Saturday, September 30, 2017

2017 Crop Report

We have done this for a couple of years running and a few people have said they liked it.  So, here it is!  The annual crop status versus crop goals post.  We will continue to update this post as the harvest season continues for as long as we pay enough attention to do it.  I suppose you could say it will get updated as long as we enjoy doing it. After all, you can see the last update for 2016 was November 4 and there were still some crops coming in (but not too much).

All numbers with * are subject to change as the season continues. Updated 10/9/17

Green Beans
   goal -500 pounds                                                 
   2017: 377.2 pounds *                                             2016: 499.8 pounds
   goal - 500 pounds                                                   
   2017: 764.2 pounds *                                               2016: 210.6 pounds
and yes, this is a record for those of you who might be curious after our Things Farm Records Are Made Of post.
   goal - 3000 fruit                                                       
   2017: 1672 fruit                                                         2016: 3023 fruit 
   goal - 3000 head                                                     
   2016: 2926 head                                                        2016: 3176 head
Bell and Sweet Peppers
   goal - 3000 fruit                                                     
   2017: 1162 fruit *                                                       2016: 3749 fruit
   goal - 800 fruit                                                     
   2017: 1099 fruit                                                         2016: 868 fruit
   goal -  500 pounds                                                 
   2017 -  339.9 pounds *                                            2016 -  868.6 pounds
   goal - 350 fruit                                                      
   2017 - 137 fruit                                                      2016 - 541 fruit
   goal - 2500 bulbs                                                 
   2017 - 1381 bulbs *                                                 2016 - 3205 bulbs 
Winter Squash
   goal - 600 fruit                                                  
   2017 - 991 fruit   *                                                  2016 - 938 fruit
Snow Peas
   goal - 150 pounds                                             
   2017 - 126.9 pounds                                             2016 - 134.8 pounds
   goal - 1500 pounds                                             
   2017 - 1095.2 pounds                                           2016 - 1597.4 pounds
   goal - 300 pounds                                              
   2017 - 302.9 pounds *                                           2016 - 122.0 pounds
   goal - 350 pounds                                             
   2017 - 355.0 pounds    *                                       2016 - 245.8 pounds   
Pok Choi
   goal - 250 pounds                                              
   2017 - 265.9 pounds    *                                      2016 - 268.0 pounds
Snack Tomato
   goal - 2000 fruit                                               
   2017 - 2479 fruit    *                                            2016 - 2207 fruit
   goal - 150 pounds 
   2017 - 165.7 pounds *
   goal - 200 pounds
   2017 - 434 pounds
   goal - 150 pounds
   2017 - 201.6 pounds
   goal - 800 fruit
   2017 - 881 fruit  *
   goal - 750 head
   2017 - 527 head  *
Tomato (slicer or larger)
   goal - 2000 pounds
   2017 - 1827.5 pounds *
Cherry Tomato
   goal - 2000 fruit
   2017 - 3539 fruit *
   goal - 600 root
   2017 - 983 root *

This doesn't show all of the crops we grow, but we have added a number of them to the list this year.  I didn't quite feel like taking the time to put in 2016 numbers for some of the new ones - but that could change if I get a wild hair to do it.

The Good

We've already talked about the broccoli in our blog this year.  And then, we talked about it again in a post that also included discussion about our snack tomato crops.  It's just natural for a person to want to discuss something that is going well.

This has clearly been a good year for brassicae family crops on our farm.  The cabbage led the way by setting a farm record for most weight of produced, marketable heads and this was followed by the broccoli showing us enough side shoot love that we broke that record as well.  The cauliflower has followed suit, but it looks like we won't quite break the 200 pound mark. 

We feel like we can attribute some of this outstanding production to our own efforts and choices, but we also have to admit that it was probably just a darned good year for this sort of crop on our farm.  The cool August helped a fair amount.

The Good Enough
Most of our crops fall into the "good enough" category this year, which is perfectly fine with us.  In general, the quality has been very good to exceptional with the yield being reasonable, but not exceptional. 

The green beans are a good example.  The taste has been fantastic and the amount of green beans has been enough to keep our farm share CSA customers happy.  But, we don't have much extra beyond that this year.  Some of it is due to an issue with the wet weather in late July and some has to do with the time intensive nature of green bean harvest.  Because we lost the summer crop in Eden, we are stuck with a heavier load in the Fall - when we have less help to harvest.  Such is life.

In fact most of our crops are producing 'enough,' which is a nice thing to be able to say.  But, we would be lying if we didn't have our disappointments.

And the Ugly

Our biggest disappointment has got to be the field melons this season.  We really believed that we had the system figured out with these.  And, frankly, we still do.  However, they ran into the buzz saw that is field E1.  E1 has a history of making us feel like idiots and it did not fail in doing that this season as well.  We still got melons from the high tunnels, but it sure wasn't the bonanza we had dancing in our heads at the beginning of the year.  For those who are curious, we are permanently retiring E1 from annual vegetable production now.  We've "moved it" out of production and put cover crops and poultry on it to rehab it in the past.  But, there just is some bad karma going on there - so we're going to do something very different there starting this Fall.

Other disappointments have tended to be warm weather crops this season.  The cucumbers were less than they usually are and the field peppers have really had a tough time of it.  But, in each case, there is the potential for redemption even at this late date.  The third succession of cucumbers (a gamble) is actually starting to produce.  If we can keep the temps above 40 degrees F, we should get a nice little bump in that yield.  Similarly, the field peppers have fruit that are approaching readiness.  It won't be what we hoped for, but it will be better than what we've had thus far!

And Crops with Potential
It is still very early to report on all of our crops.  Three-quarters of the potatoes are still in the ground (which is not abnormal for us) and the winter squash is just now approaching readiness (also not abnormal).  Both have the potential to be reasonable crops, though we do not expect super high yields.  The 75% of the onions are still in the field after a late start and are approaching readiness as well.  We don't think they will be super big, but the taste thus far has been extremely good and the numbers should be fine.  There is plenty of season remaining for kale, spinach, lettuce, turnips, choi and other cool season crops.  In fact, it is often surprising how much comes in during the month of October.

Feel free to check in on this post every so often and see how we progress with our harvest.  And, if you have questions, feel free to post them!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Sometimes, It's Not About You

It's only natural for there to be some variability in our crop production from year to year.  The whole point is to become skilled at figuring out how to manage for that variability in a way that overall farm production is consistent.

HOWEVER (you had to know that was coming, didn't you?)

It's only human to wonder what you did wrong when a specific crop does relatively poorly and to take credit when that crop does exceptionally well.  But, sometimes - it's not actually about you.  Sometimes, it just wasn't a particularly good year for a given crop in your area (or for your farm).  In some seasons, the weather just doesn't favor that crop.  It may not matter what you do, the results are not going to be there.

And, now we get to the fun stuff.  You can guess why I am writing about it.  If you need a hint, here is a crop report post from October of 2016 (last year).

A Decent Start
We can point to a number of factors that might indicate why we are seeing some success this year with our tomatoes after last year's 'woes.'  We felt like we did a nice job getting things done this year with our tomatoes and we felt that perhaps we didn't do nearly so well last year.  Except, we have evidence that we really weren't doing so badly.  Below is a picture of some of this year's field tomatoes in August for comparison.
Certainly, there was some difference in our performance between 2016 and 2017.  But, the big difference was that we didn't get to caging some of the tomatoes in 2016.  This year, we just planted fewer tomatoes because we realized we can't handle as many as we planted in the prior year.  Otherwise, we had just about the same number of tomatoes caged, trellised, mulched, etc at about the same time in both years.  In other words, our care for the plants wasn't so different that we should expect much change in the yield.

Different Years, Similar Treatments, Different Results
We still have plenty of tomato harvest to go for 2017.  So, keep in mind that our 2017 numbers are incomplete.  And yet, they are already good enough to make it clear that 2016 wasn't a good tomato year from a yield perspective.  For example, we consider one of our favorite early producing tomatoes by looking at the fruit count for the entire 2016 year versus 2017 thus far:
                                                 2016   2017
Italian Heirloom (high tunnel)       201     225
Italian Heirloom (field)                 117     352
Number of field plants are the same.  High tunnel plants are up by 4 plants from 2016.

A 2.8 pound tomato is bound to create slices that cover your sandwich well.

I selected this variety for comparison because it is one we have a long history growing.  We grow more of this tomato than any other because it has been reliable for us over the years and we like the quality of the fruit.  Last year's production for this variety was abysmal (from our point of view).  Even the SIZE of the Italian Heirlooms in the high tunnel were disappointing as compared to other years:

Average Weight per fruit of Italian Heirloom in high tunnel production:
2015    .71 lbs
2016    .57 lbs
2017    .71 lbs


Signs That All Things Are Not Equal
There were a number of indicators that there were some factors that were likely beyond our control last season.  For example, we had an issue with basil blight last August that pretty well finished our basil by mid-August.  This is a problem we have never seen before and was not really known in the Midwest - but it popped up in the Midwest last season.
But, our basil is still going in late September and it is attracting lots of pollinators this year.

And the high tunnel plants just seem much more vigorous and much more willing to reach for the sky (so to speak).  The picture below shows plants in Eden in early September.  They've put on a good deal more growth since that time.

Cluster of Red Zebra tomatoes
And, unlike last year, we're seeing the normal clustering fruit development that we expect in many of our snack tomatoes.  Last year, clusters were sparsely populated, which would explain some of these numbers:

Jaune Flamme per plant production in Eden
2015     142.8 fruit
2016      86.0 fruit
2017     124.4 fruit

And frankly, the Jaune Flamme plants in Eden don't look like they'll quit for a few more weeks (if then).  150 fruit per plant is definitely in reach this season.

I find it particularly telling that the downturn in production last year could also be found in the high tunnels.  We can control more variables in our high tunnel production environment and we tend to stay on top of our weeding, irrigation and other tasks in our high tunnels even more than we do in the open fields.  In fact, it was because of our high tunnel production that we had enough tomatoes to keep our farm share CSA members happy with heirloom tomatoes.  I'm not sure that could have happened if it were only field production last year.

Even Reliable Producing Cultivars Took A Season Off in 2016

Consider some of these numbers:
                               2016     2017
Wisconsin 55:              7         282
Nebraska Wedding:     57        164
Rutgers                     103       152

And, after you consider them, remember that we have more to pick for this season. 
Nebraska Wedding
 Perhaps it isn't all about us.  Maybe next year I'll just drop a bunch of seeds in the ground and let them do their thing?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Raining Cats and Dogs

It has been very dry at the farm since we had some very serious rain at the end of July.  At the point of those downpours, we were well ahead in terms of moisture for the year.  Now, we're probably at about the normal amount of rainfall for the year thus far (which tells you how far ahead we were).

I have to admit that I tend to prefer drier weather from a work perspective most of the time.  Obviously, if it gets so hot, dry and windy that all you do is water things, then it doesn't help.  But, drier this time of year on our farm, with our soil types and with the wetter start we had.. well, it's been okay for us.

For example, the field tomatoes tend to taste better if there is less rain during the ripening period.  The fruit also tend to hold a little better so we get nicer fruit.  On the other hand, crops like lettuce don't really want to get going because they apparently know the difference between irrigation and real rain.  Oh sure.  They'll grow and do decently.  But, give them a nice little soaker at about the point they are half-sized and you'll have some awesome lettuce!
West of the farm Sep 25 in the late afternoon.

As of this writing at 9:00 pm on September 25, the farm has received exactly 1 inch of rain for the day according to our weather station.  We can't complain since we did need it.

Bree, one of our Indoor Farm Supervisory Staff, has been complaining.  She is not particularly fond of thunder and we had a good bit of that earlier.  She found a rug in the kitchen that was near where her human was working and she hasn't left all evening (even when the human moves elsewhere).

The turkeys have not had much experience with thunderstorms.  In fact, I just realized that the last time we had serious thunder, they really didn't gobble because they were too young.  Apparently, they felt thunder required a response.  So, for each peal of thunder, they let loose with a "crowd gobble."  I, at least, found some humor in that.

Today's quick cloudbursts caused a bit of consternation in the turkey flock as well.  In this case, they did not crowd gobble.  Instead, there was a good deal of chirping and running around.   Sadly, they did not figure out that they could GO INSIDE if they wanted to get out of the rain.  Instead, they just ran around the pasture.  The farmer, on the other hand, did run for shelter.  Of course, by the time he got to said shelter, he was pretty wet.  So, maybe the turkeys have it right.  Get wet, stay wet - figure out how to enjoy it.

Want to learn more about turkeys on the farm?  Try this post!

Perhaps the most difficult thing about today's rain (and tonight's likely rain - and tomorrow morning's possible rain) is that it is Monday night.  We have shares to delivery in Waverly tomorrow.  That means we have harvesting to do.  And, that work is always more difficult after and during rain events.

Some of last week's share (thank you Cynthia for the photo)
Our farm shares have been very good this year (if we do say so ourselves) with good variety and excellent quality.  Plenty of quantity without being overwhelming for any one thing.  At least that's what we think!  And the produce is usually quite good looking as the above photo might suggest.

We're pleased to be able to do a good job for our customers.  Sometimes, things may not look this nice and as often as not, the reason is the timing of rain.

Summer squash fresh out of the field after/during a rain.
This may come as a surprise to some, but plants grow in the soil.  And, when it rains, the aforementioned soil becomes mud.  Some of that mud adheres to the fruit we harvest.  It's a thing.


But, we work to clean things up as best as we can given whatever time we have prior to leaving for deliveries.  And, more often than not, we get it all done.  But, on days when the rain persists and the weather throws us a fair amount of lightning a choice is sometimes made.  Do we opt to harvest something we can't get cleaned and offer it OR do we opt to not harvest it and not give that item at all for this delivery?

The choice always depends on a number of things (what else is already in the share?  will these things hold in the field ok?) and the decision is rarely taken without some thought.  But, in the end, we have an advantage with our delivery method.  Each item has its own tray and members can opt to take or not take each item.  If a little dirt offends, people can let it be.  Happily, our farm share members know how to clean produce - which means these items are usually taken.  They get it.  Sometimes the farmers need just a little bit of understanding and sometimes the summer squash need a few seconds of rinsing before they go into that grill packet you'll be having tonight for dinner!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Stories of a Moment in Time

And now for something that is completely different from your regularly scheduled GFF farm blog!

If you like postal history and/or philately, you will find that I periodically do write about my hobby and share here.  I very much enjoy finding old postal artifacts and researching them.  During the Winter months I will make a goal to spend some time in the evening researching and writing up a page for an item or two in a fashion that I think is interesting.

If you have problem viewing any of these images, you can click on them to view them in a larger format.

Links to Another Moment in Time
I am most attracted to postal history items from the 1860's and the surrounding period of time.  This stems initially from my enjoyment of the stamp designs of the period.  But, it is also a very intriguing time in history.  But, you could also say that it attracts me for a couple of other reasons.  First, it is far enough removed from the current day that the negative events feel less immediate.  It's easier to view them from a safe distance.  And, second, there is no way I have the time to look at all eras and all places.  Pick and choose your area.  And, since it is a hobby, you go with what is interesting to you as you are looking around.

I used to think that I wanted to just do a stamp collection, until I realized that filling all of the spaces was not only impossible, but it was darned expensive.  Then, I learned about postal history and found a way to combine my love of the postage stamp with my enjoyment of history.  One of the cool side benefits is that you can actually acquire some stamps that might otherwise have been unobtainable if you are willing to gain knowledge in the postal history field.

The item above is a legal notice that was most likely ignored by the recipient.  At the time, most mail was kept at the post office for pick up.  If an item was not picked up, it might be returned to the sender (if that was known).  The interesting thing about this one is that I have actually known people who were in a similar situation and took a similar approach to a legal summons.  It caught up to them eventually.  I wonder if it caught up to this person?

Traveling the World on a Shoestring
Our choices in life have allowed us to travel limited amounts.  More than some, less than others.  But, neither of us is interested in great amounts of travel either.  The neat thing about postal history is that you can take a virtual trip, like this letter that traveled from Southwest France to Southern Spain.   

And, if you like maps, you can combine that into your hobby.  It just so happens that my grandfather had an O gauge model railroad that we used to enjoy running when we would visit.  So, the added bonus is the little factoid about the different rail set up between France and Spain. 

People Were Different, People Were the Same
Every time I see the familiar in an old piece of postal history, I actually develop a sense of belonging and a sense of kinship with people from different times and places.  The item shown below is a "prices current" that was sent with buy prices for meats, grains and other common agricultural items. 

The simple fact that people dealt in the production, sale and delivery of foodstuffs reminds me of a common thread that spans nations, cultures and generations.  But, the small differences are what make it all so very interesting.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled farm blog.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Grab A Picture, Write About It

I actually have a backlog of topics that I'd like to put in the blog, which is nothing new.  Some of these topics may percolate for months before I get enough time/desire together to write on them.  Others will sit there and never come to fruition.  The issue with those topics is that they take a bit more effort than I can often give, but I still feel like getting some new material onto the blog.

If I can actually get myself to grab the camera and take a farm picture or two, I automatically have material.  I just have to grab the photos that seem like something can be said about them and there we are!

This posts theme?  Green and growing things CAN still look good in September!

Those of us who work outside and observe nature can tell you that many plants start to look a little bit more tired after the Summer Solstice.  Tree leaves lose a little of their luster, grass usually grows a bit slower and looks a bit browner (though that's often more because of the amount of rain one gets) and some of our longer season veggie plants look less robust.  It's just the way things are.

But, if you have a field that still looks this good in mid-September:
You know you've done a pretty good job.

In the center are two rows of broccoli flanked by a bed of onions on each side.  The broccoli is now working on side-shoots.  All of the main heads have been harvested.  The broccoli plants look ok, but aren't quite as beautiful as they were a month ago.  The onion plants also look fine.  They are a bit slow for us this year.  They went in later than we wanted.  But, they are healthy now and they are getting to where we want them.  Just taking their sweet time about it.

We treated ourselves to a couple of dahlia bulbs this Spring and planted them inside of Eden.  Here's what we get to see now:
We purchased two types of dahlias.  We used to grow these and gave up because these little green bugs would got at them this time of year and destroy the flowers.  Oddly enough, the other dahlia is getting destroyed but this one is not.  Ok, we'll take it!  There are a number of blooms on both of these, so here's hoping we get to enjoy them for another week or so.
Then, there are the zinnias.  They do start to look a little bit rougher in September, but they remain beautiful.  It's just easier to enjoy the beauty if you don't spend time giving them critical once-overs.  If you do that, you'll see some browned leaves and finished flowers.  We don't have time to dead-head these rows, so that's just what happens.

But, the Monarchs and Painted Ladies like them.  I've seen some hummingbirds checking them out now as well. 
And then, there are late plantings like our third succession of summer squash and zucchini.  They are small plants, but they are already producing.  It's nice when you take a gamble with a late planting and get what looks like a win out of it!

Since these are younger plants, they do look a bit greener than the older plants.  However, the sad thing about heat loving plants like these is that they will 'age' much more quickly in September than they do in June, July and August.  Already we are seeing some signs that they will not last terribly long.  But, we're not complaining!  Some fresh zucchini and summer squash in mid-September is a real treat and we're happy to share that treat with our CSA farm share members!

A simple stir fry with hamburger, onions, garlic, summer squash, zucchini and Pintung Long eggplant was a winner for us last night (and tomorrow's lunch!).

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Good Morning

Good Morning!

It's a beautiful day at the Genuine Faux Farm and we're glad you decided to stop by today!  We hope you're not allergic to cats, because Inspector is coming towards you.  He is our official farm greeter.

He's an incredibly friendly cat and he just loves to be picked up and held.  But, he knows it's a CSA morning.  That means his farmer friend needs to get to work harvesting for the farm's share holders.  Happily, Rob does make sure to get food and water to Inspector, the Sandman and Soup before getting started.  The Outdoor Supervisory Crew is now set for the day!

And, yes, Farmer Rob does give each of a the Outdoor Supervisors a skritch before the day officially starts.  We've got to keep the workers happy.

It's time to load up the cart with containers for harvest.  While we're at it, we'd better be sure to have the scale along for the ride and maybe a little music.  It's possible we'll forego the music for a while today so we can enjoy the sounds of nature.

Sometimes, the music is a necessity and other times it's just a nice addition.  But, today we've got a cardinal singing to us - something that doesn't happen all that often in September.  We've got some barn swallows chittering and telling us all about their plans for today and.. wait.. what's that?
Oh, yes, that's Inspector meowing at us again.  Apparently we didn't give him quite enough attention.  You know he won't leave us alone until we do this up right and proper.  So, we'll pick him up this time and turn him upside down for a belly rub.  That ought to do it.

Now that we've met that obligation, let's take the camera with us this morning.  The light is good and I'd like to get a little recording done before Caleb gets here to help with the cleaning and packing.  Besides, once we get to harvesting, there is little time to stop and look around.

It looks like it is time to run the irrigation on the young kohlrabi plants already.  It's been very dry here since late July when we got ridiculous amounts of rain.  So, it's good that we have drip line set up and ready to go.

These plants will put on a significant amount of growth in a pretty short period of time, but we've got to remember that the days will be getting shorter and that will slow their progress.  It looks like we might be pushing this crop a little bit, but we don't feel like it is too far off the mark.

There is a bit of dew on the grass this morning and the light is making everything seem a bit brighter today.  That makes for a great day to try and get some close-up pictures of the borage.  Borage collects a fair amount of dew and it literally sparkles when the morning sun hits them.  I try to take a moment at least once a year to look at borage flowers "up close and personal" on a morning with these conditions.  I don't always have the camera when that happens, but we've got it this time.
While we're at it, let's see if we can capture a picture of our shy nasturtium flowers.   We put them in our winter squash rows and they are often not easily seen this time of year when the vines are crawling all over the field.  We like the nasturtium because they help reduce the incidence of vine borers in our winter squash plants.  But, I realize, on days like this, that we underestimate their beauty most days.  Today is not one of those days.  They look great and I appreciate what they do for us.
We've had a large number of Painted Lady butterflies on the farm this year.  In fact, I've heard that there is a very large population in Iowa this year.  It's a bit early in the day for the peak of butterflies on the zinnias, but some are already catching some of the sun's rays and sipping nectar.  They seem to be a bit camera shy.  I can stand and watch them open their wings when I don't have the camera up and ready to go.  But, once the camera is up and I set the focus, they fly away.  Let's just take a quick shot of one with the wings closed and then let them go about their business.

This makes me think about the monarch population for the season.  We haven't seen much of them at all this year, despite all of our efforts to get plants on the farm that they like.  I can't help but wonder if they could make a comeback like the bald eagles have.  Then, I start to worry that they won't make a comeback.  Unfortunately, that's a bit of a downer thought on this glorious day, so we should accentuate the positive as a monarch appears and floats lazily down the zinnia row.

Uh oh!  Here comes Inspector again.  You know, this might be one of those times where his interruptions are a good thing.  I really do need to get to work and I can still think about and 'solve' the world's problems while I pick.

Let's give Inspector one more skritch and then go about our respective ways.  We hope you have a good day!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Keep On Bloomin'

Every year we do as much as we are able to extend the bloom season of flowers on the farm.  We are concerned that we provide food for pollinators and other beneficial critters for as much as the season as we are able. 


Well, it seems obvious to us that the surrounding fields of corn and soybean are less than ideal for most of these critters.  There is minimal diversity in habitat, a very limited bloom season (therefore limited food resources) and the application of chemicals on these fields makes things even less attractive.

We figure if we create attractive habitat on our farm for as much as the season as possible, there will be no reason for our friends to leave us and travel in dangerous territory.

Late March to April
Of course, we do have a great many dandelions on the property and we are perfectly happy to let them bloom.  I realize there are people out there who are horrified by this.  But, in the grand scheme of things, dandelions are actually not a big deal from a weed perspective.  They have deep roots that pull up micronutrients for other plants to use and the bloom and attract all sorts of pollinators at a point in time when those who have fruit trees would really like to have them around.
Every Fall about this time, we play with the idea of getting large numbers of crocus and daffodil bulbs with the intent of 'naturalizing' an area with them.  Why don't we?  Well, our plate is usually too full and we just can't find the time to do it.
Even so, we've got a fair number of blooms on the farm

May Busts Out All Over
The month of May heralds a nice mix of flowers, many of which show up in some of our intentionally 'wild' places.  For example, we have some yellow and purple Siberian iris that like to show off.  We've let them spread as they would like and we're happy that they seem to think our place is an ok habitat for them.
And, of course, the German bearded iris start to show on our farm in May.  I have to admit that they seem to take center stage with our picture taking, much to the chagrin of so many flowers appearing on the landscape.  In fact, the iris don't usually show much attractive qualities for the critters we desperately want.  But, I wonder if there would be more activity on them if we didn't have so many other things for our workers to investigate.
Clover if typically getting going in May and you'll often see painted daisies, anemone, creeping phlox, peonies and other neat flowers showing off.  In fact, we start getting so many flowers that Tammy and I have a difficult time differentiating between May and

June - Bugs and Blooms?
June on the farm is unfortunately known for the bugs that seem to like to snack on farmers at GFF.  The winds are typically not as strong - or at least not as consistent.  It makes work difficult and it makes enjoying the flowers challenging.  And yet, we have to take it as a sign that there is some health in our ecosystem if there are insects that think we are food (I suppose).
The thing is - we're usually so bugged by the bugs that we don't have time to investigate the bugs we want.  And that bugs me.  You're welcome.

We've got perennial geraniums covered in blooms early in the month and by the end of the month many of our annuals are starting to consider showing what they can do.  Though, it's really the next couple of months that we usually have more annual flower activity.

July is Full of Smiles
Our big flower highlights tend to be daylilies in July and into early August.  Just as we have noticed with the German bearded iris, these daylilies do not tend to be the focus of insect activity.  We suspect that the highly hybridized plants have been selected for so long with consideration for how attractive the flowers are to humans that much of the attractiveness to insect species has been bread out of them. 
And this is why we continue to promote clover on the farm and why we're happy to have ditches with a bunch of ditch daylilies.  Daisies and coneflowers start to appear and many of our perennial spices are begging to show more flowers.

August Sunshine
It feels to me like yellow is the color for August flowers.  The helianthus and heliopsis, along with rudebekia can really put on a show.  And, they're all attractive to our insect workers.  The zinnia, marigold, four o'clock, salvia and other flowers really get going and the hyssop are often covered with smaller bees and bumblebees.
Then there is the under-rated goldenrod.  Many people still mistakenly believe goldenrod is one of the wildflowers responsible for high pollen counts that make people with allergies miserable as August progresses.  However, goldenrod pollen is too heavy to really cause the issue.  You can blame most of the issues in our area on ragweed.  Pollen for those plants is quite able to be airborn and travel quite some distance.
September - Returning to Blues and Whites
There are still some clover blooming in September, though it has a good deal to do with late Summer rain amounts.  But, perennials such as sage and thousand flower aster begin to show off in September.  Other than the tail end of hibiscus blooming season, it feels like plants that peak at this time focus on LOTS of smaller flowers.
The hummingbirds we often see on the farm check out the hostas, zinnias, phlox and Rob's hat.  The butterflies can be seen in the marigolds, zinnias, clover and other flowers. 

But, perhaps the hardest part for us to remember this season is that many of our insect friends simply need a little shelter.  We haven't had much rain at all for many weeks, so plants that aren't irrigated are growing very little.  That means each time we do some 'clean up' around the farm, the plants will not fill in nearly so quickly.  In short, that means we sometimes need to consider NOT cleaning something up so there are still good places for our katydids to hang out.  While neither of us is a huge fan of the sound of a cricket at night, we both agree that the katydid is a welcome sound at night.

Overall, this has been a reasonably good bloom year on our farm and here's to planning out ways to make the next year even better.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Walk on the Absurd Side

We've had "General Strangeness and Minions" as one of our labels for the blog for some time now.  I realize we play pretty fast and loose with which sorts of blog posts land under which labels.  But, it's our blog and we can use labels any way we want to!  So there!  In fact, I have instituted a new rule that allows me to use a label name as the title for a new blog post.  Not only that, I will allow myself to reuse a good title if I want.  But, I don't want to this time, I'd rather walk on the absurd side!

It's just complete and utter anarchy in the GFF Blog-o-verse.  What's next? 

Horned Fanged Bats?!?
Oh, yes! There it is, the horned, fanged bat of the mighty chalk door!
Each year there is at least one thing that serves as a consistent "inside joke" for the farmers and the farm crew. This year there were two in particular that had a longer shelf-life.  The "horned-fanged bat" is something that requires hand motions to indicate horns and fangs and came about during one of our lunchtime forays into the absurd.

Oh wait.  That's how the other one came about too.  And here it is:

Bohemian Rhapsody (the original version by Queen) is a common occurrence on playlists Rob puts together.  Needless to say, whenever that song started, various crew members would pop up out of the weeds and yell "Mamaaaaaaaa!"

Who said farming can't be fun?

And maybe sometimes... a little odd:

We know you've seen this one before.  But, it illustrates a bit just how absurd things can be at the Genuine Faux Farm.  But, here's the kicker: it's during times that we see more of this type of absurdity that we feel as if everyone is a bit more positive about what's going on at the farm.

Ok, maybe Hobnob is not feeling more positive about this little bit of absurdity.  In fact, Bree is looking a bit annoyed as well.

When we take the time to do something just a little absurd and maybe a little creative it shows that we have some positive energy - even if it is just a response to things that are difficult.  If you see a recent picture of one of your farmers doing a selfie - like this one:

You've got to figure there is a little bit of a sense of humor still intact.  It's a good sign.  It means they aren't about to give up.  In fact, they see reasons to have hope.  And, if your personal farmers see reasons to have hope, then maybe you should work to find your own reasons for hope as well.

It's an interesting ability we humans have.  Take a negative situation - like rats killing turklets on the farm.
Then., you find a rat that got himself stuck in the chicken wire surrounding the turkey room and you suddenly have an absurdity that is ripe for humor.

But, it doesn't have to be as ridiculous or as dramatic as a rat with fat um.. hips, stuck in a wall.  It could be a farmer mowing down a field of ragweed with the rotary mower on the tractor who takes the time to work his way AROUND a patch of goldenrod.
Why would I do this?  I like goldenrod.  I think that's good enough reason, don't you?  I'll give more positive reasons some other time.  But, that's not the point of this post.

It's all about letting yourself look at things like this picture and poke fun at yourself.

Well, I've got fence posts up for a permanent fence for the turkey pasture.  But, clearly, there is no fence there, so we're using a portable electric netting fence immediately to one side of the permanent "not quite a fence." 

When time flies and you just have to make do, you have an opportunity to walk on the absurd side.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Things (Farm) Records are Made Of

I am a baseball fan.  I loved playing the game, I enjoy watching others play the game and I also enjoy the statistics that come with it.  So, it shouldn't come entirely as a surprise that I enjoy collecting data about our farm and working with it every season as the numbers come in.

I know.  I know.  That's really strange, Rob.  I can hear you all saying it (or at least thinking about it REALLY loud).  But, I'm not hurting anyone, I still get my work done (if "done" is even possible) and I can actually learn useful things about how to farm better when I work with our farm stats.

What actually got me started on this was this:

Cabbage: 327.2 lbs for 2017. Previous farm record: 251 lbs in 2015.

First question: "Rob, why do you even care?"
Second question: "Ok, we'll accept you care just because you do.  Is this record a big deal?"

In defense of my caring - consider my first paragraph.  Baseball fans are enamored with statistical records.  Even if you know just a little about baseball, you probably have some idea about why names like Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds are well known.  It is only natural that I might have at least a mild interest in records of all sorts.  The biggest difference between all-time home run record holders and most pounds of cabbage produced by the Genuine Faux Farm in a year is...

Well, ok.  There are many differences, I get it.  No need to rub it in.  I suspect even I won't refer to the "Great, Record-Setting Cabbage Production Year of 2017."  First, it doesn't really trip off the tongue so well.  Second, it probably isn't even that big of a record to break on our farm anyway.  We didn't really do much with cabbage production prior to 2012, so there really aren't that many seasons to compare to in the first place.  And, finally, the record has as much to do with a good growing season for cabbage as it does with our distribution of varieties.  We grew more Copenhagen Market and less Red Express.  One averages 4 pounds each.  The other, one pound.  Hence, a record is born!

Meaningful (for us) Records in Reach
It's the time of year in a baseball season that baseball announcers look at records that are in reach before the end of the regular season.  So, it seems appropriate for us to do the same thing.
  • Broccoli  585.4 lbs  Record 674.4 lbs in 2014
  • Winter Squash 0 lbs Record 2712.6 lbs in 2015
It seems I am enjoying being provocative - if anything as silly as vegetable production records for our small farm can be provocative.  I suspect most people might agree that the broccoli record has an outside chance of being reached if our current broccoli plants do us proud with sideshoots AND the farmer is able to harvest them.  It is unlikely we'll get anything from a final (small) batch of broccoli, so it is up to the older plants to keep on going.  But, even if it isn't this year, there is hope that we could hit it some other year because we have consistently hovered in the upper 500lb range for some time (except last season).  I suspect we'll land somewhere around 630 lbs this year, which is still a nice showing.

The winter squash, on the other hand, is entirely based on a future crop that looks good right now, but could just as easily disappoint.  The difference here is that winter squash are on an upward trend for our farm.  We've moved away from some of the variety experimentation and moved toward more pollinator attracting companions for our experiments.  If it's not this year, then it will be the next year that this record falls.  Unfortunately, these are famous 'last words' for a crop around here.  Predict success and OOOOH boy...  Superstitious much?  Let's just say no to that and move on.

Records That Are Like The Most Times a Batter Struck Out in a Given Ten Game Stretch
It does seem to us that sports broadcasters are working way too hard to say something special about a player or team with statistics.  Things like "this is the first time a player who went to middle school in Walla Walla, Washington swung at a third pitch in an at-bat since last week."

Case in point, radishes.  In 2011, we harvested 5336 radishes, which is the most we've recorded as harvested.  The thing about this is radishes are like the number of swings batters take in a ball game.  There are lots of the them.  And, with radishes you can completely change the game if you throw in one more succession than you have in previous years.  Suddenly, you break the prior record by 2000 radishes.... or 4000 radishes.  Then, the next year, you realize you really don't have a market for that many radishes and you drop the number by 6000.  So what?  It doesn't really tell us anything.  I would guess if we wanted a record that meant anything, we'd compare successions and we'd also make sure the row length was the same each time.

But, I said I liked statistics and records.  I didn't say I lived for them.

Records That Seem Like Ripken's Consecutive Games Streak
People didn't believe anyone would catch Gehrig, yet along comes Cal Ripken, Jr.  Is it possible we'll see a year where the 2012 green bean record of 1068 pounds is matched and then overtaken?  We've had multiple years between 750 and 900 pounds, so the capacity is there, I suppose.  But, do we have the will-power to do it?


Green beans taste great.  We love green beans.  But, they do not harvest themselves and we are not going to grow the types of green beans that a mechanical harvester works best on.  I suppose if we had someone who was the "Cal Ripken" of bean harvesting we could do it.  Until then, we'll be happy getting to 500-600 pounds each season.

Records Like Nolan Ryan's Most Walks Given Up By A Pitcher
Nolan also has lots of records that fall on the positive side and is one of Rob and Tammy's all time favorite pitchers.  So, don't get us wrong here.  But, let's just say that there ARE records you might not want to break.  We make the case for the 2072 eggplant harvested in 2011.  We are in the middle of a good eggplant year this season (564 so far) and we've been happy in recent years to land somewhere in the 800 range.

Let's put it this way.  People who really like eggplant have a limit to how many of them they want in a season.  Many people don't want any eggplant at all.  There isn't a particularly good market for eggplant in our area.  We are not inclined to develop a market for them.  So, why would we want to chase that record?

Records Like Tris Speakers' 449 Outfield Assists
Some people might like to see home runs.  Some like stolen bases or seeing pitchers strike out batters.  But, I think I've the thing I've enjoyed most are outfield assists.  In general, these are throws by an outfielder that lead to an out.  As a former outfielder, I can tell you that there is a good deal of satisfaction when you throw someone out.  And, I think we would thoroughly enjoy breaking the single season record for snack tomato production on our farm.  Snack tomatoes are fund to pick, good to eat and people like getting them from us.

We harvested 3332 of them in 2015.  We're at 881 so far this year.  Don't think we're going to make it this time, though I think 2500 is in reach for 2017.

Besides, what veggie is more fun than a Wapsipinicon Peach?

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Summer Harvest Festival Scavenger Hunt

Once again, we put together a scavenger hunt for participants in the festival.  It is possible the envelope was covered up for a while by food so some people didn't see it.  But, those who did had a pretty good time finding as many of these things on the farm as they were able.

It is tradition to share at least some of the photos in a blog post.  How many of these things can you identify?  Remember, you can click on a photo to see a larger version.