Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Summer Harvest Festival 2017

We'd like to cordially invite you to our annual Summer Festival at the farm that will be held on Saturday, August 26.  The event will be preceded with a Tom Sawyer Day for those who might like to volunteer some time on the farm either prepping for the festival or helping do a little weeding or other farm work so things look beautiful when everyone else arrives.. If you would be so kind as to RSVP that you plan to attend, it would help us immensely with our preparations.
While we hope for good weather, we’ll party regardless of the weather.  This year’s festival will feature a GFF turkey (prepared by Tammy), good food, family-friendly fun, the annual Farm Foto Treasure Hunt, farm tours and other activities.
We hope this event gives everyone a chance to celebrate a the closing of Summer with us at the farm. Bring your family, kids and friends (but please leave pets, tobacco and alcohol at home). Our farm has open space for kids of all ages to run around, chase balls, meet the poultry, and share in the fun. We encourage you to bring lawn-games, blankets and chairs, table service would be helpful.  Leave the electronic devices in the car.

Food at this festival features some of the best food around by the best chefs around – all of YOU.  Tammy will roast one of our farm’s pasture-raised turkeys for sandwiches and we will provide some veggies to top the sandwiches.  We expect to provide iced-tea, lemonade and water.  We encourage you to bring either a salad, snack or dessert.  [note – at past festivals we have also offered a grill, but sadly, our grill is aging and not available for the heavy use associated with a large gathering].  If you wish to bring other beverages, we would prefer that they be non-alcoholic.  If the weather is nice (low wind), we’ll also provide s’more makings (if you have a favorite marshmallow-roasting stick to share with others, bring it along!). To help those with food sensitivities or the curious, please bring a recipe card with an ingredient list and your name to tape to your dish. 
One of our goals for our events is to have "minimal waste" events.  We will have table service (plates, silverware, napkins and serving utensils) and encourage attendees to bring their own beverage cups (we’ll have extras just case).  We also encourage you to bring lawn chairs or blankets as we have a limited supply. 
Summer Festival Schedule (subject to change if needed):

1:00-4:00 Tom Sawyer Work Time
For those who have interest, we could use some volunteers in the early afternoon to help with set up and preparation. If you are willing to help, please indicate that this is the case in your RSVP. If we get enough volunteers, we could have a few people doing other work on the farm.


4:00-5:00 Huck Finn Play Time

It is possible that there may be a little bit of prepping still going on, but we'll certainly start making the transition to just enjoying the day at this point. We intend to do our photo scavenger hunt again this year. We will have sidewalk chalk available for the artistic sorts. You need not attend early to participate in these activities. We don't anticipate shutting them down unless the weather or other circumstance forces the issue.

For those that have a lawn game that they might like to play (and share with other interested persons), let us know you will bring it and we'll make sure an area is open for the game you have chosen to share.
Also note: we *might* get some latex paint and provide some rocks to do some rock painting *if* there are persons out there who are willing to help supervise this activity.  Let us know if you are such a person.
It is also possible that there will be an active event or two organized.  We will announce as we confirm persons who can help us supervise these activities.

4:30 Farm Tour #1
Rob or Tammy will provide guided tours of the farm at two points during the gathering for those who would like them. We'll give you the nickel tour and you can feel free to ask questions as we show you our fields and the critters on the farm.
5:00 Food!

The potluck and turkey feed begins at 5pm.

5:00 - 6:00 Heirloom Tomato Tasting
We hope that we can manage to put out a spread of different tomatoes for everyone to taste. You all get to vote for your favorite. The winning tomato gets a 'free' blog post and a bump in production for next year!

6:00 Farm Tour #2
If you are not too full and want the nickel tour, here is a second chance for you.

6:00 Farm more Huck Finn Play Time
Hey - if we have all these neat games and art making opportunities and music around - why would we stop? If you can still move after eating - go for it!

7:00 Bonfire and s'Mores?

It is GFF tradition to have a bonfire and some s'Mores after the potluck winds down. The tradition only holds if the weather allows. If it is too windy, we may opt to not start a fire.

8:00 Time to Wind it Down
As it starts to get dark on the farm, the farmers start to turn into pumpkins. Well, not literally. But, they do still need to do some chores after everyone leaves. If you are willing to help with a little clean up, please let us know. We might appreciate three to four pairs of hands to help in that department.


We Compost
In an effort to reduce waste at GFF events, you will notice that we will have containers with different labels. All food waste will go into the COMPOST bucket. We do realize that some meat might go into these buckets, but the relatively low volume as compared to our compost piles will not make much difference in this case. We will have a BURNABLES container for napkins and paper produces. Another container will take the dishes and silverware we provide (if you bring your own, you'll have to take it with you, of course). A RECYCLING container will be available for standard recyclable items. And, a TRASH container will be for whatever is left (it should not be much).

Arrange to pick up or order poultry while you are there!

Our second batch of broilers will be processed the week prior to the festival. Save a dollar per bird if you order birds and pick them up prior to leaving the farm at the end of the Festival. We will also have a sign up sheet available to reserve turkeys.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Using Those Veggies Isn't So Hard!

We certainly understand that the volume of vegetables provided in our shares can sometimes overwhelm.  We are also aware that there are vegetables that various people don't always like.  That's ok, we all have our favorites and we all have our taste preferences.  But, we still believe that many of us will find that some of the vegetables and foods that we "don't like" are just waiting for the right preparation method that could change our minds.

In order to set up this story properly, we would like to remind you about this Eggplant story.  You should go read it, we'll wait here for you. Honest, it will tell you something about one of your personal farmers!

Pintung Long eggplant
Now that you have the backstory.  Wait!  You didn't read it?  Get with the program now!  The rest of us will wait here while you do that.

Ok, now that we're all caught up and we all know the lengths to which Tammy will go to avoid eggplant, we bring you the following:

Jocelyn has been working on the farm this Summer and she does get some produce to use as she sees fit as part of her reward for weeding and helping reap.  She put together the following "egg bake" dish and brought it for all of us to share for lunch on Thursday of the past week.  Jocelyn did NOT tell us which veggies were in the dish and she enjoyed our guessing which vegetables and spices were in there.  However, the real fun came as Jocelyn, Rob and Caleb waited for Tammy to realize that there was EGGPLANT among the ingredients.  Please note that she had already given this dish a thumbs up!

The great news about this one?  It is easy and you can make changes based on what you have available and what you prefer to use.

Here is what Jocelyn sent to us with permission to post and share:
Ingredient Dump Egg Bake: 
*These are approximations and there is room for moderation at your personal desire. 

Dice up the following: 
1 medium Summer squash
1/2 large Kohlrabi 
1 medium Onion (including greens) 
2 Turnips
1/2 small eggplant (without skin) 
1 green pepper 
Seasonings: 
A few shakes of pepper 
3  dried and smashed Basil leaves 
a couple sprinkles Dill 
1 strand of dried Oregano
A good dusting of garlic powder
2 dashes of salt  
Whisk together 
Approx. 10 eggs and a dump of 1% white milk (air on the side of a little milky) 

Add all together with a handful of shredded Parmesan cheese and half a handful of shredded Colby Jack 
(Or whatever cheese you happen to have in your refrigerator) 
After briefly mixing, dump into grease 9x13.  Bake at about 425 degrees until the egg is not raw but not too long that the bottom is burnt.  

Potentials
Add diced tomatoes on top when eating 
Add potatoes/hash browns on bottom of pan  
 
Interested in more recipes and ideas?
We have posts that follow the tag Culinary Corner and posts that follow the tag Recipes that may hold interest for you.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Building a Pollinator Paradise

Every year we try to do what we can to feed our workers.  Yes, we hope that Caleb, Emma and Jocelyn are happy.  But, these are not the workers we are referring to.  Instead, we are referring to our pollinator friends and our predator friends that help us grow what we grow on our farm.  We've mentioned them before and we'll likely mention them again.

Sadly, this year has been a bit of a struggle for our annual flower plantings.  On the other hand, the perennial plantings are having a pretty good year.

Finally Feeling A Full Recovery
Since the spray event in 2012, we experienced a significant decline in our reseeded wildflowers like Rudebekia and Coneflower (Echinacia).  With a drastically reduced pollinator population, there were fewer viable seeds.  But, it seems like things are starting to rebound.
Of course, some of this has been a natural process.  For example, coneflowers can and do survive winters in our area, so you don't have to rely on a fully reseeded batch of them every season.  The plants that survive can try again to set viable seed if they live for more than one growing period.  As a result, we have seen a quicker rebound of them on our farm. 
Some of the process of recovery was because we have been taking pro-active measures to try to encourage more flowers and 'wild areas' on the farm.  This Spring we had a little bit of help working to clear out volunteer maples and other brushy things form an area that is supposed to be wildflowers (and similar things).  That effort has been paying off with a better showing of Queen of the Prairie, anemone and other flowers this season.  We even got the surprise of seeing some remaining daylilies from our first few years on the farm when this was our perennial flower bed.

Sometimes Letting a Flower Bed Get Away From You Isn't All Bad
We like Helianthus.  We don't mind so much that it can spread by self-sowing.  On the other hand, we never quite intended this flower bed to be ONLY Helianthus.  We also got lucky with some nice clover in the foreground.  But, the pretty flowers other than these two are pretty much overshadowed and the weeds were getting out of hand.
On the other hand, we can get a pretty interesting picture if you find a daylily just opening its first flower in front of the Helianthus.  Let's just say that it is hard to not look at these flowers and stay grumpy.  That's a good thing.
Speaking of Clover
Some folks think we are a little odd because we let areas of our 'lawn' go to clover.  And, they think we are even odder when we tell them that we're trying to manage the clover so it will be strong again next year.  Essentially, our management consists of watching the bloom and the other, taller plants that tend to begin showing up in areas we are not mowing.  Once the bloom goes past peak and/or some of the other plants start taking over, we mow.  It seems to be working because we still have a decent grass base and we've had decent clover in this area for three years running.  The white clover is far easier to manage and many people should find it easy to have white clover as part of their in-town lawns.  The purple clover is a bigger plant and bit wilder.

Milkweed Here and There
I noted one of my neighbors driving down the road in their 4-wheeler with a portable sprayer.  He was specifically targeting milkweed that were growing next to the road.  I found this odd for a couple of reasons.  First, that road edge is due to be mowed by the county in the next week (edit: it was mowed soon after) so this seemed like a waste of time anyway.  And, second, I don't see milkweed as a horribly dangerous 'weed' for crops other than the fact that they can be tenacious, I suppose.  
Meanwhile, we have a milkweed volunteer by the downspout on one of our buildings.  We don't mind having milkweed here and there and we have enough around the farm that we don't cry either if we have to remove some in order to do our growing.  Personally, I would love to have a ditch full of milkweed, joe pye weed, queen of the prairie, wild phlox, wild day lilies and other cool things. 
If At First You Don't Succeed
As I mentioned earlier, we haven't had our normal success with annual flowers this year.  Our direct seedings of everything from borage to zinnia and marigolds have not been as robust as in prior years.  We have a lot of poor germination spots and germination was slow this season.  As a result, weeds popped into these planting before we could do much about it.  In some cases, we have worked the row back in because it was a lost cause.  In others, we've done things to add more plants to the row after working on weeding them.

 One example above is a row that we seeded in Phacelia (Bee's Friend).  We love Bee's Friend because it attracts many of our smaller pollinator friends.  The activity around these plants is just amazing.  But, germination was extremely poor and the weeds won.  So, we took out the row and replanted with some marigold, salvia and calendula plants starts. 

It's late.  Some of the starts are past their peak.  So what?  We have them and we have a spot where they need to go.  So, there you have it.  In our minds, our workers need to eat all season long.  If some of these flowers don't really get going until September, we're fine with that, our friends need to eat then as well.  The down side, of course, is that we miss some of the attractant possibilities for this time of year when the squash is flowering.  But, that's not a reason to stop planting flowers - especially when you have them to plant.

And then there is the final succession of summer squash and zucchini.  We put a row of flowers on each side.  The good news here is that these flowers can also help boost winter squash to the north and an older succession of summer squash and zucchini to the south. 

What Will We Change for 2018?
We always have ideas.  Sometimes we can make them happen, sometimes we can't.  We'll continue to support our perennial flowers as best as we are able, of course.  And, we're hoping to add some more things to the landscape this year.  As far as the annual flowers go, I guess we'll be doing more with transplants and move away from some of the direct seeding we've been doing up to this point. 

But, for now, there is a good deal of the 2017 growing season left to go.  Let's see how wonderful we can make things look this year before we go worrying about next year.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Time Machine

This is sort of a Before and After type of post - except we're going to go backward in time.  Why not?

Ok, ok.  Why?  Well, because I want to, of course!  Need there be any other reason?

The most recent picture in this chain is actually still a couple (maybe a few) weeks old already.  But, it shows the goal we were working towards.  We wanted to get our potatoes hilled, but weather (and all of the other work we needed to do) just kept getting in the way.

The final product.
We used a tool bar with two discs to hill the loose dirt in the paths onto the potatoes.  The purpose is to keep the tubers covered so they are not exposed to the sun.  If we had done this sooner, it might also have encouraged more tuber set and size.  But, we know we missed the right time slot this year.  That sort of thing just happens and we make the best of it when it does.
Just before hilling
The ground was still a bit damp and the weeds were sizable, so we removed the weeds so they wouldn't re-root.  They went to our compost pile (Mount Evermess) and will one day become some nice nutrients for some other crop.  Rob did a quick run down the paths with the tiller to loosen the soil up so we didn't end up with large chunks of dirt being thrown on the plants.  Tammy made sure to get the irrigation lines in place in hopes that the hilling would cover them and hold them in place.
Just about done with the in row weeding
Our flex tine cultivator helped reduce the weeds that were directly in the rows of potatoes in MOST cases, but there were still tougher weeds like Canada Thistle and some grasses we missed that had to be hand pulled.  We also got closer to the plants with wheel hoes and we called on the flex tine weeder with the knives to get as close as we were comfortable with tractor cultivation.  For more on that, keep reading.


Conservative passes with the flex tine weeder
We really wanted to run the flex tine weeder much, much earlier than this.  But, when it gets too wet and stays too wet, you can't do it.  We put the squash knives on the tool bar with the flex tines and ran a conservative cultivation to get used to how close we could get without damaging the potatoes.  Clearly, after the first two passes, we could be a bit more aggressive.  We played with that a little bit and used wheel hoes to knock down as much as we could as well.  Next year it should be even easier to respond.

And there you are, pretty close to the same chunk of our farm in pictures after some good work!

Before
After

Saturday, August 5, 2017

August Newsletter

We like to say that the month of August is a month of transition on our farm.  Actually, we used to like to say that, until we realized that EVERY month on the farm is a month of transition.  So, never mind.
Instead, we'll just point out that the garlic harvest is done and the garlic is now hanging in the truck barn curing.  It's a good thing.


August Calendar of Events

  • August 1: Delivery 12 Waverly (Trad, WE, AltEven)
    August 3: Delivery 12 Cedar Falls (Trad, WE, AltEven)
  • August 6: Tom Sawyer Day 3pm-6pm at the farm - help us make our perennial flower beds prettier!
    August 7: Waverly Garden Club at GFF 7pm
    August 8: Delivery 13 Waverly (Trad, WE, AltOdd)
    August 10: Broiler Flock 3 Arrival
    August 10: Delivery 13 Cedar Falls (Trad, WE, AltOdd)
    August 13: Iowa Organic Association Summer Celebration at Scattergood Friends School in West Branch
    August 15: Delivery 14 Waverly (Trad, WE, AltEven)
    August 17: Delivery 14 Cedar Falls (Trad, WE, AltEven)
    August 20: Gang of Four+ at Genuine Faux Farm 
    August 22: Delivery 15 Waverly (Trad, WE, AltOdd, Trav)
    August 24: Delivery 15 Cedar Falls (Trad, WE, AltOdd, Trav)
    August 24: Broiler Flock 2 to "the Park"
    August 26: Tom Sawyer Work Day 1-4pm
    August 26: Summer Festival at Genuine Faux Farm

    August 29: Delivery 16 Waverly (Trad, WE, AltEven, Trav)
    August 31: Delivery 16 Cedar Falls (Trad, WE, AltEven, Trav)
Summer Festival is In Sight:
We are less than a month away from our 2017 Summer Festival.  Mark your calendars and plan to come out to the farm on August 26 (Saturday).  The annual photo scavenger hunt will once again make an appearance (of course) but we are adding rock painting and a painted rock hunt to the itinerary for the kids.  And, yes, the kids at heart could probably participate as well.  We will be roasting a GFF turkey for sandwiches and will combine that with a potluck. 
Our Summer Festivals has been very well-received over the past few years and we hope to see you at this year's festival.

If you have ideas of things you would like to have happen at this year's Summer Festival or if you are willing to help with something, please contact us.  We have tried to do heirloom tomato tasting some years, just as we did in 2014.  Last year's event invitation looked something like this.

Pesticide Spray Season
The last couple of weeks have sounded like and felt a bit like a war zone at the farm.  The spray planes and helicopters were out in force.  We would like to remind all of you that if you witness any sort of misapplication of agricultural chemicals, you should report it.  Take careful note of the time and location and then report the situation.  If drift or misapplication is NOT reported, then nothing will change. 
Pesticide Bureau
DR. GRETCHEN PALUCH, Bureau Chief
515-281-8591

pesticides@iowaAgriculture.gov
If you are on a bike trail and witness an application that is impacting the bike trail, that is not right and should be reported.  If you are driving down the road and droplets hit your vehicle after a plane flies over, it should be reported.  While fines and enforcement in Iowa is week and the Pesticide Bureau's funding has not been well supported, neither will be changed unless the problem is made clear.  This is NOT just a problem for a sustainable vegetable farm near Tripoli, Iowa - this is OUR problem.  Let's fix it.

Song of the Month
At the point in the growing season where we need an extra kick to keep going.  In 2015, I wrote a post titled "Endurance Tests" that split our season into stages of how we, as farmers, were often feeling.  It's still pretty much correct.  So, a song like "What Are You Made Of" by the Call is a good one to encourage us to keep on forging through the year.



Recipe of the Month
It looks like a good crop of broccoli coming in and the basil is looking good.  Therefore, we bring this one up that is featured on our website for broccoli:

Pasta with Broccoli and Pesto
Make 1 cup batch of pesto by pureeing the following:
  • 1.5 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tbs pine nuts
Then add to this pesto:
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 2tbs olive oil
  • Blend and then remove to a small bowl.
  • Stir in 1/4 cup mixture grated Parmesan and Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Set this mixture aside
Core and cut into bite-sized wedges 1 large red ripe tomato
Cut 1 bunch broccoli into small flowerettes and trim broccoli stem into bite sized pieces. Steam until crisp and tender (3-5 minutes)
In a saucepan heat:
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • add the following to olive oil:
  • 1 clove of finely chopped garlic
  • the prepared broccoli
  • 1/2 tsp hot red pepper flakes
  • Cook over medium heat, stirring gently to warm through. Hold.
Cook 1 pound rigatoni in boiling salted water. Drain, reserving some water to thin pesto.
To serve: Put cooked pasta in a bowl. Add 1-2 tbs hot pasta water to pesto and stir until thinned - then pour over pasta. Salt to taste. Add broccoli, tomato and toss to blend. Serve immediately.
from This Organic Life by J.D. Gussow

Field Report
The month of July had some serious heat, but it was the rain at the farm that stole the headlines.  While most of the rest of the state is now in drought conditions, we had 8.75 inches of rain for the month.  Needless to say, that caused some issues for us.  
We are disappointed in some of our crops right now.  The field peppers are acting like they were hit with an herbicide at some point this season, so we're fighting to get them going.  The green beans and carrots in Eden (the older high tunnel) did not like being flooded.  As a result, the green beans are dead and we've pulled them out.  We've also pulled the carrots and found that we lost over half of them to rot issues.  Both were looking great prior to the heavy rains we got.  But, every year is like this in some way.  We look at them and wonder if we'll get much of anything.  Meanwhile, other crops sneak in some wonderful results.

The broccoli is looking fabulous right now, despite the picture above showing a very wet field.  On the plus side, the field is very clean and the plants look very good.  On the negative side, the weather caused succession I and succession II to bunch up their maturity dates and we may end up with a VERY LARGE amount of broccoli all in a three week period.  Yikes!

We got the winter squash field all weeded and we added more flowers to the mix to encourage our pollinator friends.  We feel like the Waltham Butternuts will be fine and it is likely the Long Island Cheese and the Musquee de Provence pumpkins will do reasonably well.  Maybe not record crops, but I think we'll have a respectable showing.  The earlier winter squash varieties (spaghetti, delicata and acorn varieties) are looking even stronger, though I am not happy with pest pressure in the spaghetti squash.  Some more flowers that went in with the final succession of the zucchini and summer squash might help a bit with that one.

The garlic harvest probably rated as an "average" harvest for us.  We've had a couple years in a row of "excellent" harvests, so we can't help but be a little bit disappointed.  But, then we've got to realize that every time we do a good job with something on our farm, we raise the bar a bit more for the next season.  That's probably not a realistic approach for every crop we grow, but it is in our nature to keep trying to improve.

The Golden Beets in Eden were VERY tasty this year and we're hoping the Chioggia's in Valhalla do every bit as well.  We need to get our fall beet planting in the field soon since Rob really wants one more run at the Golden's.  The kale has enjoyed the rain and rewarded us with some very large leaves in July.  We expect them to get a bit smaller in August until the Fall succession takes off.
 


Picture of the Month
Love coneflowers on the farm!

Farm News Shorts
  • The Genuine Faux Farm is once again involved in research projects sponsored by Practical Farmers of Iowa.  This year, we are trialing a few lettuce varieties to see if they can handle the warm weather temperatures.  We are also trialing an annual pollinator mix of plants to attract our working pollinator friends.
  • We have very much enjoyed meeting some of the wonderful people who have been picking up for our vacationing/traveling CSA members.  We would like these folks to know they are welcome to join us for the Summer Festival AND we'd love to have them consider joining us in the future.  If you are aware of some of these folks, please pass on both invitation.  We are still willing to add members as the season progresses.
  • Rob and Tammy did take a short break to visit family in Minnesota.  As part of the trip, Rob took his 96 page exhibit of postal history from the 1860's to the Minnesota Stamp Expo where it won all sorts of awards including the "Reserve Grand" prize, which is essentially "second place" for all exhibits that were shown there.  We're pretty pleased about this since this project has been ongoing for many years.


Time to Have Pun
Once upon a time there was a flock of angels with long flowing beautiful hair. But lo and behold, due to improper eating habits and advanced age, all their hair fell out. They soon saw the light and purchased gorgeous, extravagant wigs, which were even more golden and more flowing than their original hair.

One day, there came unto the angels very bad tidings. They lost their financial security and were reduced to a penniless state. In utmost misery, they fell to their knees and prayed for a solution. Suddenly, the clouds parted and a thunderous voice gave forth the following advice, "Hock the Hair Old Angels."