this summer and fall, with nice weather making it easy for them to grow and be strong.  We do use organic feed, we day range the birds and we do not provide them with any antibiotics or hormones.

Time to stock up for the winter, because we won't have any more until next summer!

Friday, October 7, 2011

If Only the Tractor Ran

So, we mentioned our exploits at a recent auction in Northern Iowa... and if you missed it - it is at this post.

Two Bottom Plow

Disk Harrow


Wooden Frame Running Gear

Rotary Mower

Dusty Roads II: Particulates Matter

We've been coughing and sneezing more lately.  We've also both noticed more tendency to getting bloody noses the last week and a half.  What's going on?

It's harvest season.

If you live in town, you may not understand.  But, if you live on a gravel road, in the country - you do.  The Fall breezes on warm days are from the South.  We live on the north side of the gravel road.  With harvest going full tilt all around us, the traffic on our road has gone *way* up.  Granted, we are not talking about LA rush hour.  But, at least they might move slower and kick up less dust.  I fully realized how much dust is kicked up when I looked in front of me and felt like the air was filled with fine snow flakes.  But, it was all matter from our gravel road.

Then, we add the dust released in the fields as the combines bring in the soybeans and the corn.  We've had bright sunny days, but it is far from clear as the dust in the air makes it all seem slightly overcast.

Dry, windy and lots of activity results in more particulate matter in the air that we breath.  Some of those 'allergies' and 'colds' you are experiencing now may be simply a response to all of this stuff floating around.

It begs the question - what can we do about it?  And, I'm not talking specifically about our situation on the farm.  This is a question for us, as a society.  How do we support both the needs of the farmers and maintain the quality of our fall air?  Thoughts?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Dusty Roads and Other Adventures

Those who get a weekly CSA email might find the opening line and paragraph familiar...but from there it's ALL NEW(ish).

A funny thing happened on the way to wherever it was we were going...

We're not entirely sure what the punch line is supposed to be here, but the last week has been an odd one.  The weather kicks it off with some pretty cold nights and a very VERY windy day bracketed by some breezy days.  Then, we have a couple of gorgeous days.  Nature's way of saying "I'm sorry?"  We'll think about accepting the apology - maybe another three or four days like the last couple?

We started last week with cool, rainy weather.  He spent about 90 minutes out in that stuff and decided there would be better days to work outside.  It gave Rob an excuse to finally download a whole bunch of pictures from the camera and share them with others via the blog. 

Tuesday was cool, but pretty nice.  We pulled in 23 lbs of lettuce, 16-17 lbs of other greens and finished off the last of the summer squash and zucchini.  The red onions made their first CSA appearance.  You know, those Red Wing onions are pretty tasty.  We're planning on growing a bunch more of them next season.  Dad Faux arrived to do some more work on the truck barn.  We're very pleased with how that building is taking shape.  Within range of getting the roll up door on before the....  um... white stuff appears.

Wednesday was a bit breezy, but not too bad in the grand scheme.  We were already hearing about Thursday.  But, what can you do?  Unfortunately for Tammy, she received a phone message from me that went something like this... "Where is the gauze?"   Interesting how quickly I got a return call on that one.  I don't intend on using it often to get attention, however.  It is safe to say that Wednesday took a different path than was planned.

Then we get to Thursday.  It started out breezy and got progressively windier.  I'm a fairly stocky person and was nearly knocked off my feet more than once.  For those of you who have met or seen Andrea, you know she is *much* smaller.  For Andrea's final day of work on the farm, she was treated to a chance to learn how it feels to be a kite.  Ok, maybe not quite that, but it was a brutal day for outdoor work.  Rob lost an hour of time trying to repair one of the poultry shelters.  The building actually moved in the wind and injured a couple of birds (happily that was all).  The temporary solution was to remove the roof (canvas) - no small feat in 50 mph winds.  This, of course, meant we had to put the roof back on when we got back from the CSA.  It's a surreal experience putting a canvas roof back on a portable building by the light of the pickup headlights!

One of our young apple trees was a casualty, snapping off a foot above the ground.  We were also finding all kinds of things in different spots that night and the next day.  Rob's hat left his head several times.  But, the most spectacular such occurrence found the hat nearly as high as the peak of the barn and landing right on the edge of our neighbor's corn field.  Happily, Rob and the hat were reunited.  A relief for all, I am sure.  Oh, yes, we also picked stuff and delivered them to our Cedar Falls customers on Thursday.  Did I forget to mention that?

Happily, Friday was calmer weather-wise.  But, Rob spent alot of time trying to free up the wheels on the new hay rack.  He got one of them to turn (left and right, they roll just fine) but the other defied him (and still does).  So, he gave up on that and tried to work on the tractor that wasn't running.  It also defied him (and still is).  Ah, mekanikle ineptitude once again.

Saturday was cool but nice.  We got a good deal done in the AM and decided to take a trek to McIntire, Iowa.  There was an auction there with equipment listed that would be perfect for our farm.  But, we know how this kind of stuff tends to sell and we did NOT want to get our hopes up.  So, we drove the car.  You can guess what happened, can't you?

Short story, we purchased a disk harrow, a 2-bottom plow, a rotary cutter, a slip-scraper and running gear (oh no! not again?!?).  That won't fit in the car, I think.  But, it wouldn't have fit in the truck either.  A quick call to the superhero known as BAND SAW MAN and we have a truck and trailer on its way (a pretty long drive...Band Saw Man is pretty darned cool).  Everything was loaded (everything on one trailer - that was a feat in itself) and it was then noticed that the hitch to the trailer was a little cock-eyed.  As in, "probably won't make it home broken"... uh oh.

So, we all return home defeated, with the trailer and purchases left behind.

But, wait, there's more!  Our day was NOT over!  We still had to go pick up some laying chickens another poultry grower was looking to get rid of.  We got home in time to put our birds away and then we went and collected the new hens.  Dropped some off at Band Saw Man's place and then took the rest to dinner.  (hey, it was about 9pm and we hadn't had dinner yet)  The birds were safe in cages and sound asleep - but in their honor, Rob guessed it... chicken for dinner.  We did manage to get home eventually and got the new birds situated.

Sunday was our GF7 festival day.  Our thanks to the fine people who attended.  Those who did not attend - you missed a near perfect day to be on the farm.  The weather has rarely been nicer.  Guess you should plan to come next time!

And, today (Monday)?  Band Saw Man arrived with repaired trailer and a load of goodies for the farm.  We managed to get it all unloaded *without* a front end loader - pretty cool.  Now, we have to get that darned tractor running so I can use this stuff.  Otherwise, they are just really heavy lawn ornaments!

And, there it is... a week.  Spills, chills and whatever other adjectives you might like to use...

Here's to a nice and slightly less adventure-laden week.