Wednesday, November 30, 2011

December Harvest Market

There will be a harvest market in Waverly this Saturday morning from 8:30 - 11:30 am.  We will be indoors at the Civic Center at 200 1st Street NE. 

We have recruited Hansen's Dairy to join us (check out their cheese curds and milk).  The Vegan Baker will be there as well.

The Genuine Faux Farm will have eggs, winter squash, perhaps some potatoes, maybe some greens like arugula and lettuce, turkeys and ducks available for sale.  We will also have our organic cotton bags with our logo available for those who might like to give a gift for Christmas that is a bit different.  But - even better - consider giving a regular season CSA share to a loved one - or put it on your wish list!

For those who visit us at the market and sign up for 2012's CSA, we will give you one of our organic cotton bags as a thank you for placing a deposit with us.  Deposits are $25 and they hold your spot for the following year.

If you have already given us a deposit, our thanks!  We look forward to serving you again in 2012.  For those who have let us know that you are moving on, we wish you the best.  We will miss seeing you, but we know life brings about changes that require people to move away or make purchasing decisions that do not include our farm shares.  But, if you have been considering joining us for next year and have not done so yet, now is the time!  Anyone who reserves a spot for next year prior to December 31st will receive their share at 2011 prices.

We hope to see you or hear from you soon!

Our best wishes to all of you for a wonderful holiday season.  We count ourselves lucky for having met and interacted with so many fine individuals!

Rob & Tammy

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Unsquished Squash Part II

If you want to read more about our winter squash crop in general, you can go look at Part I.

Galeaux d'Eysines 
(we call it a Bumpkin)

The Bumpkin is one of those winter squash we've had a 'love-hate' relationship with.  They are ever so cool looking when they do their thing.  They are ever so frustrating when they do not.  This year, they did their thing.  We classify these as a pumpkin and consider them to have a great texture for pies, breads and soups.  Excellent taste and a smaller seed cavity.  We've found that these suffer terribly from cucumber beetle attacks if you direct seed them and very few plants tend to survive.  They don't care for cooler years either.  On the other hand, start them in trays and transplant them in a normal to warm year and you'll get a decent representation.  Vines can wander a bit.  Fruit size is anywhere from 5 to 15 pounds.  Averaging around 8. 

Musquee de Provence

Yet another French heirloom winter squash.  We grow these primarily for the fabulous taste these bring to pies, breads, muffins and any other baking we might want to throw pumpkin into.  You might find yourself putting in less nutmeg and other spices when you use this pumpkin because it does have a great taste.  Squash tend to be larger (the one above weighs 18 lbs).  Don't expect very many per vine.  They do seem to do something for us every year as long as the season is long enough.  In other words, don't miss your planting date!  The pumpkin above is pretty typical for what they look like when ripe.  Smallish seed cavity.  The biggest issue for us with these is weed control.  So, we recommend starting in trays and transplanting to get a good full season.  Then, some good mulch will go along ways to helping you get some trophy squash out of this variety.  We have noticed that a higher percentage of these will succumb to a rot issue around the stem.

Thelma Sanders

This is, in fact, a blond acorn squash.  We love the production levels and the consistency this variety gives us and were dismayed when the seed supply was not available this year.  We are hopeful it will rebound.  As it was, we grow what we had left from the year before.  Less grainy and stringy than a standard dark green acorn squash and often a bit bigger on average.  We think it has a slightly nutty taste as compared to the standard acorn squash and would pick one of these to eat first. 

Marina di Chioggia

And now, an Italian heirloom squash.  This has been one of our favorites since we started growing heirloom winter squash.  Rob was not a fan of squash until this one and Burgess Buttercup came along to our grow lists.  Dryer texture and bright orange flesh.  These can be anywhere from 5 to 18 lbs in size.  Pick them when the stems are "corky."  You won't get as many fruit on these as others, but the size and taste tend to make up for it.  Cook one of these up for dinner and then have good leftovers for several days.  Or cook it up and freeze it for later use.  Benefits from having companion flowers, so put some nasturiums and zinnias nearby.  If we had to pick ONE winter squash for ourselves, we would pick this one.  If we had to pick one for farm/CSA production, we'd probably have to be less creative and go with Waltham Butternut.

Waltham Butternut

Since I mentioned it.  Waltham Butternut is the most reliable producer we know.  Many people identify the butternut as winter squash and are unaware of other types of squash.  Flesh is orange and wetter than buttercup types (like Marina di Chioggia).   Stems are solid, so they are not susceptible to vine borers.  Even in a rough cucumber beetle year, a decent number of seedlings survive.  Resistant to most blights or diseases.  Stems are tough, squash store very well (we've had some last easily to April).  Pick them when they are a rich tan color and preferable without a green stripe running from the stem (though these will be fine if you are forced to bring them in, they just aren't quite as rich in taste we think).

Stay tuned for Unsquished Squash Part III

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Dull Roar

It is November, and things are quieter than they have been for some time.  Unless, of course, you count the windy days and combine that with plugged up ears from a head cold.   Then, things can seem pretty loud.

Probably the nicest thing that happens for us in the Fall is the reduction in daily chore work load as we take the various birds to the 'park.'  At this time, we only have our egg laying flock to care for on a daily basis.  It's amazing how easy that work seems when you compare to dealing with what was essentially six different flocks not all that long ago.

Some of those flocks are still with us, but they are pretty quiet at the moment.  Sitting in freezers, waiting for homes.

Hey!  We still have a few turkeys left, looking to join lucky families at Thanksgiving.  If you hear of someone looking, send them our way.

We now have two roosters in our laying flock.  Harold is the senior partner now and Fu (the Barred Rock) is our new "Junior Barnyard Manager."
At present, the flock is larger than desired and we need to retire some of the ladies.  So, if someone out there has an acreage and wanted a few laying hens to wander around their place, let us know.  These birds may not lay eggs regularly, but they should lay some once in a while.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Blog Newsletter #2

Welcome to our 2nd edition of the new format newsletter.  Thank you to everyone who gave us feedback on the last.  It was nice to hear from some of you and reconnect.  If something here gives you the urge to get back in touch with us, post a comment in the blog, send an email or otherwise reach us!

If you wish to simply read our blog posts from most recent to least recent, scroll down!  Otherwise, you can take links to the parts you want to read about.  We send this note out to people who have asked to be kept on an email list to be notified periodically about these newsletters.  Genuine Faux Farm is also on Facebook.  You can like/subscribe to us and get a Facebook notice when we post to the blog - we put a post out there most times when something new occurs.

October Starts with a Bang
We had an amazing start to the month of October.  Rather than give you the details here, you should go here and you'll get some idea as to many of the "bigger" things that we dealt with then and continue to influence us now.  We call it "Dusty Roads and Other Adventures".

Farm Reports
If you want to get the 'digest' version of events on the farm, you can check out our farm reports.  Rather than link each one separately, I'll link you to the topic and you can read through them until you feel caught up.  Farm Report Topic.

A Sighting of the Fried Egg Fairy!
Tammy was home during Fall Break and there was an appearance of the Fried Egg Fairy.  You're just going to have to read it to get more.

The season for reviewing our vegetable varieties is here. 
1. Winter Squash (part I) is out there now.
2. Peppers is a three part post!  Lots of good information there. 
    Part 1
    Part 2 
    Part 3

Durnik the Tractor
For those who are curious about why our auction trip in early October was a big deal.  Or for those who want to know what tools we're looking to use with Durnik - you might want to see the pictures on this post.

On the Philosophical Side
If you are interested in more serious musings, you can check out our thoughts on the dust in the country during harvest season.  Or, perhaps you can read about conflicting feelings once our flocks are taken to 'the park.'  Or, you can read about our feelings at the end of a good CSA regular season.

Want a Laugh or Two?
We've got a little bit of everything here.  Some featured cartoons, a reprint of a GFF Story and even a HALLOWEEN story (GFF style).

Unsquished Squash

We managed a few pictures of some of our winter squash this season.  While it was not our best winter squash year, we managed to get a reasonable crop.  Earlier in the year, we had a much higher population of cucumber beetles than we've seen in the past.  As a result, a significant percentage of the seedlings perished as the beetles girdled the plants.  If that isn't bad enough, these insects are a vector for bacterial wilt.  So, if the plants survived being munched on, others died from disease.

Hayrack with 2011 Winter Squash
An average year on the farm has us pulling in approximately 2000 winter squash of a range of varieties.  This year, we were happy to land around 900 squash.  Like many of our crops this season, it is enough to give our CSA members some decent squash, but it does not give us the excess we plan on in order to make additional sales.  It is hard to complain.  Last year we lost our entire field of winter squash in standing water (July 2010). 

A nice mix of winter squash
Experiments in 2011
We tried a few new approaches this year (some of which were tried last year, but heavy rains 'washed' them out).

1. Starting seedlings and transplanting
We've resisted this process for a few reasons.  The extra cost is actually the least of our worries here.  It has more to do with space and time.  If you direct seed, you plant once.  If you transplant, you plant twice.  If these are in trays, you have to water daily.  But, we found the transplants did significantly better because the plants were out in the field after the stage that cucumber beetles normally girdle the plant.  (Girdling essentially happens when a critter gnaws around the stem of the plant, cutting off the vascular system)  The result?  We'll be transplanting many more of the squash, with some exceptions.  Acorn and spaghetti squash are already shorter season and seem to make it through things well enough without the extra help.

2. Squash and flower spacing
We're working on optimizing our squash and flower spacing.  We have found that nasturtiums are great to repel vine borers and it seems like our vine crops do much better with zinnias, borage, bee's friend and marigolds nearby.  We are also trying out Four O'clocks as a companion.  No solid conclusions yet, but the ideas to fine tune are coming.

New experiments for 2012
1. Mulch trials
We have ideas about weeding in between rows.  And we know where we made mistakes on that this year.  However, keeping things weeded IN ROW can be pretty difficult.  The weed pressure is way up after our last few years of difficult weather.  We will be trying paper mulch to keep weeds down for the first several weeks of growing.

Similarly, we will be trying a green mulch (cover crop between rows).  Essentially, a green mulch is where we select our weed and cultivate it like another crop.  It is critical to select a cover crop that is a good companion for the cash crop.

And, of course, the old stand-by for mulching is straw.  But, the issue here is sourcing the straw.  We don't have land to grow our own.

2. Row Cover Trial?
This one makes our list every year and it never does get high enough on the priority list to get done.  The biggest issue?  Wind.  

3. Variety Simplification with a Twist
We like having a wide variety within a crop and winter squash is not an exception.  However, our diversity is causing issues with crop and time management.  Simply put, we can't do it all.  We'll still have diverse crops, but we'll stop working with a few varieties we might like to grow, but have not shown the resilience we need.  We're sure we *can* grow them.  But, we're going to drop them until we have an improved system that works for us.  Then, we'll consider reintroducing.  

So, what's the twist?  A couple of these seem to really attract those cucumber beetles.  We might consider using them as a catch crop.  The idea of "sacrificial plants" is not new.  But, you have to ask whether the catch crop draws more critters to the area *OR* if it attracts the critters that are already there.

In our next installment, we talk about some of our winter squash varieties.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Real Faux Farm News

November 4!  You know what it is time for?  No?  I was hoping YOU did. 

Since neither of us is sure, I'll just do some stuff about the farm.

Durnik Returns
Finally, the tractor is back in our possession - and it runs better than ever.  We were able to get the rotary cutter on and found that it works very well.  We'll finish up with the rotary cutter this weekend and move on to trying the other implements, including the potato digger.

90 Feet West
One of things that is different about our farm is the movable high tunnel.  Well, we managed to get the thing moved yesterday (Thus).  Our thanks to the superhero known as Band Saw Man (Jeff S) who served as the third person necessary to move the thing.  Also thanks to Josh D for being there earlier in the day to help with some of the prep work.   And to Denis D for helping get the weeds off the tracks earlier in the week.  We've learned a few new tricks and hope it gets easier as we go.

Harvest Market
Our first Waverly Harvest Market is this Saturday (Nov 5) from 8:30 to 11:30 at the Civic Center building in Waverly.  We are planning on having some poultry with us along with a little veg and some baked goods (courtesy of Tammy).  If you wish to talk to us about the 2012 CSA season and reserve a spot, we'd be happy to see you. 

Shutting the Barn Door...
The birds are now out of the barn, but we still need to finish the room in the poultry pavilion for them.  Most of the materials in the barn have been moved out, so it is time to say good-bye to that grand ol' structure.  I don't think we fully appreciate how much its disappearance will change things here.  But, choices are limited.

Fall Extended Season CSA
Hard to believe we've already had two distributions for the Fall CSA.  So far so good!

We do still have turkeys and ducks available.  If you want one, or know someone who does, pass the word on. 

Fall Scramble
The last several years have seen the ground freeze right around Thanksgiving.  That tells us we only have a few weeks to complete a long list of things that need to happen before that time.  We still need to get the garlic into the ground and we want to seed some spinach to overwinter.  There is shoring up to do on the high tunnel before snow flies.  We need to finish the chicken room, put an overhead door on the truck barn...etc etc.  If we didn't have alot to do, we'd be lost.  We'll get as far as we get.  Then we'll try to get further.

Goat Rodeo Sessions
YoYo Ma?  Yep.  Just good music, you should try it.

Biology Class Captured
Once again, Kimran B brought her class out to see what our farm is like.  The class was lured to a farm by a nickel tour and then captured for a little bit of work.  No students or faculty were harmed in this event.  But, some good things were accomplished. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

GFF Stories: A Box of Maple

GFF Stories: A Box of Maple
[Ed. At the risk of providing too much insight into the personality of at least one of your farmers: we bring you the compelling story about a boy, a tree, a box, and a mission.  Originally published in our Feb 2008 newsletter.]
Once upon a time there lived a family who had a backyard that was filled with one too many trees. The mighty pin oak and the sprawling locust had left very little sky for the maple tree to reach into with its sparsely leaved branches. While the tree had, in fact, grown to a respectible 20 feet in height and had a 3 inch diameter trunk, it was a bit sickly and was judged to be entirely too close to the humans' abode.

The decree came down from the parents of the household that the tree should be removed. And this task fell to their first child on a fine June day. Out he marched, with a saw and a branch pruner, determined to reward the trust placed in him to do the task efficiently and thoroughly.
Taking the tree down in manageable portions, it was soon reduced to a pile of brush. But, what should he do to prepare its transport to the city brushpile? The solution came in the form of one cardboard box that was slated for disposal. This box had once held an artificial Christmas tree. What better container to use for a downed maple?

In a careful and well thought out manner, the tree was cut into lengths that were very nearly a perfect fit for the length of the box. Any side branches were cut off of each limb. As a result, all of the larger branches and the trunk were placed lenghthwise in the box. And, happily, there was still plenty of room!

In went the small branches, covered with leaves. Anything that didn't fit well was trimmed down until it did. By mid-afternoon, there was no pile in the yard, just one box - complete with a lid that fit perfectly over the contents.

Upon the father's return from work, he went to the backyard and wondered out loud where the brush from the tree had gone. His son, of course, proudly pointed to the box.

"Son," he said evenly, "have you tried to move that box yet?"

To make a long story less long - it took a makeshift ramp and both of us to wrangle the box into the vehicle. Getting it out again was only a little less difficult. To this day, I wonder if Dad didn't force the transfer of brush to other boxes just to temper the disappointment I might have felt if we had done so.