Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Little of This and a Little of That

There are a number of things going on at the farm right now, so a farm report type of post seems most relevant.  But, the hard part about this is that it can be hard to figure out what things are the 'biggest' things going on at the farm.  So, I'll just start typing until I stop and we'll call that good.

Organic Certification
Every year we apply for certification we are required to have a visit from an organic inspector.  Inspectors try to avoid holding inspections for any given farm at the same time each year so the operation can be viewed at different phases of production over time.  This year, the inspection was not held until late in the season.

Our inspector arrived on Monday morning this past week (October 12) and we started with a farm tour and followed up with the review of our records and paperwork.  Once we completed the process, our inspector let us know that we had passed the inspection with no problems.  This, in itself, is actually not a surprise since we take the certification process seriously and we work hard to clear the bar by more than just a little bit for certification.  We have held organic certification every year since 2007 and we intend to continue to the best of our abilities.

If you want to learn more about organic certification we have a three part set of blog posts.  The third post is linked here and links to the other two are at the top of that blog post.

High Tunnel Escapades
As the weather gets colder, there is a list of things that we need to do that involve our high tunnel buildings.  Among those things is the work to move the older of the two buildings to the western position so it covers our late Fall/Winter crops.  We accomplished that move today (Saturday) with minimal problems (thanks for the help Mom & Dad Zenk!) and now we can move to the next steps.  We are hopeful that we can get new plastic on this building before it gets too cold, but we are limited in our choices by the wind speed.

Meanwhile, we have a few additional bits of work to do on the new high tunnel to prepare it for Winter.  It's not that any of these projects are all that huge by themselves, but they do add up.

Sun Puddles Are Back in Vogue

You left this here for us, right?
First Frost as a Freeze
At least the first REALLY cold night landed on a Friday.  For us, that's a good thing.  If it is on a CSA day (Tue or Thu) we can't easily respond to the situation.  We did, actually, have very light patchy frost on Thursday night.  But, since it is mid-October, there wasn't much we were worried about.  But, with temps forecast down to 26 for Friday night, we had to work hard all day Friday pulling in things that wouldn't handle the cold.

In fact, not only did we need to pick things that were outside, we realized that tender things inside our high tunnels needed to be picked as well.  Then, we realized that all of the winter squash sitting on carts outside would need to come too.  Let's just say that Friday was a very long day working in a chilly Northwest wind.

In the end, the temps at the farm made it to 22 degrees Fahrenheit and it was down to the freezing mark by 10 pm.  Eight or nine hours of freeze can wreak some havoc, so it's a good thing we did what we did.  On the flip side, all of our buildings are pretty disorganized with all of the produce, etc in the way.

Flock Reductions
'Tis the season for many trips to the park with our birds.  Thus far, we have taken broiler chicken batch #2 to the park and the first set of ducks have also gone in.  This week, we take the turkeys in and we take broiler batch #3 in the first week of November.  The second set of ducks and the baking chickens go in sometime after that.  We're always a bit surprised at how tired we both get after a batch is taken in for processing and we complete all of the 'etceteras' that follow.  But, if you consider that we have to handle each bird twice while they live (catching and putting into cages and then out of cages to the processor's cages) and then at least twice more after processing (more if they are not picked up unfrozen) you can start to get an idea of some of the reasons why.

It helps when we consider the eventual reduction in daily labor and responsibilities on the farm as the flocks are reduced.  At our peak, we had six active flocks that needed to be dealt with at least twice a day.  We're down to five now (and one of those is much smaller and easier to deal with).

Upcoming Events
There are a couple of events coming up that we thought we should share:

Cedar Falls Fall Food Festival at the Cedar Falls Community Center from 7:00pm until 8:30pm.  We will be there representing our farm and promoting our csa and poultry.  This event is Tuesday, October 20, which means we'll be zipping down there after our final CSA delivery in Waverly.  Drop in and say hi while we're there.

Iowa Organic Conference is Monday, November 23 in Iowa City.  Rob will be attending and will be participating as a discussion area 'expert' on organic vegetable production.  We will also be holding our Annual Meeting for the Iowa Organic Association for which Rob is a board member.

The season for Rob speaking in classes has begun, with one visit to Maria Perez's class at UNI October 27 and a couple for Tammy's class on Excel in November.

The Midwest CSA Conference in Eau Claire, Wisconsin will occur on December 3 and 4.  Rob has agreed to be part of a panel for the "What's in Your Box" session.

The Practical Farmers of Iowa Cooperators Meeting for research follows on December 10th and 11th.

Fall Shares, 2016 Shares and Poultry Availability
And then there is this.

We are now in the process of taking reservations for 2016 shares.  At the same time, we are taking sign ups for our Fall extended season shares for this year.  And, of course, we are trying to sell our processed ducks, turkeys and chickens.  If you have questions about any of these, please contact us.  A future blog post will feature details about each of these.

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