Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Adventures in Winter

Here we are, approaching the end of the year and the beginning of a new one.  And, of course, it went and got cold on us.  We really should have seen this coming.  After all, it normally gets a bit cooler in the Winter months, doesn't it?

On the other hand, it does surprise us how quickly our perspective changes with respect to temperatures.  It wasn't that long ago that we would proclaim 28 degrees F to be quite cold.  But, now that we've experienced colder temps, we think it is quite nice to go outside and work in it.  I think Tammy is more disturbed than I am when I look at the forecast and say things like: "Hey!  The high on (Xday) will be near 20.  That should be pretty nice."

Sun after ice fog always provides for good photo opportunities
It got downright balmy a few days ago with temperatures above freezing and some nice sunshine.  So, what do we do on the farm when *that* happens? 

In this case, we took the opportunity to water the spinach and kale we are overwintering in the high tunnel.  While we were at it, we did some weeding and bed prep for early spring planting.  Then we put the winter blanket on the spinach and kale.  It was nice outside, but we could remove jackets inside the high tunnel.  We won't complain.

While we were at it, the hen room got some cleaning done and the bedding went into an area where we'll cover crop the field for the summer.

Cardinals and snow go together
We've had the normal gathering of juncos and sparrows on the farm.  There are a couple of downy woodpeckers and a nuthatch here and there as well.  But, we were quite pleased to witness a good sized flock of cardinals the past few days.  They didn't want the person wielding the camera to get too close, but we still managed to catch one of them in a picture.  It's enough to make us consider putting out a feeder with some sunflower seed.

And speaking of juncos, they do have a tendency to get into outbuildings when we open a door and then bounce themselves off a window trying to get back out.  I kept trying to tell one particular junco to calm itself and just go out the HUGE garage door that was open instead of beating its little head on the window pane.  It didn't listen, so I had to go and get it.  We're pretty certain it is telling its flock about the scary red-hatted guy that grabbed it and tossed it out the door.  Honest, I was trying to help. 

Seeds still attached to the trees collected some ice crystals
During one of the 'warmer' days, we spent some time reorganizing the truck barn so the truck could actually get parked in it.  What a novel concept!  On the other hand, our farm reminds us of one of those old tinker's carts.  Pull a string and it explodes into a full-out display of all of the wares the tinker has for sale.  When it's time to go, it all packs back up so it can be taken elsewhere.  In our case, the farm isn't going anywhere, but we do tend to pack things up to get as much as we can under cover for the winter.  Once Spring comes, it will be a bit like a minor explosion as we pull things out for use.

Always fun to see what frost will cling to
On the other hand, most days have been pretty cold.  But, that doesn't mean we don't do things outside on the farm.  When temps get below zero, we need to check for eggs multiple times a day to avoid losing eggs to freezing.  And, of course, we need to frequently check to be sure waterers have not frozen shut.  We learned the hard way to stop using the outdoor faucet to fill buckets when it didn't get closed all the way one night.  The constant drip overnight resulted in saturated soil by the house and a nice puddle in the basement.

While that wasn't entirely a product of the cold weather, we can tell you that it is cold enough that if you spill water on your pant leg it will freeze almost immediately.  It felt a little bit like wearing baseball catcher shin guards for a few moments there.


A milkweed pod gathered some ice fog as well.
We spent time on one of the coldest days putting up plastic around the hen room in an effort to hold in the heat they generate.  When days get nicer, we open up the door to give them the option to go outside.  In general, they don't take it.  Instead, they look at us and say something like, "What were you thinking?  I don't do this white stuff.  Shut the door, it's drafty!"

We're soft-hearted, so the outdoor cats (Mrranda, Sandman and Cubbie) all get to come into the basement of the house when temps get down into the -10 degrees F range at night.  We figure they can chase the mice down there for a bit.  When they aren't in the basement, they find ways to get in the way whenever we want to work outside.  What can we say?  They're cats.

To finish up this blog post, we should mention one absurdity that one of the people who purchases eggs noticed yesterday.  The temps were cold, but our eggs were in coolers.  That isn't so odd, since a cooler can insulate and keep things a bit warmer for longer.  However, they noted the ice pack in the cooler as well. 

All we can say is this - we're required to keep eggs cold.  If the coolers ride in the car with us, we intend on heating the car.  As a result, we throw an icepack in the cooler for the times the cooler and eggs might be in the heated part of the car or in a heated building while we deliver.  But still, we have to agree that the use of an ice pack in December seems to be a bit of a redundancy when the outdoor cooling system is working so well.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Joy to the World?

Some time ago, I read Mike Madison's Blythe Tomato.  The book is a wonderful insight into the life of a person who is dedicated to growing food for others.  There are reflections on farming, farmers' markets and the people who grow things as well as their perceptions of those who buy produce from them.  It may be time for me to pull this book out and give parts of it a read again.  The book consists of a series of chapters that need not be read sequentially, nor does the book need to be read in its entirety to appreciate it.

One of the observations the author makes is that if there was one thing that he could be criticized for, it would be a lack of joy.  I do not think he was implying unhappiness, nor do I think Madison was trying to indicate that he was unable to appreciate all manner of good things.  But, I do understand the feeling that comes from pouring oneself into something and finding that you may not have the energetic capacity for joy.  Working on a small farm can wear on a person.

Re-learning our ability to appreciate the beauty of Winter
Things on a farm such as ours simply do not go 'as planned' and require constant adjustments.  As a result, you learn not to get too attached to mental pictures of how things should be.  In fact, I've found that I have adjusted my expectations and worked to temper my feelings about failures and successes simply because failure is an integral part of the farm.  And, if you take failure too personally, no amount of success seems to balance those shortcomings out.  The net result is that you may find yourself less able to feel stronger positive emotions simply because you mute the strong negatives to keep yourself functional on the farm. 

Nothing says Christmas to a northerner like snow covered evergreens.

But does this mean I am unhappy?  Does it mean I don't appreciate good people?  Beauty?  Friendship?  Of course, not.  In some ways, I think I recognize good things better than I used too and I use the power of these things to keep me moving when the rest of my life isn't going as planned.  I reframe failures as "results that were not what we hoped for" and proceed to make lemonade.

So, is this a lack of joy?  Or is this a new kind of joy?  Instead of a momentary quick burn of happiness that provides a warm glow, it is a consistent warmth that carries me through and takes the edge off of the chill.  It reminds me to be grateful and points me to the things that keep me happy and interested in all that life offers.



Am I always happy?  Of course not.  But, I have learned ways to find happiness. 

I think most of us have the capacity to change our moods for the better.  Sometimes we just have to make an effort to be less enamored with our self-pity and more willing to be attracted to laughter and contentment.


This field wasn't supposed to be grassy weeds.  That wasn't the plan.  But, we had good friends join us in an attempt to free the broccoli and onions.  Did it save some of the crops?  Yes.  Did some of the crops still fail?  Yes. Do we still remember the positive feelings we got by having these good people come work with us for an afternoon?  Always.


And when the cold overwhelms, think warmer thoughts.
Here's to the joy of good friends and family
...to the joy of a job well done
...to the perfect Black Krim tomato in August
...to farm fresh eggs in the morning
...to native bees buzzing around in the wild asters
...to friendly farm cats that want to 'help' with whatever you are doing
...to people who are interested in local foods and who support local growers
...to cardinals in the tree outside our window
...to opportunities to see nature and work in it
...to plans that come to fruition - just as we envisioned them

and the chance to turn lemons into lemonade.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

In the News

GFF has been in the news lately and we've had a few people ask if there were links to some of the other instances.  So, we thought we'd do our best to locate and place the links here for the interested.

On December 14, the Waterloo Courier ran a very good story on our farm in response to our entry in the Dream Big, Grow Here contest.  We've received numerous positive comments and we'd like to applaud Jim Offner and Matthew Putney (photos) for their efforts.  Well done.



There was also a concise story that ran after the 'pitch off' that explains pretty well what the Dream Big, Grow Here contest is and how it works.  And, the Waverly paper also put an item out there after this contest.

Earlier this past year, Growing Magazine published an article by Tamara Scully that featured our SARE grant funded work on intercropping.  We've continued our efforts along these lines with a new SARE grant that continues into 2014 and hope for a more moderate start to the season so we can get results that reach a greater level of completion.

Somehow, we missed this 2011 article regarding the Waverly Community Gardens.  It is not specifically about our farm, but it does include some of our role in working to get those gardens going that year.  We're pleased to say that they seem to be producing a good amount of food for those who need it in the Cedar Valley


Speaking of 2011, we were also part of an enjoyable story  along with our Gang of Four farm members by Josh Dolezal (photos by Mark Tade) in the Iowan.  The story, in a way, was a nice way to reflect on what our each of our farms do and how we are interconnected.

A couple of years ago, we were involved in a group discussion that was filmed for the HBO Weight of the Nation series.  While we only show up in one of the short films ever so briefly, it was still a valuable experience for us to discuss the difficulties of farming with our peers.  And, the resulting film, we think, illustrates the problem and provides some reasonable ideas to being encouraging societal change.

And, our high tunnel build field day in 2010 resulted in a few articles here and there.  Among them is this nice piece by Jean Caspers-Simmet in AgriNews.  And a nice picture post in the Practical Farmers of Iowa blog showed up the same month.  And we even appear in an article in the Waterloo-Courier as far back as 2008.  And, we even show up in the Wartburg College Magazine in an article by Karris Golden in 2007. 



It is always instructional to re read these articles.  We see some things that might have changed in what we believe, but usually it is our ability to concisely explain our vision to others that has changed the most.  Our approach to describing what we do and our choices in how we represent our farm have evolved in part because these articles can show us where we may not be explaining ourselves as well as we should.  There is nothing like reading someone else's interpretation of what you said to encourage you to work on how you say things.

Regardless of this, it is both flattering and humbling to think that our story is worthy of attention. It is a reminder that what we do and how we do it is important and therefore, it is necessary that we continue to do what we do to the best of our abilities.

Here's to our prior work on the farm and to our future efforts!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Best Medicine 2013

A "year in review" of humor in the blog was started last year, so we thought we'd treat you to the same for this season.  There are two categories.  Line of the Year may appear in any type of post.  Needless to say, it may actually encompass more than one sentence/line.  Hey, it's out blog, we can use whatever rules we want!  Post of the year was selected for the perceived entertainment value.  Of course, entertainment value is subjective.  And, since the farmer and his lovely bride were the only two judges, you can feel free to comment and correct our flawed insight!  

If you wish to read any of the posts that have been highlighted here, feel free to take the links provided.

Previous Best Medicine posts are linked here:  2012, 2011, 2010, 2009
============================================
CATEGORY - LINE OF THE YEAR
============================================

LINE OF THE YEAR - HONORABLE MENTION
...do you think there is a market in "pre-tested" zucchini?  The hardest part would be trying to figure out how to attractively package this product.

What?  I was thinking about zucchini with a bite taken out of each one.  What were you thinking?!? 

From Counting Pre Tested Zucchini from August 5

LINE OF THE YEAR - HONORABLE MENTION
The confusing part - what's an eight year old doing thinking he's being taunted about urine testing?  Is it possible he was worried about the spate of PED's in playground dodgeball?

From An Earful or Just a Full Ear from August 16

LINE OF THE YEAR - HONORABLE MENTION
Subject appears to have limited language ability.  Has attempted to respond to "crowd gobbles."  Enunciation is terrible.

 From Uncovered Documents from Ima Turkey from December 3


LINE OF THE YEAR - HONORABLE MENTION
You are part of the Rebel Alliance and a traitor. Take him away!

 From If This Doesn't Require a Caption... from March 14

LINE OF THE YEAR - RUNNER UP
So, I grabbed a cat and rubbed it around for a while on the inside of the truck... at least it was getting attention.

From One of THOSE Days - October 16

LINE OF THE YEAR:
The dump truck for M Van Winkle Construction looked like it hadn't moved in quite a while.

From Stream of Conscious Traveling - January 7

========================================================
CATEGORY - POST OF THE YEAR
========================================================

POST OF THE YEAR - HONORABLE MENTION
Sandman "helped" me pick Green Zebra tomatoes.
Sandman: "Mew. prrrrrrrrr"
Farmer Rob: "Hello Sandman.  Please get out of the tote, I need to put tomatoes there."
S: "prrrrrrrr"
R ***lifts cat out of tote*** :  yes, you're nice, now stay out of the tote.
R ***picks some tomatoes***
S ***steps back into tote*** : "Mew. prrrrrr"
R ***turning to put tomatoes into tote***: "Sandman - stop that, I need to use the tote."
***removes cat and turns to pick more tomatoes***
S ***steps back into tote*** : "MEW! PRRRRRRRRR!"
R: Sigh.

From One of THOSE Days - October 16


POST OF THE YEAR - HONORABLE MENTION
On the other hand, sales of baby swordfish are strictly regulated.  Persons who have a history of using voodoo dolls or those who failed their Ankare Management courses would not be able to make purchases.
From Don't Mess With Tradition - April 2

POST OF THE YEAR - HONORABLE MENTION
gutter ball - roll a snowball and one kitten runs to YOU to be given attention and the other one cleans herself...

From Winter Games - January 9

POST OF THE YEAR - HONORABLE MENTION
I never meant to be so bad to you  
One thing I said that I would never do 
Fresh veg from you that I would not waste
And that would put the smile back on my my face

From More Song Lyrics by A Man With A Hat - March 7

POST OF THE YEAR - HONORABLE MENTION
It wasn't until many years later that the blight that caused the crop failure was discovered.
From No Eggplant for You - December 5


POST OF THE YEAR - HONORABLE MENTION
It said, "You're ok, if you slip, you just open your wings and fly."

The farmers did not find this at all helpful.

From Falls in Winter  - December 2


POST OF THE YEAR - RUNNER UP
We have noisy neighbors.  They're kind of weird, "Almost a Turkeys".

From The World According to Jake - October 29


POST OF THE YEAR
Now the farmers, workers, cats, chickens, ducks, turkeys and earthworms understood how the HAAAACK got its name.  None of them were pleased to have learned this.

From the "Oh Well" Saga - part I, part II and part III - June 7 - June 27
=====================================================

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Farmer's Dream

I don't know if others will admit it, but this farmer has been known to daydream at times when he is doing a repetitive farm task.  After all, weeding 200 feet of *pick your favorite veg* requires only a portion of the brain power available once you get into it.  And, if you are the only one in the field at that time, it's a decent way to deal with the task.

Sometimes, I picture what a "perfect" year on the farm would be like.  All the time I am doing this, I fully realize a few things:
1. There is likely no such thing as a "perfect" year if you think it means no work, no failures, no struggle and no disappointments.
2. Each year is different and each may bring a new definition of what would make a year "perfect."
3. The vision of perfection may serve only as a way to measure how far we are getting to what we strive for on the farm. 

The Farmer's Dream

A perfect year has fields that look amazingly like the plans we put down on paper in Winter.  The rows are straight, the plants look healthy and uniform, the weeds are missing and the day begs you to go out and work in the field.

Some broccoli rows that look pretty darned clean!
The fences go up in a timely fashion and stay up even during windy days.  The vines that are supposed to grow up them do so and the weeds that aren't supposed to insinuate themselves into the fence stay away.  The difficult to weed crops (such as carrots) are weeded or easily weeded.

We won't frame this picture, but weeded carrots are a big accomplishment.

The mulch is placed just in time and the plants respond well to the treatment.  The straw doesn't result in a bunch of weed seed sprouts later in the year and it adds some nice organic matter to the soil.  We have enough extra to place a nice bed of straw between rows so the farmer can kneel in it while picking the harvest later on.
Tomatoes fully mulched, next up - cages!

Rows are planted straight to help with the laying drip, later cultivation and weeding.  The seedlings all take and very few succumb to disease or pests.

Cucumber transplants with drip line next to them.

The equipment is reliable and any breakdown is quickly remedied.  The tools are used no more or no less than they should be and the resulting effort reminds you why you acquired the equipment in the first place. 

Tyler gives Durnik a workout

New tool additions are used successfully and the learning curve is climbed without major meltdowns by the farmer (or whomever is using the tool on the farm).  By the end of the season, the farmer feels the return on investment for the tool will be accomplished in a relatively short period of time.

the Williams Tool Bar was a significantly positive addition this season.

The farm is able to employ technologies that don't consume as many non-renewable resources as other technologies might.  And, amazingly, the technologies work and do their job.

The wax cylinder openers for the high tunnel vents were a big win.

The young plants are healthy and prepare to bear fruit.  The farmers see the promise of future crops and begin to feel confident that something will be harvested.  A walk through the fields is a pleasure as they represent current and future returns for hard work and consistent efforts.

A young zucchini plant begins to flower

Critters on the farm are safe and healthy.  We're never sure it is safe to say that they are happy since we don't know what the definition of happy is for a duck, but they do a pretty good job of indicating when they are NOT happy.

Ducklings love their water.

And the flowers on the farm are not obscured by weeds and they reward us with glimpses of beauty that make us slow down for a minute and smile.

And it stinks pretty too!

And the efforts to keep our soil healthy and provide habitat for pollinators and natural predators pay off.  The cover crops take off rapidly and cover the soil, choking out some of the nastier weeds that hurt our crops and adding nitrogen, or phosphorous or other good things back to our soil.

Buckwheat in bloom.

The flowers and cover crops are covered in pollinators of all sorts.  Our flower plantings and herb plantings are covered in native bees, lady bugs, katydids and other beneficial insects.  Spiders, toads, snakes, frogs and other predators keep things in balance for us.

Bumblebee on sedum.

And the flower rows we put in our fields do as well as the crops, adding their visual appeal to the benefits they bring to our diverse environment on the farm.

Herbs and their flowers are great for native bees.
Our little innovations, sometimes the product of a year or more of scheming and thinking, actually come to fruition.  And, amazingly, work.


It's a small thing, but this worked great for drip tape this year.

And, some of the things we know we need to do to make life better on the farm actually get done.  And, amazingly, they work too.

Fold up ladder roosts are great for the laying flock.

In fact, it is often the lower tech solutions that give some of the best results.  Which, of course, means that we don't have to rely on off-farm solutions.  A farm that can solve many of its own problems is always part of the dream.

Raised beds paid off in 2013.

And the farmers get exercise some of their creativity and have a little fun. 

Cool T-shirt!  Anyone want one?

The farmers even get a chance now and again to stop, reflect, relax and enjoy the life they build on the farm.  And, if they fail to do this, they have critters on the farm that remind them that there is something positive to be had during those moments.

Sandman knows what to do on hot days.

And the long term plantings begin to give fruit with promises for even more in the future.
2013 was the first for a decent amount of apples on the farm.

And the plants grow and continue to show the farmers the potential for delicious future meals - both for themselves and for others.  The anticipation is exciting rather than frustrating.

There weren't many of these on the farm this year.  This one essentially was a volunteer.
The crops exceed expectations and the farmers and workers get to pick without a worry about meeting the demand for the produce.  The quality and taste is exceptional and the farmers are proud to offer what they have grown to all of the good people who enjoy the food they produce.

Chinese cabbage was a good crop in 2013.
The farmers are able to grow a wide variety of each crop, accounting for different tastes and needs.  The produce begs to have its picture taken.

These Cocazelle zucchini asked that the farmer take their picture.
The harvests are bountiful.  Even those that the farmers worried about at the beginning of the year pull through with excellent harvests.  And, those that will store, store well so that people can enjoy excellent produce into the Winter months.


An excellent garlic harvest.


Good people work on the farm with us, either as paid workers or volunteers.  Groups of curious and positive people come to visit the farm and enjoy what it has to offer.  Dedicated and wonderful folks receive our produce and happily put it to good use.

Feeding the chickens


And, every so often, there is a sunset or sunrise that causes the farmers to stop and admire it.

One of our 2013 sunsets

This blog post was written in part because I realized that we had all of these pictures from this season that fit into our dream.  Was 2013 perfect?  Of course not!  There were many struggles, failures and imperfections.  The ducks did not remain healthy for us this year and many of our flower beds were overrun by weeds.  Some crops did not do nearly as well as we wanted.  The Spring weather was incredibly difficult for us.  And yet, many of the components for the "perfect" season were there, just as they likely are every season. 

We just have to look to see them.  And upon seeing them, recognize them for what they are - a part of the perfect season that was this season.

Warts and all.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Goals - It's About Reaching for Them - Part II

In our first installment of reflecting on farm goals for the past season, we looked at hopes for the broccoli crop and for the communications with our CSA members.

The second installment covers two other items.

3. Tomatoes, Early and Often

Last January, we asked for input on what people would like to have happen with the CSA crops and this was one of the responses.  I copied the goal list directly from the post linked above.

Our goals for 2013?
- at least 2000 lbs of tomatoes for our CSA members
- 5000 lbs total of marketable tomatoes (this includes amount above)
- production of tomatoes from July into October
- 30 varieties of tomatoes

We pulled in approximately 3000 pounds of tomatoes from the field and somewhere around 450 pounds from the high tunnel.  Thus, were able to reach our first goal, but were a good ways short of the second.  We had 32 varieties on the farm, so that was also met.

On the other hand, everything started late this year.  We were lucky to get any tomatoes in August, much less July.

Italian Heirloom tomatoes

In the end, we still provided tomatoes to our CSA members for 8+ weeks of the season since we went very deep into October with them.   This is acceptable, even if it didn't follow our schedule.  Mother Nature doesn't typically care what our plans are anyway.  But, this season was part of the motivation for looking at a second high tunnel building.  Provided we can get it ordered, delivered, ground prepped and building up by the end of April, we should be able to accomplish getting tomatoes into a high tunnel EARLY next season.  We're anxious to see what they can do given a full season.

4. Building Goals

Every year we have goals that have something to do with our buildings, or improving the property in various ways.  We try to predict what we will have resources to do and what the season will pressure us to complete.  And, as usual, we are not entirely correct in our pre-season estimates.

Things we had on our list for 2013 were:
- New room in the Poultry Pavilion for the hens completed.
- Brooder room in the Poultry Pavalion
- Fence around hen pasture complete
- Fence around turkey pasture complete
- Porch on back of house OR bathroom upstairs in house
- New windows we purchased some time ago into house (this takes care of only a portion of our windows, but you have to do what you can do).
- Take barn down
- More mobile poultry buildings
- Walk in Cooler

The HAAAACK prepares to make a mess.

There was one thing that was NOT on that list that immediately became a priority ONE item.  A new well for the farm.  Drat.  Needless to say, the priority list changed drastically after that.
The hens approve of the fence.
 The hen room was completed, as was the fence for the hens.  We got the windows put in and we made more mobile poultry buildings.  All in all, we did fine.  But, a number of projects were set back a bit because of the unforeseen.  We'll come up with a new list for 2014 and see how many we can knock off the list this time around!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

No Eggplant For You!

Tammy's mother, Sue, is fond of growing nice, big, purple eggplants. These fruits are often the key ingredient for Eggplant Parmesan, one of her favorite dishes. But, as is so often the case, Mom's dish of choice is NOT appreciated by all members of the family.

Black King eggplant
Tammy likes vegetables. Remember, it was Tammy who had to encourage Rob to eat more veg? So, who was sad this year when the eggplant crop was poor? It wasn't Tammy! The mere suggestion that we grow some eggplants was enough to make her question someone's sanity (guess who?). In fact, Rob's winning argument for growing eggplant in the garden several years ago went something like this:
"Hey, we won't have to feel bad about selling all of the eggplant we grow since we won't want to eat them anyway!"
Even more amazing than this is the fact that Rob found out he kind of liked eggplant - much to Tammy's horror!

Listada de Gandia

Rosa Bianca


We tell you all of this as a prelude to this GFF story:
=======================================================
 
Some years ago in the Zenk garden, Mom and Dad, with their two lovely daughters, worked to plant their vegetable garden for the year. The asparagus was already sending up spears and the mulch had been tilled in. They would plant a little bit of everything, just as they did most years. There would be beans and tomatoes, oregano and garlic, onions and ... eggplant.
When you are kid, there may be no greater injustice than to have to care for a plant that produces something you do NOT want to eat.  It is one thing to have to weed the garden, or pick the beans or dig the potatoes and yet another to have anything to do with one of the banes of your existence.  In Tammy's case, that bane came in the form of the eggplant.
The garden grew. The plants in the garden were, in general, healthy. The crops were being harvested and consumed. The eggplants grew tall, with green, healthy foliage.  In fact, it was noted by the rest of the family that these might have been the biggest, lushest eggplant plants they'd ever had in the garden.  But, for some strange reason that year, the eggplants were not blooming. And, without a bloom, there would be no fruit.
Tammy rejoiced.
What could the problem be? Too much water? Too little water? Was there some sort of disease that needed to be diagnosed? There was discussion about this, of course. And, some amount of disappointment that there would be no eggplant parmesan. But, in the end, the crop failure was attributed to either bad seed or just a strange year.  After all, the rest of the garden did well.  There was no shortage of fresh food for the family.
A year without eggplant parmesan.  Again, Tammy rejoiced.

It wasn't until many years later that the blight that caused the crop failure was discovered. And now that we've had a number of years experience growing crops on the farm, we can attest to a long list of possible causes for production failures.  If someone would have described this situation to me now, I might have been tempted to ask questions about how much fertilizer they had put on their garden.  Often a crop such as eggplant that grows bigger and greener than usual without fruit has too much nitrogen.  But, in the end, all of my answers would have been guesses and they would have been wrong.

In any event, we mentioned that the reason for the crop failure was discovered years later.  Or should we say, the culprit confessed? 

A plant that has its flowers pruned diligently will tend to continue to grow bigger and produce more leaves.  We also know that a child who is aware that
a) flowers on an eggplant plant will turn into fruit
b) eggplant fruit will become eggplant parmesan
and
c) said child wishes to avoid eating eggplant parmesan

the result will be a motivated child.

We also now know that a kid can be successful in making sure that every flower is picked off of an eggplant plant before they turn to fruit.

But, Tammy forgot something.  Other people grow eggplant.  And Mom can always buy an eggplant from them.  Oops.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Travelog

The farmers return to the farm after a much needed break.  Our thanks to Tammy's parents for the opportunity to gather with family on the island of Kauai.  It was a rare opportunity that we would not likely have provided for ourselves and we are grateful.

We thought we'd share some of the pictures of our travels.  So, here they are!  We're pleased to have had the chance to be in a position to see these things in person.

We spent some nights in a cabin in the Koke'e State Park.  As a result, it was easy for us to revisit various sites depending on the time of day, amount of sunshine, etc.  The Kalalau Lookout and Pu'u o kila Lookout both overlook the Kalalau Valley.   We found that there were very few people there at both ends of the day, which we found attractive.
Kalalau Valley in the morning.
The Kalalau Valley is often covered with clouds or fog, so getting some of the views we were able to have was a bonus.  But, we're pretty sure a big part of it was our being around the area more than most.  Many who visit the island run from location to location and get one shot at the viewpoint.

We were treated to a fantastic sunset from the same lookout.  But, you have to face West (yes, yes, that IS where the sun goes down at night).  The 'normal' overlook faces North.  But, we did get to see the sun sink into the sea.  Now we know where it goes at the end of the day.  Something has to keep the waters warm you know.

Evening colors West from Kalalau Lookout
One of the most amazing things about Kauai is the colors.  We enjoyed the different pallet the sunset provided.  And, it was an odd feeling to be looking out over the ocean and feel like you were looking DOWN at the clouds.

From the Kalalau Lookout
We were also fortunate to take a good hike on the Napali Coast (this time from the Northeast side - Koke'e is Northwest).   Unlike the trails in Koke'e, there was much more rock - making it ideal for turning ankles.  Happily we avoided that.  Koke'e trails had more roots and stumps in the way.

Napali Coast - you don't have to be much of a photographer
We took the two mile hike down to the beach from the entry point.  This beach can only be reached by hiking or, we suppose, helicopter.  We were surprised by how many people took this hike.  It was especially strange since there were relatively few on some of the Koke'e hikes.

Hanakapi'ai Beach/River
Of course, there are waterfalls on the island.  And, you could read our prior post Fall(s) in Winter if you want to read about the farmers trip to Waipo'o Falls.  Some of these falls have easier viewpoints, such as the one shown below.

Opaeka'a Falls
Wait. What?  You want to see more of the Napali Coast?  Oh.  Ok.


As we mentioned, it wasn't always sunny up at Koke'e State Park.  One of our morning treks featured fog/clouds.  But, it also provided some interesting chances a pictures.  That, and we enjoyed watching things clear as the sun came up in the morning.

Amazing what trees can grow in.
We did travel down to where the Waimea River emptied into the ocean.  Just inland a little way was a neat swinging bridge.  Of course, we had to walk on it.  That' why it is there, right?

Swinging bridge over the Waimea River
Speaking of Waimea and the Waimea Canyon, we spent a fair amount of time in that area.  It is aptly nicknamed the 'Grand Canyon of the Pacific.'  It's on the dry side of the island and the colors are spectacular here as well.  We visited the overlooks more than once and took some interesting hikes.

Waimea Canyon on Kauai
And, we made sure to take our time at each viewpoint.  I suppose you could say we were looking for interesting photo opportunities and you would be partially correct.  We enjoyed having the camera along, of course.  But, we like to use it to help us enjoy more of what we are seeing.  We witnessed numerous people who barreled in to a spot, snapped quick pictures and zipped out.  Our feeling is that they could have just gotten a calendar for a couple of dollars and got the same thing out of their time.  On the other hand, the majority of the people who came to view Waimea Canyon were taken aback by its beauty.  Perhaps they couldn't stay as long as we were able, but at least they had some appreciation for what they were seeing.

Another angle of the Waimea Canyon
Since we farm, we were also intrigued by the taro fields on Kauai.  Taro is a traditionally grown crop that actually also serves an important role for avian habitat on the island.  Since this is the case, the state actually encourages taro farming.  It's just one case where you actually can work with nature some and come to an understanding. 

Taro fields require flooding for growth.
 We visited as much of the island as we were able and took pictures when it seemed like it was a good idea.  Typically, if you go to Spouting Horn, you take pictures of the spout.  We did that, of course, but the best picture from here is below.

Volcanic rock beach at Spouting Horn
We also went to the Western part of the island and visited Polihale State Park (also known as Barking Sands).

Makaha Ridge
 It is our understanding that it can get pretty windy there, but it was reasonably calm while we were there.  To get there, you have to drive on a road that is not maintained, so we didn't go much faster than 15 miles an hour for a stretch.  But, we enjoyed the wave watching and the deep sands there.  If we had it to do over again, we might budget more time to experience the area better.
Wave watching at Polihale
 Ok, we realize that this post is getting long.  But, we wanted to share some of our pictures with everyone.  We aren't doing this to show off, but to illustrate how much we appreciated the chance to do this.  It may seem as if we were hyper and ran everywhere, but those who know us understand that we like to take our time at places.

View from Kilauea Point
Kauai was full of deep, rich colors.  Sometimes we took pictures like the one above to capture them as best as we could.  And, we had opportunities to take a few flower pictures as well.

We took the next picture near the swinging bridge.  In many ways, it reminded me of an early Summer picture in the Midwest.  Until you look more carefully at the plants and realize you won't see them around here.

Crossing on the Waimea River
And, just to show you that we also visited the East side of the island, we also did a little wave watching at Lydgate park near Kapa'a.
Lydgate Park (East side of the island)
We hope you enjoyed our travelog.  It was enjoyable to look at some of the pictures and think about our experiences.  We may (or may not) put more on our blog.  If you want to see more, we will share a bit more.  But, we also realize that the pictures mean more when you have the experience that goes along with them.