Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Flower Tour

We have many flowers blooming at the farm right now.  We use our camera to document what happens in the fields, but we also enjoy trying to take decent pictures of some of the flowers we are lucky enough to see on a daily basis.

Granted, most of our picture taking consists of grabbing the camera and pointing/shooting for 5 minutes in the hopes that something will work out.  But, when the subject matter is good, the photographer need not be.

See if you can figure some of these out.  Most are day lilies of different types. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A July "Picture This"

Every once in a while, we have a batch of pictures we can share.  Sadly, Rob is not feeling as creative as he did when the "Oh Well" series was created.  So, we'll just have to show a few pictures and explain a bit about what you're seeing.  Just don't be too upset if a photo gets reused on a day when the creative juices are flowing again!

We have young apple trees that are just old enough to start bearing fruit.  Looks like we'll have a few this year.  Tammy and I tend to eat a decent number of apples through the Fall and Winter, so this is a welcome sight for us.

The marjoram and oregano are blooming.  If you click on this picture to enlarge it, you might see the bee towards the bottom left.  These plants were "a-buzz" with bee activity this evening. Also a very welcome sight.

We do still have broilers available for sale.  This is what they looked like before we took them to the 'Park'.  The average weight is somewhere in the 4.6lb area.  We feel that's a decent size.  The fact that these birds are no longer on the farm is a.... um.. .welcome ... unsight?

But, wait, we can't do just one batch of broilers.  So, this is the 'brooder' for the next batch.   Yes, there are chicks in that small shelter.  A working brooder is welcome.  Even if it is unsightly.
Anyone who grows carrots will tell you that they are one of the most difficult to weed.  And here is what two rows of carrots look like when weeded.  This is a sight for sore eyes.  And that is welcome.
The ducks are out in the North area of the farm.  We have been steadily losing ducks to mysterious causes and are down from 45 birds to roughly 20.  The culprit are those little blackflies.  Apparently, they carry a parasite that is deadly for ducks (and turkeys).  We're investigating whether we have any solution for the problem.  Every year there is something.  This is just one of the things for this year.
A high tunnel with healthy looking produce is quite the sight to behold and we hope it is welcome to all.  In the center are green beans with small peppers immediately to the right.  We had to put up a divider fence to keep the beans from running over the peppers.  Tomatoes on the right, cucumbers further right and rosemary furthest right.  Left are more peppers and more beans. 
Portable poultry pagodas still have to be heavy enough so they don't blow away in a breeze.  So, having access to a tractor and a hayrack is welcomed when a building has to move a bit.  This building moved from the northeast corner of the farm and became our brooder unit.  Moving it was a bit of a sight, I guess.  It slowed a couple of cars on the road down at least.
We've been mulching and now caging the tomatoes.  This picture is a bit surprising since it isn't all that old and it does NOT represent what these plants look like now.  Rob and Rachel did all of the pruning on these plants.  If you have pruned tomatoes, you know your hands are quite a sight afterwards (which is not welcomed - but the results gained with the tomatoes is).  Hands get stained a very deep green black.  It takes a good bit of scrubbing to remove it.
Finally, that pile of dirt has been moved to fill various holes in the ground and then spread out to allow us to move perennial flowers from the 'wild zone' in the Southwest corner of the farm.  The weedy pile of dirt that was there was an eyesore.  So, changing the situation was....yes...you are now getting the idea.....   Welcome.
Tammy was wondering about these peas.  They just weren't producing what they were supposed to produce.  We were trying to figure out what happened.  Happily, the seed company just sent a note explaining that there were some issues with the seed and that the genetics were wrong.  This explained the issue.  The bad news - not likely to harvest any of this.  That's 200 feet of snow peas that aren't.  The good news?  We now know that it wasn't US that messed up.
We'll pick the last of the lettuce form the raised beds this week.  Now we have to figure out what to put in there next.
Stargazer lilies are one of our favorite Oriental types.  And, of course, we have lots of day lilies on the farm.  If our eyes are getting sore.....we look at these.
The Southwest field was the one that was planted (in part) during the Iris Fest/Tom Sawyer Day.  The bigger plants in this picture be them!  And we have been harvesting them over the past few weeks.  Three cheers!
Then, there is this field.  That's the pepper field.  Most of the peppers are gone (due to rabbit and deer).  That's a lot of work down the drain.  Ah well.
Oh look!  A pile of wood.  What a sight!
Oh look!  A new window.  Now we can see the pile of wood better!

We hoped you enjoyed the picture fest.  It was brought to you by the letters
and F x 2

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Broilers Available
We have about 70 broilers still available for sale.  http://www.genuinefauxfarm.com/surveys/chickenorder.html
We realize the form does not include additional delivery dates beyond July 18.  That does NOT mean we won't find ways to get them to you.  Just select other and indicate to us in comments when you would like them (and how you would like to pick them up).  Options include pickup at either CSA distribution or the farm.

Waverly Members - Grass Clippings?
We are maintaining a few small plots at the Waverly Community Gardens as part of our efforts to get things into the ground when everything was so wet at the farm.  These plots are on sandy soil, so they dry out quickly.  If anyone mows their lawn and catches the clippings, we could use this as mulch.  However - we can't have any chemicals used on the lawn for the clippings to work.  If you think you can help, please let us know.

Dan Specht
 We have connections to many other farmers in Iowa through Practical Farmers of Iowa.  One such person I wish I could say I knew better was Dan Specht.  Dan had the heart and soul of a farmer that believed in doing things in a way that honored nature and supported community.  And, he believed in sharing his knowledge with others.

Sadly, Dan passed away recently as a result of a farming accident.  I post this here for three reasons.  First, this man deserves our respect to the honest and caring way he went about farming.  If more farmers approached their tasks the same way, the world would be a far better place.  Second, it is a reminder to me that we need to stay alert and careful on our own farm.   And third, it encourages us to continue to find a way to make this farm work in the best way we know how.

Aerial Spray Season is Approacheth

We are entering spray season in the country.  Needless to say, this has both of us a little bit nervous.  For those who are new this season, our farm was sprayed by an aerial sprayer on July 27 last year.  The West half of the farm had pesticides and fungicides sprayed on it that resulted in our having to pick, record and throw all crops from that portion of the farm.  Therefore, we are perhaps a bit jumpier about this than we might normally be.

    For those who asked what they could do for us last year, the time is here.  We'll try to put something on the blog about this.  But, in short:
     1. if you witness any overspray by aerial sprayers onto bike paths, roadways, non-crop properties (like your lawn at the edge of town), be prepared to make note of the time and date and the field they appeared to be spraying.  Contact the State of Iowa Pesticide Bureau and file a complaint.  They might send someone to test for residues, but they are understaffed.  Either way, these events need to be recorded to establish a need for change.
2.  you should also be prepared to report spray drift problems from ground spray.  This is especially true if the applicator is spraying on a windy day.
3.  Digital pictures are not a bad idea of these events.
4.  If you are the sort that likes to write - a short letter to the editor to whatever papers you feel comfortable with could be useful.  We don't want you to focus on us.  Instead, we'd like to see people focus on wanting some change.  By saying nothing - or saying "it's Iowa, that's just the way it is here" we are implying approval of these actions - including those taken by some irresponsible chemical application professionals.  Try not to attack anyone in the process.  Instead, we should focus on what these chemicals, when improperly applied can do to all of us AND that we want applicators to be extremely careful and respectful.  Of course, Tammy and I would love to see the use of chemicals decline significantly, but that may cloud the issue too much.  The issue is that we've seen a trend of increasingly sloppy use of chemicals that are created to kill.  We need to stop that first.  Then, we can address the rest.

Crunchy Bok Choy Slaw  (from eatingwell.com)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 cups very thinly sliced bok choy, (about a 1-pound head, trimmed)
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
Whisk vinegar, oil, sugar, mustard and salt in a large bowl until the sugar dissolves. Add bok choy, carrots and scallions; toss to coat with the dressing.

GFF Version of Crunchy Bok Choy Slaw  
(since we can’t eat the sesame oil and did not have the rice vinegar, here is our modification – Thanks to Aunt Peggy Howe for the help with this!)
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 cups very thinly sliced bok choy, (about a 1-pound head, trimmed)
  • 2 medium carrots, matchstick cut
  • 2 large cloves garlic, diced

CSA Helpful Hints
 1.  Take pictures of the trays with their sign as you go through the line.  Our thanks to Jeff Cornforth for this idea.
 2.  Ask people picking up shares around you what the do with some of the produce.  We are also happy to give our thoughts and suggestions, but we have our tastes/favorites and others have theirs.  We can get as many ideas from all of you as you might get from us. 
 3. Ask to trade if you really can't use something.  Often one of the other members next to you might be quite willing to do this.  Sometimes, we might have knowledge of something someone else left.
 4. If you are running late, or remember late, give us a quick call.  We don't start packing until our pickup time is completed.  Packing can take a while.  If you call, we can put your share together and be ready when you get there.  However, don't expect us to be there an hour after our pickup time ends.  It is reasonable to call right around 6pm and expect that we can find a way to pack your share and have it ready.  Odds get progressively lower the further from 6pm you get.
 5. While this is not a hint, it needs to be said.  Our Farm Share members are the best!  Part of what makes this program work is your willingness to invest yourself into the community.  Thank you!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

This and That

We took a quick look at the blog and said...

Ok.  Let me be honest here.  I took a quick look at the blog and said nothing.  Which, sadly, is what has been said on the blog for nearly a week.  Terrible!  Someone get a farmer in here who can write something, will you?

Ah, how about you.  Yes, you!  Get over here.


Hi.  Ummmmm.


Ok, that person didn't work out.  I guess Rob will have to write this one.


A Trip to the Park
 The broiler chickens took their trip to the park.  It was a bit more of an adventure this year than some and we hope to regale you with it later this week.  However, the pressing business is that we have about 80 birds that still have not sold.  If you want one or two or ...ten..., go here and place an order.

Yet Another Reason Tammy is Wonderful
She makes peach and lemonade slushies.  1.5 trays of iced cubes, 1/2 cup lemon juice, a short 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup other liquid water or juice from our canned peaches.  Blend it up.

After a really hot day where we've been working outside, this does wonders for the attitude and to cool us down a bit.

You Can't Escape the Scapes
If you are in the CSA program, you will receive scapes.  Happily, scapes are gaining more acceptance and people need less convincing than they used to.  But, it is hard to believe that convincing is needed. 

Scapes are the flower stem of the garlic plant.  You can use every inch of these in any dish you might use garlic.  About 1 inch of a scape is about equivalent to one clove in potency.  You may want to cut them up a bit finer and/or cook them longer since they are not quite as soft.

Other excellent options include cutting these the long direction and infusing garlic oil.  Or, grill them or put them in stir fries.  We think you'll be pleasantly surprised.  For details on the garlic oil, scroll to the bottom of this post.

Drats, We've Gnats
 The gnats on the farm have been irritating lately.  But, the nice breeze today helped immensely.  But, if you wonder about all the little bumps all over the farmers' arms as you pick up shares, those are gnat bites.... ugh.

The real problem is that they appear to be taking a toll on our young ducks.  We've lost several over the last few weeks.  As always, there is more to the situation than this, but that's all one needs to know for now.

So Far So Good

The picture above shows our major tool investment for the season.  The Williams Tool Bar came highly recommended.  As is true for every tool we purchase, we have to climb a learning curve.  Part of that learning is figuring out what the tool can and cannot do.  We have learned it CAN cultivate fairly close to a row of transplanted broccoli, allowing two people to very quickly weed the rest with hand tools.  Viola!  Clean broccoli!  Nice.

Quick Crop Report
Everything is still a couple of weeks behind (or more depending on the crop).  The latest rains gave us very little which is good and bad.  At this point, we just roll with whatever we get because either direction has its plusses and minuses.

Peas look great and are really getting going.  Carrots have been weeded in their entirety, which is a big deal since carrots aren't the easiest thing to weed.  They are still a month away.  The cucumbers are starting to vine.  Pole beans were replanted and are sprouting nicely.
Tomatoes are just now showing some real life.  Basil is in, but small.  Summer squash and zucchini are looking good and may start producing next week.  Garlic is due to be harvested about July 30 - they cure for two weeks after before we distribute any of these.
Potatoes look pretty good and we should have a decent crop by the end of August or beginning of September.  Green beans are in varying states of readiness.  Turnips are approaching readiness - possibly next week.  Similar comments for pok choi and chinese cabbage.

Garlic Oil
What Do I Need?

• several teaspoons of herbs and spices

• oil to fill one bottle

What Do I Do?

1. Bruise the herbs and spices a bit to release their flavors. (slice garlic scapes length wise)

2. Place them in the bottle.

3. Add warm oil.

4. Cover and let stand for 1 week.

5. Taste the oil. If the flavor isn't strong enough, add more flavorings. Once the oil is infused, keep it in the refrigerator. It may get cloudy from the cold, but should clear up when it reaches room temperature. The oil should last, refrigerated, for up to 2 months.

Be sure to remove the garlic scapes from the oil to reduce the risk of contamination.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Day of Farming Successfully

Today was a pretty good day on the farm.  We had sunshine, nice temperatures, good workers and a pretty good attitude all around.

We'll take pictures tomorrow and share.  But, we thought it would be a tribute to everyone who worked on the farm today to share a list of what was accomplished.

  • fertilizer to all 75% of the tomatoes (the other 25% may be let go, but that's another story).
  • spread straw mulch on ALL of those tomatoes.
  • weeded 200 feet of carrots
  • wheel hoe cultivated all 1200 feet of cucumbers.
  • fixed the broken set bolts on the mulch layer
  • did a quick check on Barty the rototiller to make sure he was in fine shape, a couple of adjustments and he passed
  • did diagnostics on Durnik the tractor, took off the rear wheels and replaced some bolts - problem solved (relief...it could have been much worse).
  • chisel plowed the SW plot
  • rototilled the SW plot
  • planted about 650 kohlrabi, 50 chinese cabbage, 80 pok choi and 200 red cabbage plants
  • picked the first peas of the season (Hurrah!)
  • oh yeah, I guess I loaded and hauled some of those straw bales out the field (that was today?!?)
  • delivered some eggs to a few interested parties in Waverly
  • herded a bunch of hens that decided an open door was an invitation to explore other parts of the farm
  • and did all of the normal daily chores we usually do.
Nice work Tyler, Stacey, Chase, Denis and Tammy!
Rob, you did all right as well.  Next time, put your back into it.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Early July - and Help Would Be Appreciated

Well,  here we are.  July first.

We've maintained an optimistic attitude and we've tried to be innovative in the face of difficult weather.  So - read on.

Are you able to help over the next week?
If you are, we would appreciate some volunteer time if you are willing to provide.  We realize the timing is poor with many people traveling and/or with family plans.  But, if you have a little time to give, please consider coming to the farm and giving us a couple of hours. 

Please, do not consider this a "guilt trip."  What we are doing is showing you where we are at and why we are asking for the help.  It's just the way things are right now.  It is nobody's fault and we'll do what we are able to do.

Current farm status.

 We're four weeks behind in our planting. 
  Several of our crops have died or failed to perform due to excess water.  For example, the mustard greens, arugula, spinach and other greens we expected to have over the last few weeks never got much taller than 2 inches and they are now bolting.
 We need to take action against rabbits that are destroying the pepper crop.
  The weeds are taking off everywhere we have managed to plant.
Fences for climbing plants need to go up, straw mulch needs to be spread and cages need to be put up.

Simply put, we'll have to make choices about what gets done and what does not based on the number of person hours we can put into the farm over the next week.

Things that look like they are working.
The plantings in the three raised beds we have built look good.  But, they are a couple of weeks away from harvest.
The plantings in the Waverly gardens looked good last we checked in.  They might finally be starting some real growth there. 
The paper mulch is making a difference in the cucumber beetle problems many vine crops have.  We are now wishing we'd been able to lay the mulch for the cucumbers. 
The high tunnel plan has been modified.  We hope the crops in their do well as we will be relying on them a great deal.
The tools we have added since 2010 have provided us with opportunities to try and fight this weather that we did not have then.
Crops that look pretty good right now include carrots, peas, summer squash, garlic, zucchini, turnips, potatoes (most varieties), chinese cabbage, pok choi.
The new irrigation tools are great.  We feel a bit silly having spent time on that about now.

Things that don't appear to be working.
Time spent on irrigation set up feels like time lost, never to be returned right now.  We know we'll need it.  And, the plants that received irrigation needed it at the time....
60-70% of peppers in the field are gone.  Our response was to add many more to the high tunnel.
10-20% of the tomatoes in the field are gone.  No response needed, we can handle that loss at this point.  But, the rest of the tomatoes need to start showing some real growth to make us feel better about the whole thing.
Cucumbers are showing damage that may lead to significant losses (cucumber beetles).  We need to respond by weeding and hilling to cover weak stems. 
Greens are bolting.  Clean up the area, till it up and put in some warmer season greens.
Plants are showing their age in trays and pots.  Our response is to plant what we can this week.  Anything still in trays or pots by the end of the week goes to the compost. 
Longer season crops likely will not have time to mature.  Our response will be to plant more of the varieties that are shorter season if we have them in trays to fill the spots. 

Ah, enough of the negative.

We will still forge on.
'Nuff said.