Friday, May 30, 2014

Late May Farm Report

We've learned that blogs in May - assuming weather cooperates enough for us to be in the fields - are typically just reporting what is going on.  As we get into the season, the dementia that leads to creativity occurs a bit more often.  Until we get to that point, you're just going to have to deal with this.....

so, to make things easier for you - we'll start you with....

Cute baby critters!

Yes, we've had ducklings at the farm for the past week (or so).  We're doing a study to determine whether or not the Appleyard ducks or the Muscovey ducks fit our needs better.  The hope is to establish our own perpetual flock rather than raising a flock only from chicks someone else hatches.

Appleyard ducklings

Muscovey ducklings

It is true, the hatchlings DO feel a bit like a tennis ball.  If you could just get rid of the beak...and the webbed feet... they could BE a tennis ball.  We're hoping to get these guys out into the dandelions very soon.  We've been grabbing a few here and there and bringing them in to them and they seem to like them.

Tomatoes in Pots

There is a small, loyal group of people who love to grow a Silvery Fir Tree tomato in a pot on their porch (or wherever they can put the pot).  We still have a tray and a half of these guys, so we put one in a pot and we're going to try to keep a photo journal by taking a picture about once a week.  Here is our little friend on May 22.

Our captive Silvery Fir Tree tomato

Every Year is Different (Thank goodness?)

We are grateful that this year is not exactly like last year.  If you will recall (ok, some of you are new, so you might not recall) last year forced us to start things VERY late due to saturated fields.  It just wouldn't stop raining until mid June.  Our onion crop was a complete loss last year.  Happily, we are setting up to get them in the ground next.  The field is dry enough and the beds are now prepared for them.  Hurray!

Onion Seedlings awaiting their chance to go in the ground.
And, last year, this sort of photo of our farm showed us desperately trying to find places to put the multitude of trays of plants begging to go into the ground.  In fact, we showed a bucket we kept throwing seedlings into that got too old in their trays.  It's just the way it was.

This year, if we took a picture of this area every two hours over the past week, no two pictures would be alike as we add trays and remove trays for planting.  The season DID start slow for us, so we've had to compress our planting into the end of May/beginning of June.  But, this is much more positive than last year's episode. 

The cold frame area on May 29
Raised Beds to the Rescue Again!

We had to make many adjustments last year to get anything into the ground.  One was to construct three raised beds.  And, we're using them again this season.  At present, one has spinach.  The other two have chard, kale and pok choi.  Here is one that shows a sampling of kale, chard and choi.

Ah!  Raised Beds, what would we do without thee?
Planting.... Planting....

We've been at it pretty constantly.  Some of the planting is into trays, some is transplanting into pots, some into the ground.  The picture below is symbolic for us - it shows a stack of empty trays and another tray that is largely completed.  This is a VERY GOOD thing.

The alarming thing is how little these plants look when we put them in the ground.  When they're all together in a tray, they look like something.  Move them into a single row with 12 inch spacing and you get what you see below:

Cabbage, Romanesco and Cauliflower
Even the tomato plants, with the benefit of 3 1/2 inch pots look pretty small once we get them into the ground.  Now, we have to admit this is a little unfair, since we do make them shorter by planting them deep.  But, their predecessors have managed to overcome - so shall the new crop.

They shall grow and become the Tomato Forest

And, in honor of our friends at Blue Gate Farm, we wanted to show we could plant a lettuce row every bit as straight as they can.

This one is for Jill!
If you look closely, you can see we can plant tile flags too!  Yes, those green flags out there.  What do they mean?  Well, it's a cheap way to mark rows....  Just hate it when they wrap around the tiller.

New Tools!
We added a couple of tools this Spring to address a couple of problems.  One problem has to do with our six row precision seeder jamming up more than we like.  So, we purchased this roller to help prepare the seedbed.  This is one of those cases where we *could* have figured out some sort of construction of our own devising.  But, sometimes, time is precious and it is just better to get a tool others already use and go with it.  We've tried a couple of beds with it and without it.  The precision seeder dropped the drive belt on the rows we didn't use this roller and kept the belt on for the rows we did use the roller.  Ok, sounds like a win.

Not quite a steamroller, but it'll do
We also had a disk harrow for our tractor, but it had a tendency to push all of the dirt to the outside.  So, we sold that one at auction and purchased a tandem disk harrow.  Yes, we splurged and bought a new one.  But, we did this after pursuing used tandem disk harrows at auctions for two years.  We can tell you that we didn't really spend that much more for this one if you factor in the repairs we did NOT have to make in order to get it to work for us.

Oh!  So that's a tandem disk harrow...

Planting Report

A very quick report for those who have interest on how things stand at the farm.

We have a succession of radish, spinach, arugula and mustard greens that is spotty.  We're not even sure if we're going to try another one at this point.
The tomatoes are IN - both high tunnel and field.
Peppers in high tunnel are started.  Field is coming up soon (goal is June 5 to end that planting).
Potatoes are IN!
Green been successions in high tunnel and in potato field are IN!
Dry beans in potato field are IN!
Peas and carrots are IN!
Two successions of lettuce are in the field.  GArlic is up and looking great.  Scapes should join us in mid-June.
We have the first succession of beets and turnips in.
Succession I of kohlrabi, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage are in.  Romanesco is in.

Next up?  Onions, summer squash and zucchini succession I, cucumber succession I, short season succession II or III or IV depending on the crop.

If you're wondering about our order, just consider that the readiness of each field may dictate the order.  Normally, I'd want the onions in already and broccoli usually goes in before tomatoes.  But, the tomato field was ready, the onion and broccoli area was not (until today).

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Upcoming Events and Farm News

My goodness - what a terribly uncreative bog post title!  But, since it seems to evoke a need to get to the point, perhaps I should do so.

Friday - 4:30-5:30 Plant Sale in Cedar Falls
By request, we will add a one hour plant sale at Hansen's Outlet this Friday.  Between this and Saturday's Waverly Farmers' Market, this will complete our season for selling vegetable starter plants.  Come and get them, time is right for planting.

Saturday - 8:30-11:30 Waverly Farmers Market
This will be our last Saturday market for a while until we find ourselves with so much extra produce that we have to attend again (usually August and when the heirloom tomatoes come in). 

Iris Festival at the Farm!  Saturday, May 31

Iris Fest this year is a potluck affair.  Bring something to grill for your family and something to share (salad, dessert, munchies). We really encourage you to label your potluck dish so we know a) who to give credit to and b) those who have food allergies can ask about ingredients. We’ll supply plates, forks, cups and lemonade, water and iced tea.  Bring your lawn chairs.  Bring your family.  Bring your friends.  It feels like summer.  Let’s have some fun.  See below for more details.

The spring Iris Festival occurs every year at some point near Memorial Day, the time of year that is supposed to be the typical peak iris bloom. Since we have been here, there have been no typical growing years, so we get what we get with respect to the iris flowers.
Volunteer Time There has been interest in volunteering prior to the festival in the past, so we will make it official. Starting at 2 pm, we will have volunteer tasks available for those who are willing. These tasks may include setting up tables, mowing our lawn where people will gather, prepping drinks, setting up recycling and trash containers and maybe planting something in the ground if the weather is anything like 2010 or 2013. 
Festival Time The Iris Fest begins at 4 pm. People may put munchies out, but the potluck begins officially at 5pm. The farm will often provide some sort of food to supplement the potluck, but this changes from year to year. We may announce that we will provide meat for the event (like a GFF turkey!). Depending on the year, we may have a grill available to those who want it, but you should ask before you make that assumption., .
What to Bring Bring something to grill for yourself and something to pass (salads, snacks, etc). We will have lemonade, iced tea and water available for beverages. We respectfully request that you not bring alcohol or cigarettes. We strongly suggest you bring lawnchairs. We have plates and silverware to serve forty to fifty people, but it doesn't hurt if you bring your own table service in case we exceed that number.
What You Get to Do
If you have a lawn game that you wish to share, bring it along. We typically set out whatever lawn games we have. There is also sidewalk chalk for the artists and frisbees for the athletic. We also encourage other, more sedentary games if people show interest. Tours of our farm (guided or not) will be provided for the interested. Usually, we will have young birds to view and there are friendly farm cats that will gladly run away from your children. Weather permitting, we will start a bonfire and there are often s'mores if we hear there is interest from those attending (one of the reasons an RSVP helps us!).
Please contact us if you plan to attend. Tell us how many will attend and whether you will be there during volunteer time. If there is anything we need to know to make this a positive experience, the RSVP is an excellent time to make it known.

First Week of CSA
 We are going to hold a distribution in the first week of June for the CSA.  Look for an email from us with details if you have signed up for a share.

Things are starting slow - but that's another post - but we will have enough for this week.  We may have to take a week off to let crops catch up and just extend into the Fall. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

When in Doubt - Do A "Picture This"

One of the side effects of Spring on the farm is - difficulty in finding energy to make blog posts, take pictures - and all of the stuff along those lines.  Perhaps the hardest part is figuring out a way to present what we have for you in a way that is informative and perhaps a bit entertaining.  When the energy is low, it seems that pictures often come to the rescue.  So, here are some from the latest batch taken off of our camera tonight.


Friday - 4 pm to 6pm at Hansen's Outlet in Cedar Falls.
Saturday - 8:30 am to 11:30 am at Waverly Farmers Market

The truck will be full of Heritage varieties of peppers, tomatoes, basil and maybe some eggplant and other goodies!  Come and get them.
Oh look!  Some Genovese Basil - plant some with your tomatoes!
Everything Seems Late This Year

Once again, the crops are going in late this year.  There just isn't much you can do when it doesn't get warm and the soil is too wet.  Some of the signs that this has been a cool Spring:

  1. Rob noticed that he hasn't got the 'farmer's tan' on his arms yet.  Why?  He's been wearing long sleeved shirts most of the spring.  
  2. We haven't managed to get the equipment and supplies lined up in the buildings for normal growing season organization.  Why?  Because we've been forced to bring things in to keep them warm (over and over and over).
  3. The apple trees are just now blooming - and the two peach trees are just now thinking about blooming and opening leaves.
  4. The asparagus is just now starting to hit its stride on the farm.
  5. Mr Wren was late in arriving this year.  But, he's been up at 5:45 am each of the past two mornings to sing about 6 legged things he's had for breakfast.
  6. The dandelions are a couple weeks late.  That's saying something.

Even the Pasque Flower is just getting going.  Aren't you supposed to bloom at Easter?
But, oddly enough some things are compressing together on their seasons.  The primroses are usually fairly early, but they don't normally peak at the same time as the Pasque flower.

Primroses - a nice, easy to maintain perennial flower.
Move 'em or Lose 'em
We meant to share pictures related to our first Tom Sawyer Day of the year earlier, but we just couldn't find the energy to follow through on it.  We had three intrepid plant diggers join us for the Tom Sawyer Day and we managed to move a number of perennials from the overrun area to some better places.  Among them is the "newish" planting we started about a year ago.  It has been home to maybe a dozen plants prior to this.  Now it is well populated.  To those that helped - our thanks!  We're looking forward to the blooms coming in this location this season.
We have this thing for daylilies and iris.  Can you tell?
Just Waiting to Go In

Once again, we have a bunch of plants in trays and containers that are started (and more being started every day).  We're now able to work the fields and just have spend the time getting the tools to do their jobs.
We're hoping Memorial Day weekend will see a great deal of progress.

Onions ready to be put in the ground.

Broccoli and lettuce and asparagus!  OH MY!
Speaking of Asparagus

I'd like to thank our god daughter Inga for pointing this song out to us awhile ago.  You'll just have to go listen to it.

And - as a bonus - you can listen to this one if you like peas.

What's All The Flap About?

We've got birds on the farm.  Lots of birds.  And the turkeys have yet to arrive.

The broilers and henlets are moving out to pasture.

And we just got baby Appleyeard ducks

and baby Muscovey ducks
And, yes, they really do feel a bit like a tennis ball.

There you are!  A blog post.  Now, that wasn't so bad, was it?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Lots and Not So Much

May is the most difficult month for us to put consistent blog posts out - even though we realize it would be nice to keep everyone updated on farm progress.  However, by the time the farmer gets back to the office, the brain powers isn't always there to accomplish the task.  So, here we are - giving it a go.  I'm not that tired since I am only seeing double right now.  So, this SHOULD work.

Dreaming Big to Grow Here - PartTwo
Many of you may recall that we participated in the Cedar Valley region Dream Big Grow Here contest and were able to win the prize.  Well, tomorrow marks the date that Rob gets to deliver his pitch for the state contest in Iowa City.  Once again, he will do his best to represent all of you in the hopes of bringing home the prize.  Winning will help us to complete a new high tunnel building on the farm so we can better serve you!

Starter Plant Sales
We are at Waverly Farmers' Market on Saturdays throughout May (8:30-11:30AM) with starter plants.  Featuring our heirloom/heritage tomatoes and peppers.  We will also be at Hansen's Outlet each of the next two Fridays (May 16 and 23) from 4pm to 6pm with our plants.  Same prices as last year, so come and get them!  We will try to have some other plants as well, but the cool weather has caused some issues with those plans.

Regardless, the plants are looking good and looking for homes!

Bathing in Style
While it is not exactly a farm thing, it does involve the farm house in which your farmers reside.  It also is taking some of your farmers' attentions.  We are trying to finish the installation of a bathroom in the house.  Happily, the downstairs bath is functional, but we're hoping to get a second floor bath up to a reasonable level of functionality very soon.  This could be especially nice about this time of year when legs are a bit sorer than usual as we get used to using them much more.  If you don't understand, then consider sore legs and having to go down a flight of stairs to use the restroom in the middle of the night - when you are half asleep. 

Ok - now you get it.

Weather Or Not
Weather patterns tend much more to the extremes than they did in years past.  We can attest to it.  For the second time in two years, we had so much rain in a 24 hour period that the high tunnel had water go through it (and soak the ground) and we had standing water in the cold frame area.  The good news?  It happened a month earlier in the year than it did last year.  The bad news?  It still gets in the way of our getting things done on the farm. 

Ok - so the weather does weird stuff.  Now we work to deal with it!

Not Bad
288 sweet peppers potted to day.  We'll take it.  And, no, that wasn't all we did today.  A little sunshine, not too much wind, reasonable temperatures.  All of that made for a better work day and we took advantage of it.  Here's hoping the trend continues.

Have a good Thursday everyone!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The May Blitz

Finally, the weather is warming up.  That means the farmer is outside.  Alot.  It also means he's often too tired to be all that creative with blog posts.  Of course, that depends on whether or not he actually gets around to putting blog posts out there.

However, there are a number of new CSA members this year - and thus, hopefully, a number of people who might be interested in learning a bit more about how we work.

Recent Events
The first Saturday Farmers Market in Waverly had beautiful weather.  We don't always get that, so we're grateful.  Thank you to everyone who came and visited us.  We were able to sell all of the spinach and eggs we brought along for the ride.  Even a few of the Silvery Fir Tree tomatoes found homes.

The Move 'em or Lose 'em Perennial Dig was attended by a few people and we are grateful for each of them.  We'll post a picture soon, but we were able to move a couple dozen daylilies, a couple dozen iris and many other perennials.  Some were sent to new homes, but most stayed on the farm.  I hate to say it, but I currently have three carts full of plants that still need to be transplanted.  But, to put it into perspective, most of these are divisions from things we did get into the ground already.

Potting Plants
Tammy got home from school today and we potted another 150+ tomato plants.  We'll have a decent selection this coming Saturday and an even better selection the following Saturday as we add peppers and some eggplant.  We expect to have a few broccoli and lettuce plants as well.  We're about 2/3rds done with tomatoes - so that's a good sign, especially since we've pretty much done all of the transplanting this season.

Planting Report
At present, we have all three raised beds planted and a couple rows of spinach in the field.  It seems like some of the fields are drying out about now, so we'll see what we can do before the rain hits us Thursday.  I'm guessing not too much, but we'll do our best.  The cold frames are full and the mini-greenhouse is filling rapidly.  We'll be putting another 50 or so trays onto the heat mats in the next few days.

We have broiler chicks in the horse trailer and hen chicks in the garage.  There was a snafu in the broiler chick order, so we're only going to have 100 in the Spring batch this year.  We're not very pleased with this, but, I don't think we're willing to push ourselves on this.  If we have two batches that are two weeks apart, it just means two sets of trips to process them - and that takes alot of time we can't afford to spend.

Because some of you don't get the CSA emails, I thought I'd share the following with you as well:

It's been pretty cold the last several months.  Cold enough that we've been forced to use the furnace much later than usual (and much more than usual).  The extremes to which we have gone this Winter (and early Spring) to stay warm are best illustrated by a recent trip a couple of friends took kayaking down the Wapsipinicon River.  In case anyone cares, that river is only a little over a mile away from us. 

In any event, the river was open, but it was pretty cold.  And, of course, they hit a snag and flipped the kayak.  They righted themselves easy enough, but now they were very cold and had a ways to go to get out of the river.  So, they floated close to shore, grabbed some dry twigs and proceeded to start a fire on the kayak to warm up.

Of course, the kayak sank and they had to wade to the bank and hike to the road.

Why am I telling you all of this?

Remember - You can't have your kayak and heat it too.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Upcoming Events

In case you have missed it, we have a couple of things coming up this weekend.

Waverly Farmers' Market Opening Day - Saturday May 3

Yes, it is that time again!  The farmers' market begins at its normal location and normal times. 

200 block of 1st Ave SE in Waverly - 8:30 - 11:30
For more information - visit the website.

We will be there.  Our first week offerings will include eggs, some spinach, maybe some green onions and probably some tomato plants.  We will feature the Silvery Fir Tree tomato since we don't recommend putting tomatoes in the ground just yet.  Silvery Fir Tree tomatoes are excellent for pots.  So, if you want a patio tomato plant, we'll have them for you.

Move 'Em or Lose 'Em Perennial Dig - Sunday May 4

Our first Tom Sawyer Day of 2014!  This one has a theme and an incentive to attend (or two).  We are hoping to salvage some perennial plants that are in an overgrown area on the farm.  These are casualties from a time when our focus was shifting to the vegetable operation from the perennial flowers we focused on at the time.  Whatever we don't get moved will be tilled under so we can work to rehabilitate the area they reside in currently.  We hope to move many of these to other places on the farm.  Your incentive will be that you will be allowed to take some cuttings to your own gardens if you wish.  We'd also like to remind you that you get to place your name in our end of year drawing for each hour you volunteer on the farm this year.

What more incentive do you need?  We will be digging and moving the perennials from 1 pm to 5pm on Sunday.

Will it be muddy?  Yes.  It may even be a bit on the chilly side.  But, if we wait for it to dry out, we'll never do it.  So, let's get this done!

Please RSVP to our email address if you wish to attend.