Thursday, February 27, 2014

Cold Hard Facts

I suspect nearly everyone who lives in the Upper Midwest is getting a bit tired of Winter by this point in time.  In fact, it is pretty normal for people to be getting a bit grumpy about Winter weather by the time we get to the end of February.  And, I suppose I succumb to the 'sickness' by posting about it here as well.  However, I've had subset of people wonder what we need to do on the farm in this sort of weather.  We've also had a few people ask how this might impact our growing season.  So... here we go.

Looks like Iowa is going to be cold for the next couple of weeks

It is normal for us to have shorter periods of very cold weather this time of year.  But, this continuous cold falls into the 'abnormal' category.  I find that I am apologizing to the chickens every time I go out there and they give me the look that says "You did this to me."   Tammy and I are the bringers of food, water, straw and tasty treats.  But, we are also the takers of eggs and, apparently, the reason things are cold.  They want to go outside.  Except, they don't want to go outside in "THAT."  So, they stay inside.  They don't like it, we don't like it.  But, that's just the way it is.

Tammy did cook up some squash recently.  That means the birds get the treat of seeds, skin and the rest of the leavings.  This makes them happy, but only for a very brief period of time until it's all gone.  We find that we have to deal with rotating waterers when it gets this cold because the base heaters just can't keep up.  We also have to check eggs frequently or we end up with eggs that freeze and split.  We've mentioned this before - but did you know that a fully frozen egg will not break if you throw it against a cement block wall?  Nope, won't even chip it.  But, it will take a divot out of the wall.  In short, we're glad we only have the laying flock (plus a few other chickens) at this time.  Everything we do for the birds takes longer and things tend to break or fail to work the way we're used to them working when it gets cold.

Looks like we're around 89% at the farm.  With the forecast being what it is...

We're both getting a little tired of doors that don't want to close and latch properly.  These doors work fine in most conditions.  But, this Winter?  No, don't think so.  I think I have become better acquainted with the ice chopper than I have any other year on the farm.  But, the real winner this past weak was what we had to do in order to get a new order of feed for the chickens.  Normally, the timing is good to pick up sometime in late February.  There are usually a couple of days of thaw (or less than frigid temps).  But, when we got them, we were preparing for a blizzard.  Once again, everything took two or three times the effort to complete the task.  But, it got done and the birds are taken care of for a while.

Of course, the house needs to get in on this.  The shower freezes up (drain and supply) most nights and we need to thaw them every morning if we want a shower.  At least we have the option of doing this.  The dishwasher also seems to want to freeze up every so often.  We weren't the ones that chose the outer walls for the location of each.  But, I can tell you two things that would change if we won the lottery!

Will we be able to put up a high tunnel in April
Believe it or not, this cold weather has us wondering about things later in the season.  For example, we had planned on putting up a high tunnel in late April.  But, before that there needs to be some excavation work done on the building site.  And, before that, the frost has to go out of the ground.  And, before that, the snow needs to melt off.  With temps routinely going below zero into early March, when will these things happen?  I guess we just prepare ourselves as best we can and then deal with it.  At the very least, it will be interesting.
When will the lettuce start?
We'd like to get things going in the current high tunnel.  But, this weather is pushing it all back.  One of the clues is the spinach that is in the tunnel.  Yes, it is still green.  No, it is not growing.  Sadly, the kale and chard do not look like they survived the cold this time.  So, we need to start new plants, but that sets back harvest time.  What can you do?  Well, you do what you can.

You might think that with all of this, we'd be anxious for Spring.  That might be true at one level.  But, you need to remember that for Rob, at least, Spring means the beginning of the busy season.  For those who teach, it is fair to equate the end of February with mid-August.  Still some time to have flexible scheduling.  But, that will soon go away.  Even so, I don't believe I'm adverse to removing the negative sign from the temperatures we've been getting.

Think warm thoughts
Start the post feeling cold and end it thinking warm.  We look forward to the days we know are coming when the temperature hits the freezing mark (and maybe even slightly above).  On those early Spring days, we will all agree how warm it feels when it is 34 degrees Fahrenheit and a strong sun shines down on our faces.  We'll go outside and do the things we haven't been able to do since December (or before).  We'll slosh around in melting snow and either avoid or joyously enter the puddles lined with half frozen mud.  Then, we'll end the day with some hot chocolate or tea, feeling tired because our bodies simply weren't used to the extended exposure to the elements.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Vegetable Planning and Feedback for 2014 Part I

In past years, we've used our blog and Facebook to try to collect feedback on some of the things we grow.  The danger of this, of course, is that we either lead people to what we want to hear (and thus learn nothing) OR we get requests or comments that point to a place where we will not or can not go (and so we learn something, but can do nothing about it).  But, the most likely result is that we'll get some idea of what a subset of our CSA members might like to see, and then we'll do what is reasonable to respond to that.  All the time, we know that we're getting feedback from less than 10% of our customers.

But, if you don't ask and give people the opportunity to respond, you aren't being a responsive farmer.  So there!

Question 1: Watermelons - how many would you ideally like to receive as a member of our CSA Farm Share program over the course of the regular 20 week season?

2007 harvest of watermelons and a few pumpkins
We've already gotten responses on Facebook from several people.  And, there was strong lobbying for the watermelon.  It wasn't exactly what we expected, but it is helpful to know this.

A historical perspective:
We have not had the best record for producing melons or watermelons on the farm.  The biggest problem has been wet weather preventing us from getting these crops in on time.  Or, in the case of 2010, we got the crops in, then they drowned in the absurd amounts of rain we got through June and early July.  We had reasonable production for the CSA in 2012 and eked out a few melons and watermelons in 2013 despite only being able to put them in the ground in late June.  We're confident that they will grow for us if we are given a season that is even remotely close to normal.

Ha'Ogen Melon
Factors to Consider:
Some of the things we have to consider is growing space and growing requirements.  We're prepared to dedicate 1800 row feet to these crops (9 tractor width beds).  Given a decent growing year, that should be enough to go around and have surplus beyond CSA needs.  But, part of the question is how much of this do we dedicate to watermelons and how much to melons.  That brings us to member preference (what do you like better) as one of the factors.  But, we can't ignore a few other things.

1. Melons typically take less space and provide a smaller number of servings.
As far as space goes - we do have to get it to everyone somehow, along with all of the other produce for the week.  Watermelons don't pack all that well, so it isn't all that easy to deliver 60+ watermelons on a given CSA day.  Melons aren't much easier to pack, but they take less space in the truck.  And, we are fully aware that we have members who have trouble getting through even the smaller watermelons.
2. Watermelons have a tougher rind, so they ride better than melons.  You might think this is a plus for watermelons in the CSA, but it is actually a plus because we could more easily sell watermelons via other outlets with less transportation loss.
3. Watermelon vines typically sprawl ALOT more than melons.  Ah, that space thing again.  They're more likely to invade neighboring beds and make it harder to weed them once they start to sprawl.
4. The window for fresh melons is larger than the one for watermelons.  In other words, we can have melons produce over a longer period because there is typically more variability in days to maturity across types.  In the end, that means that a late start, early Fall or a cool season will typically reduce watermelon crops in Iowa more dramatically than many of the melons we grow.

Boule d'Or melon
So, what are we going to do in 2014?

Glad you asked!

Watermelon varieties: Orangeglow, Mountain Yellow Sweet, Sweet Siberian and Ali Baba
Melon varieties: Pride of Wisconsin, Eden's Gem, Hearts of Gold, Ha'Ogen, Boule d'Or, Crane, Minnesota Midget, Oka

1. Paper Mulch SARE research
We will be doing a research grant using paper mulch on our melon varieties.  This mulch will help keep weeds down and it may also prevent losses to insects early in the plant's life (that's the research).  Half of our crop will be in the treatment group (with paper mulch) and half will not.
2. Williams Tool Bar for weeding.
We added this implement last year and we look forward to using it on the rows that don't have the mulch.  This should help with production immensely.
3. Flower companions to attract pollinators and predators.
Once again, we'll plant flowers.  If you come to the farm and see a riot of color from zinnias, marigolds and nasturtiums in the melon field, you can make an accurate guess that the melons are doing well.  (but that's for another blog post)
4. A row of melons in the high tunnel
Minnesota Midget did extremely well in a trial last season.  Instead of 10 feet of a trellised row, we'll run a 60-65 foot row of these in 2014.  If production levels scale up properly, everyone in the CSA could get one of these melons.
5. Other practices
The only reason there were any watermelons/melons last year was because we have made numerous advances in the tools we have in our arsenal (both in techniques and actual, physical tools).  We will continue to start our plants in flats and transplant them in.  This helps us get around wet or cool soil problems and helps us to deal with a shorter growing season.  Improved weeding tools help us reduce weed pressure enough so these plants have a chance most seasons.  And, finally, drip irrigation increases the survival rates of vines so they have a chance to produce fruit.

There it is folks, the plan to grow them!  The goals for what we hope to grow will be shared in part II.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Flower Festival

Because it is white outside and we'd like to share some color.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Brrrreaking Out of the Cold

We finished listening to the weather radio early this evening and heard the synthesized weather voice say the words "bit er lee cold" once again.  We've been hearing that a bit more than normal this year, so we can at least be mildly amused by the enunciation peculiarities this voice exhibits on a more regular basis.

On the other hand, it reminds us of the phrase "except higher amounts in thunderstorms" that we heard so much in 2010.  Or the continuous list of warnings and hydrological reports we heard in the flood years of 2008 and 2010.  Ok, you get the point.  Except that wasn't where I wanted to go with this.

We have gotten much more snow in prior years
The forecast is for a low of -21 degrees Fahrenheit tonight.  We'll grant you that this is cold.  But, Tammy and I had an experience in one of our former homes that provide us with a fallback whenever we start to feel put upon by cold weather.  All we need to do is look at each other and say - "Duluth."

Now, before you think we are about to bash Duluth, Minnesota you should know something.  People who live in Duluth are proud of their ability to handle the weather up there.  We learned that if you think it's too cold when you live there, you just keep it to yourself.  Why?  Because, those who live there will tell you why what you are experiencing isn't so bad.  In short, they'll make you feel like a wimp.  Besides, it isn't as cold by the lake as it is by Embarrass, or maybe Tower.  If you want cold, you go there.  Or maybe Hudson Bay.

At least Mother Nature can wear nice clothing in Winter
We lived in Duluth for just about one year.  And, of course, our time there included a Winter that started with snow in September (not a rarity I am assured) and one of the coldest Winters they had experienced over the past 25 years.  It was the first time in 25 years that Lake Superior froze over.... completely.  Yes, we can pick them, can't we?  It even made the news in Duluth.  So, if the natives said it was something special, we have a right to pull out the story I think.

It seemed like the sun in Duluth was never much higher over the horizon than this.
Of course, for the sake of the good story, I can exaggerate a little bit (like I did with the caption above).  But, thus far I have not stretched the truth in anything other than this caption.  And, what makes this even more enjoyable is the fact that I don't need to do anything other than report what happened for the desired effect.

It was January and Rob needed to get to the University of Minnesota - Duluth for classes.  We lived in a drafty old house that was just a block from the lake.  UMD was on the hill and over the hill (so to speak).  This is important to know because weather by the lake could be very different than weather "over the hill."  However, this Winter, it didn't matter much where you were, the temps were pretty cold. 

In any event, Tammy would take Rob up to UMD most mornings and we would drive by one of the bank signs that would display the temperature.   This, in and of itself, speaks to both the toughness and/or dementia that people who live in Duluth exhibit.  Only someone who wants to wallow in their own misery wishes to see temperatures that always exhibit a negative sign in front of the numerical reading every single day, all day long.

During this particular week, we would go out and start our car and make sure not to make mention to each other about how cold it was.  But, as we drove by that infernal sign, we could not help but read the bad news OUT LOUD to each other.  Well, what would you do if you saw "-35" on one of these signs? 

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.  Each day we would drive by and see that same temperature on the sign.  We thought at one point it might be broken.  But, Tammy would see different numbers with that stupid "-" in front of them at different times of the day as she ran Meals On Wheels.  So, that wasn't it.  And, of course, it was a bank sign.  They aren't noted as being the paragons of accuracy.  Nonetheless, it was cold.  And, a check with historical records that year does show the lowest temp for that month at -33.

We went outside on Friday and we both looked at each other with a bit of surprise.  It felt warmer.  In fact, we both said something about how much nicer it seemed.  I don't think either of us was about to suggest a hike up 7 bridges road at that moment, but we were both convinced that it was warmer.  So, this time as we headed up the hill towards the sign, we were anxious to see if we were right.  And we were.


Yep, that's what the sign said.  And now you know.  A human being can feel the difference between really cold and really really cold.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Value of Trusted Peers

It started at the Practical Farmers of Iowa Conference in January 2011 with a conversation between Rob of GFF and Melissa Dunham of Grinnell Heritage Farm.  We wondered if there was some way we could recapture the camaraderie and sense of shared purpose that many of us left with after a mid-season filming for HBO's Weight of the Nation in Grinnell.  We were soon joined by Tammy, Andy Dunham, Mark Quee, Dana Foster, Jill Beebout and Sean Skeehan and the idea that became the "Gang of Four" progressed from there.

Perhaps a bit more background would be helpful here.  The growing season in 2010 was one of the worst many of us had experienced.  Mother Nature provided us with absurd amounts of rain and many vegetable growers in the region were struggling to keep their heads above water literally and figuratively.  We were all exhausted with worry and from continuous efforts to try to do anything we could to get any sort of crop going (or to keep it going).  And, on top of all of this, most of us had little to no contact with other growers.  The distance between farms such as ours along with the intense labor requirements during the growing season enforced this feeling of isolation.  Our customers, while supportive, really didn't have a full understanding of what we were going through.  Row crop farmers in the vicinity barely understood what it was we did.  It was simply too much to expect that we could interact with most farmers in the area as peers.

So, what happens when you work hard, but things keep going wrong?  You question your abilities.  You ask if it was wise to even think you should be doing what you are doing.  Right or wrong, you become sure that anyone and everyone else is probably fine and you are the only one who can't figure it out.  There is no one to go to for help because you're the only one in the area that does what you do.  In short, our isolation from others who had operations with similar characteristics was making it harder for us to continue than it needed to be.

Beginning in 2011, Grinnell Heritage Farm, Blue Gate Farm, Scattergood Friends School Farm and Genuine Faux Farm started an in-season farm visit rotation.  Each month in the Summer, three of the farms would go to work and then have a dinner together at the fourth farm.  That first year was a huge success that culminated in a Holiday dinner at Scattergood.  We have continued with this summer program every year since.  If there is any complaint to be made, it is the fact that there is simply TOO MUCH good food to eat.  Hey, I didn't say it was a reasonable complaint.

The four farms added what we initially called "Almosta" conference and has since morphed to "Nota" conference in January/February.  A weekend is spent at Blue Gate Farm and each farm has a chance to pick a topic that they want to talk about during a 'session.' This year, we held "Nota" on the first weekend of February.

There was, of course, great food.  There was also companionship, support and perhaps, most importantly, understanding.

These are people who have earned our respect and trust.  We all genuinely want the best for each other.  We hope each farm has a fantastic season and that any challenges they have this year are met and goals exceeded.  But, we also know, given recent history, that there will be problems we can't solve and things will happen that will cause each of us to struggle.  But, unlike the way things were in 2010, we've got a group of farmers that have our backs.  It's a good feeling.

So, what did we talk about this year in our sessions?  Well, GFF asked for input on our plans for the new high tunnel building and for input on how to continue our progress on the spraying litigation.  Other topics included a big idea brainstorming for future goals, discussion of farm succession and thoughts on meeting GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) standards on our farms.  Time well spent.

And we're set up for our farm visits again this year.  It's going to be a good year.

Friday, February 7, 2014

These Can't Be the Same Tastebuds?

Here I am, eating a sandwich for lunch.

This, in and of itself, is nothing worth posting about.  Except for one thing.

There is no tomato slice.  There is no slice of fresh lettuce (or spinach).  There are no small slices of sweet pepper.  It is pretty much some grass-fed beef, a few condiments and some bread.

And I find that sad.

And, that, my friends, is what is exceptional about the entire situation.  Rob finds it sad that he doesn't have spinach, lettuce, tomato and/or pepper on his sandwich.

My family will understand this statement immediately because they had to deal with a kid who would NOT eat lettuce or spinach.  Tomatoes had to be cooked and couldn't have remnants of skin in the sauce.  Peppers?  Are you kidding?  I would eat green beans, peas, corn, potatoes, lima beans (go figure) and onions or tomatoes if they were cooked and ground down fine enough.

Costata Romanesco
Mountain Yellow Sweet

My poor parents.  I'm sure it wasn't much fun dealing with a strong-willed child who won't eat anything.  But, I bring this up to point out that I was -and I STILL AM - a picky eater.  Perhaps I've matured enough to give things another try.  So, that much is different about me.  On the other hand, I still will not eat iceberg lettuce.  The texture is all wrong and don't get me started on how it smells/tastes. In fact, it wasn't until we tried Grandpa Admires lettuce on the farm that I decided lettuce could be ok.  The texture is softer, which encourage me to give it a try.  To my palate, the taste was pleasant and I didn't have a texture that I disliked.  We have a winner!

Grandpa Admires
Since that time, I have discovered I can eat and will often enjoy many other kinds of lettuce.  Some I like much more than others, of course.  For example, I know people love Crispmint (a romaine), but it has a texture I don't enjoy.  On the other hand, I really like Australian Yellow Leaf and Pablo.  I'll get along with lettuces like Red Salad Bowl, Rouge d'Hiver, Bronze Arrowhead and maybe Gold Rush.  Who knew?

But, I now feel a bit like a fraud if we are eating somewhere and they offer me a sandwich or a salad comprised of these sad excuses for lettuce.  What?  The vegetable farmer will not eat his veg?  Well, I will if you get me some REAL veg.

Tammy will agree that I have worked hard to expand the list of foods that I will eat.  It started with a concession that I would try cauliflower and broccoli - as long as there was cheese.  I like cheese.  Really I do. (Loony Tunes fans, I hope you got the reference.)

Snow Crown
The problem with the broccoli, especially, was the uh... "after effects."  Imagine having dinner, then going to an evening volleyball game match.  There are times when you might refrain from jumping due to the fear that you might erm... "let one loose" so to speak.  As we started growing vegetables, we found that we could grow varieties of broccoli that didn't have this effect on me.  And, over time, we found varieties where the taste they had was enough to get me to agree to eat them without the cheese - and for that matter - without cooking. 

But, there are still battles to be had.
St Valery's
I just can't swallow carrots.  Sorry carrot lovers.  I can't do it.  But, Tammy likes them, so she does the taste testing on those.  I'll grow them for everyone else, but we've yet to find one that will go down without protest.

And, there are other vegetables that I typically don't choose to eat, but will eat if I really must.  While others will snack on cucumbers, I tend to pass.  Though, I'll eat a Boothby's Blonde cucumber in the right situation.  I am not usually going to eat many tomatoes or peppers raw without some other item accompanying them, but I am not unwilling to taste them in the field to see where they are at as far as ripeness is concerned. And, if it is a chunk of a Black Krim, German Pink or Dr Wyche's Yellow, I'll probably eat it regardless of the situation.

Tolli Sweet
Put the peppers on some nachos or on a sandwich or cook them into a sauce and I am happy.  A few slices on a kabob, perhaps. But, I tend to stay away from the bell peppers unless they are cooked.  Give me a nice Tolli Sweet or Golden Treasure.

As far as the tomato goes, it was the German Pink that did it.  These tomatoes looked so beautiful on the plant that I actually felt a pang of jealousy that I couldn't/wouldn't eat one.  Many of the tomatoes I'd tried in the past that were not cooked were often slices of "January" tomatoes.  I think you all know what I mean here.  That sort of experience does not encourage a person to try others any time soon.  Any other tomato was painted with a "broad brush" and were guilty of bad taste by association.

German Pink
But, I had to try this tomato.  I asked Tammy for a small chunk when she sliced one up.  I tried it.  I asked for a couple of slices on my sandwich.

Tammy fainted.

Well, ok, she didn't.  But, she did ask where her husband had gone.

You all should ask her about the day I popped a hot pepper in my mouth and told her they weren't hot.

Burgess Buttercup

So, sometimes it is a matter of the freshness of the produce.  Sometimes, it is the variety that finds the texture or the taste that a person needs before they will be happy to eat a particular veg.  Other times, it is the way it is prepared that makes all the difference.

Fresh spinach with a little bit of dressing?  I'll eat a whole lot of that!  The boiled down stuff that doesn't really look like spinach anymore?  No thank you.  Does that mean you can't like it that way?  Of course not.  But, the point is that you might want to try some different ways of preparing things before you completely condemn them.

Zucchini was on the suspicious list until we got into preparing them on the grill with some sweet onions.  Beets were scary until we grew Chioggia and roasted them in the oven.  A fritata is an excellent way to introduce any number of vegetables into a diet, as is the stir fry.  And, once you get yourself to try some of these things and find a success or two, you'll be more willing to explore.

Joi Choi
But, the key has always been that it is still okay if you don't like it as long as you give it another try with another variety or prepared in another way.

I actually like eggplant. And chinese cabbage.

Who knew?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Season for Farmer Delusional Syndrome

It starts every year when the seed catalogs appear in the PO Box.  It ends sometime in late April when we realize how many tasks are behind schedule and after there has already been a mini-disaster or two on the farm.

'Tis the season.

The season for Farmer Delusional Syndrome!

Symptoms are as follows:

1. The farmer circles forty new varieties and three to five completely new vegetable types to 'trial' for the coming season in the first catalog he sees.  He genuinely thinks he could squeeze all of these in somehow.  Or, even if he doesn't believe that, he thinks he'll be able to set aside more time to investigate these options in order to make the "best" choice.

2. The farmer forgets that pictures like this one don't show the ENTIRE field.
And he forgets the field doesn't STAY this way.
3. It's cold outside right now.  Like most people in Iowa, he idealizes hot June, July and/or August days.  Yes, those days.  The ones where he often goes through three, four, five and even SIX t-shirts.

4. The farmer sees nothing wrong with a calendar that includes five or more good sized projects in April and May.  After all, getting plants started, handling plant sales, Spring CSA distributions, planting a majority of the crops and dealing with poultry chicks only take "a couple of hours a day."

5. Every row is straight.
Straight as an arr....oh.

6. Fields are dry when you want to work in them and rain only falls right where you want it to.
Ok, maybe we don't believe that one.
7. Taking a weekend or two off in the middle of the growing seems like it shouldn't be all that hard to do.

8. This will be the year that a major, unplanned for project does NOT cause us to re-prioritize.
No Snorts Allowed!

9. Deer don't eat beets, rabbits don't cut down young pepper plants, cucumber beetles don't girdle young vine crops, raccoons don't eat chickens, woodchucks don't eat pea seedlings, gnats don't infest ducks with parasites, horn worms don't eat every leaf on a tomato plant, dandelion seeds don't clog up air intakes on the tractors, tools don't break, seedlings won't dry out, the wind isn't THAT strong, thistles don't hurt that much, my back won't get that sore in May, cleaning carrots doesn't take very long and I won't let the pile of receipts get so big before they are recorded this time.

Those wheels didn't break, they just couldn't have.
10. A place for everything.  And everything in its place.

We like the sentiment and the intent - at the least.
And the final symptom?

11.  The farmer spends time making creative blog posts about fictional syndromes.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Unveiling of the Genuine Faux Farm 2014 Calendar

Please note that these dates are subject to change due to weather or other circumstances.  Please check updates on our web page.  Even better, tell us you want email updates and/or follow us on facebook.

** - events with this notation indicate that we would like you to respond and tell us you intend to attend for planning purposes.


Egg deliveries on Mondays (3,10,17,24)
1/2 -- Gang of Four Nota Conference at Blue Gate Farm
3 -- Recording for Garden Shed Radio Program (Rob)
22 -- Next Generation Retreat (Rob)
25 -- PFI Webinar on Spray Drift (Rob)


Egg deliveries on Mondays (3,10,17,24)
15 -- Cedar Valley Local Foods Fair at Grout Museum (10-3)

High Tunnel Build Month

Egg deliveries land on CSA days
1 -- Spring CSA #1 (anticipated)
8 -- Spring CSA #2
11 -- GoF CE Gathering
15 -- Spring CSA #3
16 -- Hen chicks arrive at the farm
22 -- Spring CSA #4
22-30 -- High Tunnel Build (anticipated) **
24 -- Broiler chicks arrive from Hoover Hatchery
25 -- Broiler chicks arrive from J&H Hatchery
26 -- Health Fair at W - Wartburg College 8:30-11:30

Starter Plant Sales Month

Egg deliveries and CSA at Saturday farmers' Markets
3 -- Waverly Farmers' Market (First Saturday market of season) 8:30-11:30 am
4 -- Move 'em or Lose 'em, Perennial Dig at GFF **
10 -- Waverly Farmers' Market (plants available)
11 -- GoF at Grinnell Heritage Farm
16 -- Cedar Falls GFF Plant Sale at Hansen's Outlet
17 -- Waverly Farmer's Market (plants available)
17 -- Tripoli GFF Plant Sale
23 -- Cedar Falls GFF Plant Sale at Hansen's Outlet
24 -- Waverly Farmers' Market (plants available)
24 -- last Spring CSA day
31 -- Waverly Farmers' Market (plants available)
31 -- Iris Fest/Meet Your Farmers Festival at GFF **

GFF Food Bank Month

(every hour of volunteer labor will result in $10 donated to the foodbank by GFF)

Egg deliveries at CSA distributions from here until October
CSA distributions follow pattern of first week until last CSA week in October.
Tuesday - Waverly Farmers Market
Wednesday - as arranged in Tripoli area
Thursday - Hansen's Outlet in Cedar Falls
3 -- Waverly CSA #1 (at Waverly Farmers Market)
3 -- Waverly Farmers' Market (first Tuesday market)
4 -- Tripoli CSA #1 (as arranged)
4 -- Turkey chicks arrive at the farm
5 -- Cedar Falls CSA #1 (at Hansen's Outlet)
7 -- Waverly Farmers' Market (last week with plants)
14 -- Tom Sawyer Volunteer Day **
15 -- GoF at Genuine Faux Farm
25 -- Broiler chicks (batch #2) arrive at farm


13/14 -- Process first batch broiler chickens
26 -- Granary Facelift Tom Sawyer Day **

Granary Mural Facelift and Mural Painting

3 -- GoF at Blue Gate Farm
9 -- Granary Facelift Tom Sawyer Day Mural Painting **
16 -- Saturday Waverly Farmers' Market (8:30-11:30)
23 -- Waverly Farmers Market
30 -- Waverly Farmers Market
30 -- GFF Summer Festival and Heirloom Tomato Tasting **


6 -- Waverly Farmers' Market - Heirloom Tomato Tasting
13 -- Waverly Farmers' Market
14/15 -- Process broiler chicken batch #2
14 -- GoF at Scattergood
19/20 -- Don't Sing for Your Supper, Dig for Your Dinner **
20 -- Waverly Farmers' Market ?
27 -- GF7 Festival at the farm (tentative date) **
28/29 -- Process ducks


14 -- FINAL regular season Waverly CSA
15 -- FINAL regular season Tripoli CSA
16 -- FINAL regular season Cedar Falls CSA
Until mid December, egg deliveries coincide with Fall CSA
21 -- Fall Extended Season CSA #1
22/23 -- Process Turkeys
23 -- The Great Turkey Pickup of 2014
28 -- Fall Extended Season CSA #2

Giving Thanks for Ten Years of GFF

4 -- Fall Extended Season CSA #3
7 -- GFF Ten Year Celebration Dinner (tentative date) **
11 -- Fall Extended Season CSA #4
17 -- Fall Extended Season CSA #5
25 -- Fall Extended Season CSA #6


2 -- Fall Extended Season CSA #7
9 -- Final Fall Extended Season CSA
15 -- Egg delivery and extra produce sales
22 -- Egg delivery and extra produce sales

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Before and After 2013

Visible progress.  It's something we all value, but for some reason we often miss it.  But, the great thing about digital pictures is the fact that you can take as many as you are able and not worry about the cost of developing film.  As a result, we're able to share some before/after pictures from the farm in 2013.
Before high tunnel move in Fall

After high tunnel move in Fall
The first pairing illustrates the task that is moving the high tunnel - something we do every October.  In many ways, it is easier for us now than it used to be because we know better what to expect.  On the other hand, it does require our full attention once the process is begun.  It's not every day that you move an entire 30 foot by 72 foot building with three people.

We KNOW there's broccoli in here.  Somewhere.

Oh, there it is!
The Williams Tool Bar was one of our capital purchases in 2013.  Above is an exhibit as to how it was made to work for us.  Granted, we should not have let that field get away from us that far.  But, given the wet start, we got to it as soon as we were able.  And, the results were excellent.  We'll take it!

Now you see them.

Now you don't.  Well, you do, but they're not where they were.
The process of planting is one of the most visibly satisfying projects we have on the farm.  At least, this is true when we're putting in transplants.  Planting seeds direct into the ground just don't seem to hold the same appeal.  Ooo!  Look!  An empty seed packet!  And, a field of... um... dirt?

Speaking of dirt...

Dirt in a box

Plants in the dirt in a box
Amazing the things you can do with some old lumber from a building that is no more, a pile of dirt and some lettuce seedlings.  Dirt in a box will never be seen the same way by us ever again.

Scrape that building Elliot!

While you're at it, do some priming.
Slowly, but surely, we're making progress on rehabbing buildings on the farm.  In 2012, we did alot with the Truck Barn.  Last year, we tried to prep the garage for painting.  Now we just have to finish the job(s).  It's just the way things go on a working farm.  You do what you can in the time you have when the weather lets you.  And, when you don't have the time or the weather doesn't let you... you don't do it.  Pretty simple.  Funny, it never feels simple.

May 3 snow is not favored by daffodils

It feels better when the snow is gone and the sun shines!
We got the digital camera out when we had the early May snow.  And, of course, there were a number of nice before and after opportunities there.  Now that we're several months away from this event, we can laugh at it.  We recall laughing at the time this happened as well.  But, I seem to recall it was more of a 'gallows' laugh.  You know that kind of laugh?  The one where you laugh because there isn't anything else you can do.  The snowballs were great though.

North fields with sweet corn stubble

Amish Deer Tongue seedlings in the field.
This was part of the reason for those laughs.  We were already having a difficult time finding dry spots on the farm.  There were a couple of areas over tile where we had sweet corn in 2012.  So, we cleaned out the corn stalks and prepped the soil for lettuce, kale, chard and other seedlings that desperately wanted to go into the ground.  First, the deer and rabbits found some of the seedlings.  So, we spent time putting up barriers.  Then it snowed.  Alas.  But, still, it shows quite a transformation.

High tunnel in early March
Look at the spinach go!
Ok, spinach is done, tomatoes going in at right.

Late August.  Mmmm green beans!
Our "Happy Place" in 2013 was the high tunnel.  Did things go exactly as planned in there?  No.  But, we were able to use in ways that the year required.  And, that's really all that needs to be said.  Perhaps the best thing about it was the fact that we could work in there when everything was so wet in May and June.  There is nothing quite like a farmer that is frustrated with being unable to do any work.  Well, this high tunnel was kept pretty clear of weeds for the first part of the season since that's the only place we could work the soil.