Monday, November 27, 2017

Picture This

Spring chive anyone?
The grass isn't nearly as green as it was even a month ago and a day over 45 degrees feels warm to us.  The bees are rarely, if ever, active this time of year and so much of the small wildlife on our farm are hibernating.  No crickets or katydids singing.  The leaves on the trees and bushes are down except for a few stubborn, brown and crispy ones clinging desperately to branches.  Perhaps they are afraid of heights and just don't want to let go for fear of the fall?

Cucumber Frog isn't currently plotting a new way to startle the farmer, he is nestled in somewhere dreaming of the next time he can get Rob or Tammy to jump higher than the last time.  I am sure it is a happy dream (for him).

The outdoor supervisory crew of Sandman, Inspector and Soup all have their winter coats on and they've entered the "I'll take every moment of attention I can get" phase of the year.  After all, the humans aren't outside as much as they used to be.

And the clover that has been so prevalent throughout the farm is no longer as robust as it once was. But, we remember what it was like to have huge patches of blooming clover.  The sweet odor, the hum of a bee going from flower to flower and the soft, yet firm texture of a clover flower.

The farmers look forward to some of their own hibernation from the continuous farm work as well - in hopes that they can encourage life on the farm yet again next season.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

If It Were Easy, I Wouldn't Do This

One of the things we try to do every year on the blog is author a Thanksgiving post.  But, what do you do when inspiration isn't there?  What happens when something you usually enjoy feels more like an obligation or a duty than anything else?  How do you get motivated to accomplish something?  What if you aren't feeling particularly grateful at the moment and you're feeling guilty about not having all of the 'warm fuzzies' you should have for all of the truly good things in your life?

This has been our favorite holiday for a very long time.  We will celebrate with family on Saturday, which is wonderful.   But, what did the two of us do today?   Well, today we moved our smaller high tunnel, Eden.  We emptied a water tub for the Winter.  We did some laundry - which, by the way, is still out on the line (oops).  We brought scraps to the hens.  In other words, we worked on the farm.  And it was tempting to feel a bit cheated in some ways.  Where is the "holiday feeling" that Tammy and I cherish so much?  Why don't I have that glow of gratitude burning brightly like I am supposed to?
Hobnob and Bree are NOT looking too pleased in this picture....
Over the last couple of days, I have spent a little time reflecting on prior Thanksgivings and I realized that these feelings are not new to me.  Just last year, I titled our blog post Trials, Tribulations and Thanks.  Of course, there is the element of fun because I could use alliteration in the title.  But, on re-reading the post, I realized that I was struggling with similar thoughts.  My approach in 2016 was to go back to the people who mean so much to us for inspiration.  People who support the farm.  People who help when help was needed.  People who remain friends, no matter what.  A family that continues to love us.  Again, no matter what.  I concluded,

"We cannot repay, we can only give thanks"

But, there is still no denying that I was struggling a bit trying to get where I wanted to go.  Yet, I managed to get there by considering the wonderful people in our lives.  What will it take to get there this year?

Two years ago, I find that I may have again been in a similar state of mind.  The title of this one was What Are You Going to Do About It?  That post was motivated by my own feelings of being powerless and overwhelmed by the state of the world we live in.   I re-read that post looking for inspiration and actually found myself wondering how I could even hope to compete with what I wrote.

The contents of the 2015 post are wonderful.  I made myself read the old post again - carefully.  And I hit this line:

"By giving thanks for the good things, I am reminded of their value and worth.  These are the things that can be part of what sustains me when times are difficult."

That's when I realized - giving thanks is not always easy.  In fact, being truly grateful can be extremely difficult.  However, if I can manage to find gratitude, it has the power to lift me when I am down.

Soon after that I came to the conclusion that if gratitude were easy, it would not be nearly so wonderful and fulfilling as it is when we work to give meaningful thanks.

Here I was.  Waiting for the warm glow of Thanksgiving to just pop up and make me feel good.  Hoping for the cheap happy ending that magically appears, despite all logic.   I was wasting time when I could have achieved what I wanted with just a little bit of effort.

Is it possible that a significant part of the beauty is in the struggle?  Perhaps the rewards are proportional to the effort?

Let's go back to how Tammy and I spent our Thanksgiving:
  • We turned off the alarm this morning and decided we could sleep just a little bit longer.  It was something we both needed and we both appreciated.
  • The sun was out all day long.  There was little to no wind.  The temperatures hit a "balmy" 49 degrees F.  Frankly, given some of the weather we've had in recent weeks, it felt wonderful.  It would have been a shame to spend it inside.
  • Tammy took some time and made some rolls.  She did it because she wanted to do something nice that she new I would like.  Warm rolls out of the oven.  Yum!
  • We still had a couple of tomatoes in the walk-in cooler that we had harvested 4 weeks ago.  They were hanging on just enough to be useful.  We also had some lettuce.  And we had some bacon.  So, we had BLT's for lunch.  On Thanksgiving?  Hey, they were Gold Medal tomatoes.   On Thanksgiving.  That IS special.
  • We went and took the car down to Sweet Water Marsh mid-morning.  This year we made a habit out of going to a particular boat access and enjoying seeing the marsh on a semi-regular basis.  It's a place where there is no school, unless we want to bring it with us.  There is no farm, unless we want to bring it with us.  There is just nature.  And us.  We can talk about the frogs in the marsh or our hopes and dreams.  It has been a liberating escape for us and we hadn't been down there for over six weeks.  We went today.
  • And, we moved a high tunnel today without too many hitches in the process.  We have a few more things to do tomorrow to finish, but none of it is terribly serious.  We got to work together.  The weather was perfect for moving Eden.  Two people and less than four hours of work.  Building moved.  Not bad. 
  • I participated in a couple of pleasant email conversations with some fine people in philately circles and farming circles.
  • I was able to rub out a couple of knots in Tammy's shoulders while we took a rare moment to watch a little football.  It helped both of us to relax.
  • ALL of the cats (supervisors) on the farm were super-friendly today without being pains in the neck.  That is something of an accomplishment in late November, when they all start getting a bit needier.
Gold Medal tomatoes can get BIG

Today wasn't just a good day, it was a GREAT day.  I was able to spend time doing things with my best friend.  We accomplished a huge task that had been weighing on both of our minds.  That task did not prevent us from doing other things we wanted to do.  We treated ourselves to some things that we don't normally do.  And... we did all of this without getting horribly stressed and feeling like we were running around every minute of the day.

Here's the part about today I didn't list.  I started this post yesterday.  I read the prior year posts yesterday.  I recognized that gratitude requires some effort on my part.  And, I spent today working to see all of the good things that were going on.  And I made sure that I made a mental note of everything I should be thankful for.

And now, I feel the way I wanted to feel when I started writing our annual Thanksgiving post.

It wasn't necessarily an easy process.  But, then again, I believe there is less value in easy.  I also believe I wouldn't write a Thanksgiving post every year if it were as easy as just listing a bunch of things and saying I am thankful for them.

If it were easy, I wouldn't do this.

Gratitude is something you need to work for.  But, once you put forth the effort, the rewards are significant.  Give thanks today.  Give thanks tomorrow.  Give thanks every day you are able.  And, when a day comes where giving thanks is difficult, let those things of value and worth that have led you to be grateful sustain you until you are able emphasize the positive once again.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Annual Thanksgiving Posts

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Veg Variety Winners for 2017

Every year we attempt to identify the top varieties that were grown on the farm during the year.  Criteria include production, quality of fruit, taste and plant health.  Additional factors that may increase the rating for a variety might be performance as compared other varieties of the same type or one that surprised us by doing far better than anticipated.  You might also note that we will give a tie break to a variety that has not been awarded a top slot over one that has.

The October 28/29 deep freeze insured that there won't be significant changes in crop results for the year.  Yes, there is still lettuce, choi, spinach and other items.  But, we can see where they are going to land.

 For those who want to see what has gone before:
About 2017's Growing Season
This season was an excellent one for growing brassicae family crops such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale.  We set production records for broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage and a weight record for winter squash.  Therefore, it is no real surprise to us as we reviewed our records that we had to select something from each of those crop types to land on our Vegetable Variety Winner list for 2017.  Several other crops rebounded from a difficult year in 2016 as well, returning to yields that approximate our annual norms.  On the whole, this was a decent growing year at the Genuine Faux Farm. 

Of course, every growing season at the farm has its disappointments to go along with the successes.  Some of our Summer crops, such as cucumbers and peppers, had a tougher time of it this season for several reasons.  But, even with setbacks, we managed to harvest enough to keep our farm share customers happy.  We suspect none of them even realized we had some crop difficulties this year UNLESS they were reading some of our posts that told them about some of our struggles.  We did have some weather events that cut some harvests short and others that prevented planting and/or critical field work.  But, that is just the way things go.  We'll close the books on this year feeling content that we did well enough, but strongly motivated to do ever so much better in the future.

And, the way I see it, that's probably the best balance we should have on any given season.  "We did just fine and we're going to do even better."

15. County Fair Zinnia
We are actually going to break with tradition here and put a flower into the mix.  We apologize to either Tatsoi or Komatsuna, since they were slated to land here.  But, I realized that our top 10 list is actually 15 now and we've never honored a flower in the Veg Variety Winners.

Yes, yes, it's not a vegetable.  We get that.  We also understand that we dedicate a fair number of posts to our flowers on the farm.  We're still putting County Fair at number fifteen. Deal with it!

For years, we have relied on Benary's Giant or State Fair for our zinnias.  We love both of those mixes.  But, State Fair wasn't available and we wanted a certified organic seed mix.  So, we tried High Mowing's County Fair mix this year and were pleasantly surprised.

County Fair is a little bit shorter than the other two mixes, topping out at about 3 to 4 feet in height.  They branch reasonably well and bloom fairly quickly.  They attracted bumblebees early and then the Painted Lady butterflies and the Monarchs later in the season.  What really got us was the way the colors absolutely shone against the backdrop of tomatoes, or the blue sky, or... whatever the backdrop was.  In short: they made the farmers happy.  Happy farmers do a better job with vegetable growing.  Thus, you get another Veg Variety Winner list.  Blame the zinnias.  I suspect they'll be ok with it since we plan on having County Fair zinnias on the farm next year (and the year after and the...)

If we have a chance next season we'll bring back either State Fair or Benary's Giant so we can do a comparison.

14. White Wing Onion
White Wing onions are a shorter season onion that allows us to deal with wet soils in the Spring by waiting to plant until the field is ready.  Ideally, we'd like to get our onions into the ground in late April/early May.  That rarely happens for any number of reasons, so we need an onion that reliably produces even if we can't get the onions in on schedule.  White Wing is that onion.

White Wing also allows us to take a flier on Ailsa Craig Exhibition onions as our yellow sweet variety.  When Ailsa is good, she is VERY good.  When she isn't good.  Well, never mind.  White Wing also allows us to get onions into our farm shares in a higher percentage of weeks during the distribution season.  And, we've learned over time that our members love having an onion or two a week for as long as we can give them.

This year, the White Wings were a little smaller than average.  On the other hand, the size of the onions was a bit more consistent.  We had fewer onions that we felt fell below our size threshold.  Happily, the slight reduction in average size was offset by a sweeter tasting onion.  We can't claim that we did anything differently with the onions this year, so it is not our fault.  However, we also know from experience that each season can lead plants to react differently.  It may have been a timing thing or an overall season thing.  We'll never know.  But, what we do know is that White Wing will continue to show up for us each year.

13. Tolli Sweet Pepper
We finally admitted to ourselves that Tolli Sweet is just NOT a field pepper for us.  Instead, Tolli belongs only in our high tunnel plantings and nowhere else.  Why?  Well, the plants are small and the first production can be quite early as long as you keep them from getting too cold or... too wet.  Since we have heavy soils and a tendency to get very heavy rains semi-regularly every season with our "new normal," it makes perfect sense to keep them out of the field.

With per plant production numbers between 10 and 20 marketable fruit, Tolli Sweet may not be the highest producing sweet pepper you will find on the market.  However, if you consider how close you can plant them in the "high rent district" that is a high tunnel, you might find the per square foot numbers make them worth it.  This is especially true if you are committed to trying to grow heirloom/heritage varieties as we are.

Fruit size can be variable, but the taste is consistently very good.  We have found that people who have a little problem with peppers talking back to them can eat these with fewer problems.  The pepper walls are fairly thin, so if you're looking for a 'crunchier' pepper, you need to look elsewhere.  Otherwise, these are pleasant for sandwiches, nachos and any other use that calls for a sweet pepper.

Peppers on these plants do not hold terribly well, so it is best to keep them picked and we have found that aphids do like them.  One of next year's projects is to identify a proper set of flower companions to help with that issue.

12. Scarlet Ohno Turnip
We had a good germination of our Spring turnip planting this year, but we had a shortage of rain during a critical development period.  We were watching the turnips with trepidation as they didn't seem to want to bulb out.  Then, we got a nice rain.  Soon after that, we got a "too much" rain.  Except the turnips felt it was a "just right" rain so everything turned out to be as "right as rain" as far as Scarlet Ohno was concerned.

To show you how surprised Rob was when the turnip crop turned out to be pretty darned good, he failed to get any pictures of them.  Instead, you get treated to this picture where you see the small turnips and greens that were left in the row after harvest (at middle left).

Scarlet Ohno landed at #5 in 2014 and has been a consistent producer for most seasons (except 2016 - this is apparently a theme).  Possibly the best thing one can do is to be sure you do not overseed your rows if you want consistent bulbing.  Even if crowded a bit, they seem to do reasonably well.  As noted above, no amount of irrigation seems to replace a good soaking rain.  But, they'll do ok if you don't get that rain in rows that are not crowded.  Roots tend to be a nice, consistent texture with a taste that is not overbearing.  They have a better flavor than many turnips in a Spring planting.  We tend to favor Purple Top White Globe for Fall since they get a nice sweet flavor after a couple of frosts.  Scarlet Ohno does not change flavor much after frost, making it a good early turnip.

11. Paul Robeson Tomato
We favor the trio of Black Krim, Italian Heirloom and Paul Robeson for heirloom slicer-sized tomatoes in our high tunnels.  In fact, we were considering each and every one of those varieties for this slot in our Veg Variety list for 2017.  Robeson wins largely because we felt there were fewer culls due to sunscald (fruit we had to throw to birds) than the other two produced this season.

Paul Robeson is another of the "black" tomatoes in the vein of Black Krim, Cherokee Purple and Black from Tula.  While Black Krim (our perennial favorite at GFF) tends toward rose with greening/blackish shoulders, Paul Robeson tends towards more of a scarlet red color to go with the greenish/blackish shoulders.  The darkness of the tomato tends to vary depending on heat during the ripening period.  As you can see in the photo, the shoulders are NOT always prominent in their color difference.

For five years running, Paul Robeson has produced fruit that average a little over a half pound in weight with sizes that range from about 1/3 pound to 2/3 pound.  The taste holds a hint of a 'smokey' flavor to it that makes us think a little bit about how it might work well in a barbecue setting.  (Please note the word "hint" here)  The taste is not overpowering and it is very pleasant.  We like them ALMOST as much as Black Krim and that is saying a good deal from our perspective.

10. Scarlet Kale
Scarlet kale surprised us this year.  You can take that several ways, of course.  Suffice it to say, we have grown Scarlet since 2014 and we considered it just a nice addition to a bundle of Dwarf Blue Scotch or Vates to add some different color.
This year, the Scarlet kale did us proud and grew to sizes we had not experienced for this variety in the past.  An average bundle of 10 Scarlet kale stems actually landed right with the average for our green curly varieties (about a half pound) instead of the quarter to a third pound we've seen in the past.

So, what happened that this variety suddenly became a star at the Genuine Faux Farm?  It's not an uncommon story for us.  Each season seems to favor certain types of crops and this year it was the brassicae family (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, etc).  And, each season finds us deciding to give a variety a little more attention than it has received in an attempt to determine if it is just us or if the variety just needs to be removed from the grow lists.  Let's just say Scarlet responded and told us it wanted to stay.

Surely, there must be more to it than that, you say?  Well, of course there is!  Scarlet actually landed in our best field this year, leading us to believe that it needs a bit more attention with soil amendment or fertility additions.  Sadly, Scarlet doesn't get to stay in that field next year, so we'll see if we can't give it what is needed next year.

9. Touchstone Gold Beet
You may have noticed that we try to populate our Veg Variety Winner list with different types of veggies.  After all, you might grow tired of the list if I showed variety after variety of kale, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower that did well this year.  But, don't think that Touchstone Golden Beets didn't earn their place on this list.  The only reason there was some doubt in the farmer's mind was the fact that we never got the second succession seeded when we planned to.  We can't blame the beets for the farmer's lack of rhythm.  (you may now groan)

We planted Touchstone in Eden again this year with a sparser seeding.  The result was a larger average size of beet with (of course) fewer roots.  These beets stay tender even when they get very large.  We can attest to this after taking a 2 1/2 pound beet and cubing it for roasting.  Both Tammy and I highly recommend roasting these beets and putting just a bit of real butter on them.  Tasty.

Any small beets left after the first harvest do a fine job of growing out over a period of three or so weeks after the first harvest.  Our strategy in 2016 was to seed relatively heavily and get two harvests out of one seeding.  It worked well.  This year, we expected to harvest all of the beets in the first harvest and do a second planting elsewhere.  Either can be made to work, but if you like a larger size, seed them lighter.

8. Dunja Zucchini
Once again, an F1-Hybrid sneaks into our list.  But, it is so hard to keep Dunja out of the list because it produces so well for us!  We would love it if one of our open-pollinated varieties such as Midnight Lightning or Cocazelle or Black Beauty would consistently 'wow' us.  They just don't seem to be able to give us the numbers we need.  I know that sounds odd to gardeners who have more zucchini than they can deal with.  You'll just have to believe us that growing zucchini for commercial purposes is a different ballgame.

Dunja plants tend to stay smaller and have an open growth habit that helps us to see fruit before they get too large.  As a result, we can typically keep from growing an absurd number of "Louisville Sluggers."  They are also consistent with fruit set and tend to produce nice, straight fruit without bulbed ends.  It doesn't hurt that the seed cavity is often smaller and the texture is consistent throughout.

We ran three successions again this season and pushed the Fall edge hard with our last planting.  We lucked out with a first frost in mid-October which resulted in some nice zucchini from Dunja right up until that point.  The plants seemed to hold off the powdery mildew just fine - which is the biggest issue we have with late season plantings of summer squashes.  We have also demonstrated that Dunja will allow us to push the front edge of harvest if we plant under cover and then remove the cover as things warm up.  They seem to grow equally well if mulched or left on bare soil.

Raven was our old hybrid stand-by, but Dunja has even outperformed Raven by a significant margin.  So, once again, while we would like to find open-pollinated zucchini to fill our production needs, we have a fine F1-hybrid to hold the line for us while we explore options.

7. Copenhagen Market Cabbage
Cabbage is not our favorite vegetable for eating.   But, that doesn't mean we don't take pride in growing them well on our farm.  Nor does it mean others can't thoroughly enjoy cabbage!  And, it certainly doesn't mean cabbage can't land on our Veg Variety Winner list for the year.  Because here is Copenhagen Market in our Veg Variety list yet again (#13 in 2015)!

Copenhagen Market has been on and off of our grow list for many years, alternating with Early Jersey Wakefield.  Most years, we plan on both varieties, adjusting based on seedling health.  When the Early Jersey seedlings looked weak and the Copenhagen Market seedlings looked strong, it set the stage for a record year with incredibly robust plants. 

Some years we harvest secondary heads, but this year we have not done so.  Primary heads averaged about three pounds in size with some landing over five pounds and very few under two.  Granted, if you want more consistency in head size and days to maturity, you may not enjoy this open-pollinated variety - though it is quite consistent for a non-hybrid.  We would guess that a little over half landed at the average size while the rest scattered over the full range of sizes.  We happen to like the variety because our customers like the choice of larger or smaller heads.  Quality is consistent regardless of size.

We'll continue to start Early Jersey Wakefield and Copenhagen Market each year and go with the stronger plants.  It seems to be a winning strategy for us.

6. Jaune Flamme Snack Tomato
We call the salad sized tomatoes "snack tomatoes" on our farm because our customers admit that many of them rarely make it home to be put in a salad.  It is a common occurrence for one of the four varieties we grow in our high tunnels to make our Veg Variety Winner list each year.  However, Jaune Flamme and Wapsipinicon Peach tend to take the honors over Red Zebra and Green Zebra with their higher yield potentials.

This year, Jaune Flamme out-performed all of the other snack tomatoes by a wide margin.  Even at the late date of October 22, there were a very large number of decent sized fruit on the vines causing us to pull a bunch of green to yellow fruit just prior to the freeze in hopes that they would finish ripening.

Five plants in Eden have produced over 150 marketable fruit per plant, which lands at over 100 total pounds of production.  The eighteen pound per plant watermark is actually our goal for all of our snack tomato varieties.  We have only reached that on all four varieties in one season (2015). In fact, Jaune Flamme actually exceeded the high water mark set by Wapsipinicon Peach in 2015 when we picked 154.6 of them per plant.

Jaune Flamme is easy to harvest, tends not to split if you don't wait too long to pick the fruit and has a pleasant taste that lands slightly on the sweeter side of tomatoes.  They tend to grow in clusters, which aids in harvest and the vines take well to a Florida stake and weave trellising method in our high tunnel.  Vines have yet to exceed ten feet in height for a normal Iowa season.

5. Gypsy Broccoli
We have been trotting Gypsy and Belstar out there for broccoli since 2012 and we have had pretty good broccoli every season... except last year.  So, suffice it to say that we were relieved to get back on track in 2017 with our broccoli.  Once again, both Belstar and Gypsy did well with Gypsy outstripping Belstar once again with a higher side shoot production rate.

Gypsy has landed at number three a couple of times in years past (typically with Belstar), so a number five appearance is not a surprise.  Main heads averaged around one pound but the side shoots were a bit smaller than we have seen in other years.  One of the features we like about Gypsy is how the stems don't seem to get woody like some broccoli stems do.  They may be susceptible to hollow stems at times, but not frequently.

As most of those who read our blog know, we prefer to work with open-pollinated seed and use heirloom or heritage seed types when we are able.  Sadly, we just can't get reliable production from open-pollinated broccoli, so we find ourselves using F1 hybrids.  In this case, Gypsy is created using cell fusion, which makes us just a little bit ill at ease.  On the plus side, the cell fusion process should prevent migration of the traits of this variety.  But, we would prefer to see traditional breeding programs to bring types like Early Dividend to fruition for growers like ourselves.  We like what Gypsy has done for us, but we continue to investigate other options.  We continue to grow Belstar (a traditional F1 Hybrid) and we liked Imperial in last year's trials, but could not find seed in 2017. 

4. Magenta Lettuce
Some of our traditional favorites, such as Bronze Arrowhead, Bunte Forellenschus and Grandpa Admires have done just fine this season.  The hard part with putting lettuce into our Veg Variety Winner list each year is that we grow so many varieties that it gets pretty hard to select just one.  The other issue with growing so many varieties is that none of them (except Bronze Arrowhead) gets enough opportunity.  We were tempted to put Bronze Arrowhead out there yet again, but we wanted to share a new (to us) cultivar that was a pleasant surprise in our top list for 2017.

We agreed to participate in a Summer lettuce trial with Practical Farmers of Iowa Cooperators this season and we planted Coastal Star, Muir and Magenta as a part of the trial.  By the end of the trial we found that we were not impressed with Coastal Star and Muir was only reasonably good.  But Magenta won us over - which is a huge feat considering how many varieties we are already committed to.  It will return to our farm next year.

Magenta has a pleasant flavor, but doesn't really stand out in the mix of varieties we prefer.  That's actually a good thing because we love the flavors of the heirloom varieties we grow.  If it doesn't stand out, that means it fits in with this group - which is an accomplishment.  Heads are compact and dense loose-leaf style.  In fact, these were much denser than most of our other lettuces, so they were surprisingly heavy for the size.  Average weight was a half pound.

Magenta held well in the field and did not bolt until some of the trial plants we selected to stay in the field finally gave up and bolted after 9 to 10 weeks.  They also held with good texture and taste longer than many varieties.  It won't replace our heirlooms, but it will be a good addition to help us through the warmer months with our lettuce production.

3. Waltham Butternut Squash
We have grown Waltham Butternut squash from the beginning.  We see no reason to stop growing Waltham Butternut.  That might be all we need to say for this variety.  Since those who read our Veg Variety Winner posts tend to prefer to read more than that - we'll say more.

Waltham is a c. moschata, which means it has solid stems unlike c. maxima or c.pepo, which have hollow stems.  Vine borers tend to take out young hollow stem plants, but the solid stem plants are largely unaffected.  This may be the biggest single reason why you see more butternut winter squash than any other winter squash other than the shorter season acorn, spaghetti or delicata types.  But, in those cases, the fruit are not typically intended for long storage.

If we had been able to put the Walthams in at the time we desired, they may very well have blown us away with ridiculous production numbers.  As it is, they did well enough to keep the farmers happy but showed us that there is potential for an even better crop with some modifications in our system.  We getting those alterations in place for next year - so here's hoping.

Fruit size does vary, with some potentially getting quite large (some reaching 6-7 pounds this year) and a few ripening while just between one to two pounds in size.  Overall, this year's harvest averaged in the 3-4 pound range.  Once again, we like having some variability as it responds to our customers differing needs.  The family of six that likes squash can take the monsters and the family of two that finds squash passable, but not critical to their meals can take the smaller ones.  It works out rather nicely. 

2. Black Cherry Tomato
Black Cherry has been sneaking up this list from season to season.  We introduced them to our grow list in 2014 and got very positive reviews for taste.  We dedicated ourselves to growing them in the high tunnel in 2016 and Black Cherry made it to #7 on the list during a year where even high tunnel tomatoes were not at their best.  With high tunnel tomatoes back to where they should be, Black Cherry made it clear why it will stay on our grow list for as long as we can keep up with the harvest.

Plants tend to be smaller than our other cherry tomatoes (Tommy Toe and /Hartmann's Yellow Gooseberry on our farm) as are the fruit.  In fact, if you plant them too close to these other varieties, Black Cherry may be overwhelmed and have its production reduced.  On the other hand, if you give them their space and keep them picked, you can easily get 400 marketable fruit per plant.  This year's GFF harvest in Eden was 456.7 per plant - and we don't always keep up with the cherry tomatoes!

The taste of a Black Cherry is simply outstanding.  But, you can't often truly appreciate them unless you have a few Tommy Toe or Hartmann fruit for comparison.  Hint: you should eat a Tommy Toe or two first before you try the Black Cherry.  Take the time to savor - it's worth it.

Like most thinner skinned heirloom/heritage cherry tomatoes, they will readily split as they reach maturity.  We tend to harvest them just a bit earlier so we have unsplit fruit to offer our customers.  Unlike some tomatoes, these do not sacrifice much (if anything) on taste if you nab them at that stage.  Please note that we aren't talking about picking green tomatoes here.  We've just learned where the line is for ripeness prior to splitting and we harvest at that line.  If we happen to miss with some of the fruit, we have found those working on the farm are ready and willing to "find a home for them."

1. Goodman Cauliflower
We hesitated putting Goodman at the top of our list because the last thing we want to do is to "jinx" this variety on our farm.  You see, our tendency has been to put a cultivar that was an extremely pleasant surprise at the top spot each year rather than one that has many years of solid performance.  I suppose that's a normal reaction.  But, perhaps we'd be better off if we awarded a perennial winner such as Waltham, Jaune Flamme or White Wing the top spot?  No, never mind.  Goodman won this year fair and square.
We ran a trial with Amazing and Goodman in 2014 in the hopes that we could find an open-pollinated cauliflower to supplement the Snow Crown F1-hybrid we relied on for consistent production.  Both showed promise, so we have continued the experiment each year since with larger numbers of both varieties each season.  The biggest downside with Goodman has been dealing with lower germination numbers and weaker seedlings.

On the other hand, we were sold on Goodman's taste as soon as we treated ourselves to one of these rounded heads of cauliflower goodness in 2014.  If you are lukewarm about cauliflower, you'll be red hot for them after you taste this one.

Most years, head size runs from about 1 to 1 and a half pounds.  The inner leaves stay in close to the head, which removes the need to blanch them.  If they have a weakness, it's the relatively short holding time they have in the field.  When they are ready, you go and get them!  But, that's ok, because we're usually pretty anxious to have them around the time they get ready.

We had a good year for cauliflower this year with Amazing and Snow Crown doing very well.  But, the combination of production numbers, head size, taste and the sheer beauty of some of the heads that came from these plants - Goodman wins the day.

Thank you!
We appreciate all who read and enjoy what we write here on the Genuinely Faux blog for the Genuine Faux Farm.  The yearly Veg Variety Winners post is one that we are particularly fond of doing and it does encourage us when people take the time to tell us that they enjoyed reading it.  We are pleased to answer questions and/or have discussions about growing and cultivar selections.

We're looking forward to an off-season where we can renew our energy and purpose for another year of growing good food.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Pie Pumpkins - 5 Years Later

In 2012, we had a plethora of pumpkins and we were hopeful that we could sell the excess.  So, we felt the timing was right to author a blog post outlining some of the pie pumpkins we grew/grow at the Genuine Faux Farm.  The original post shows up as being visited semi-frequently during the month of November each year.  I wonder why that might be?

Since that time, we have tried to revisit the subject every couple of years.   In 2014, we updated our winter squash page on our website and we may revisit that page again this Winter.  Yet, I look at that page and I am amazed how much things for just this subset of crops have changed for us on the farm.  I do not detect anything incorrect on those pages.  But, our focus on what we are growing has changed somewhat significantly.  As a result, there are a number of cultivars that we no longer grow - yet they show up on our web page and on prior blog posts.  This made me wonder if it would be worthwhile to explore why we've made these changes.

If you want a pumpkin pie recipe (or two), scroll to the bottom of this post!

Alas, We No Longer Grow Thee
It feels like it might make the most sense to refer to some of the varieties we no longer grow first.  In some of these cases, we're pretty certain we will not grow them again.  In others, there is a chance they could return given the right set of circumstances.

One of the underlying reasons for us to cease growing some of these pie pumpkins is simply the need for us to do a little simplifying on our farm.  There is a fine balance between the diversity we desire, the size of our farm, the tool and the energy the farmers have to do the work required.  Then, you have to add in the reality of the need for a little income from the farm and you have to consider dropping some varieties that don't produce enough to earn their keep - even if you like them very much.
Amish Pie
Case in point is the Amish Pie pumpkin.  Let me quote from 2012:
Essentially, pests regularly take out about 75% of our plants each season - assuming all else goes well. 

There is a reason the seed sources for this wonderful pie pumpkin have a hard time being consistent as well.  Add to that the fact that they are unforgiving if you get them in too late (a common problem with our soils and weather) and maybe this is not the right match for our farm.  Even so, if I were to see Amish Pie as a selection in the Seed Savers catalogue again this season, I would still pause and be tempted - before calmly NOT putting them on the order list for our farm.
Galeux d'Eysines
The always intriguing Galeux d'Eysines did not make the cut for our growing season this past year either.  We loved getting some of these 'Bumpkins' every year, but we had to admit to ourselves that we rarely selected it over all of our other pie pumpkins when we wanted to eat one.  Don't get us wrong, it tastes fine.  It just didn't taste as good as the others most years.  Since we are not in the decorative pumpkin business, but we are in the business of growing food, the decision might seem like it was an easy one.  On top of the taste 'thing,' the production numbers of this c.maxima vine crop didn't compete with the others.

Odd little fact for those who like them: Eysines is just northwest of Bordeaux, France.  Galeuse translates roughly to "scabby."  So, this is a scabby squash from Eysines, France.  Now, wasn't that fun?

On the other hand, they are different.  They are oddly attractive and fun to grow (when they do well).  They have moderate storage qualities and probably would taste better if we had a warm place to cure them.  It is also possible that they might just do better in a different soil.  And, we did have people tell us that they liked them for pumpkin/squash soup.
New England Pie
New England Pie did not go in the ground this year because it lost in a two year head to head trial with Winter Luxury.  That's the thing about a fifteen acre farm, you only have so much space.  It is important to find the right balances for your production choices and having two varieties that fill the same niche is not an efficient use of limited resources. 

All About the Ratios
In the end, most of our choices came down to using our experience since our start in 2005 to help us determine a few key ratios.  One such ratio is the overall production value per row foot of all of our crops.

Simply put, we'd like to say that we can average a certain amount of value throughout our cultivated vegetable crops.  That doesn't mean would say no to something that struggles to reach that value.  Instead, it means that we need to use those values to determine another value:

The ratio of reliable value producers versus the less reliable value producing crops and varieties.

In other words, we spent time figuring out how many row feet of pie pumpkins we could afford to expend on cultivars like Amish Pie and Galeaux d'Eysines versus how many we would need of Long Island Cheese and Musquee de Provence to offset the shortcomings of other selections.
Long Island Cheese
In 2012, we mentioned that Long Island Cheese was the most reliable pie pumpkin we had grown "for seven years."  In other words, we started growing them our first year on the farm - and we're still growing them.  They remain reliable from a production standpoint and they give us attractive and tasty fruits.  Part of the reason for this is the fact that they have solid stems (c. moschata) which resist incursions by the vine borer.  They also respond favorably to having flower companions nearby to attract pollinators.  In many ways, they grow like the Waltham Butternut with similar positive characteristics.  Fruit don't store quite as well as butternuts, but they tend to be better than average.

Another reality entered into our pie pumpkin decision making as well.  You can make "pumpkin" pie out of several other squash types.  Types like... oh... Waltham Butternut.  In fact, butternut is usually the squash of choice for the cans of "pumpkin" you can buy at the store.  That means our ratios needed to include our other winter squash as well.  Hey - if we can do anything right - it's making our decisions sound really difficult!  Or maybe it's our justifications that are difficult to follow?  Either way, we hope it makes us sound smart.

Three Pie Pumpkin Cultivars and We're Good To Go
In the end, we have decided to go with three reliable pie pumpkin varieties and focus on Marina di Chioggia and Burgess Buttercup as our two "high risk" cultivars in the Winter Squash category.  It certainly helps that we love the taste of the pie pumpkins that remain.  This is especially true for Musquee de Provence. 
Musquee de Provence
I suppose you want a fun fact for our other French heirloom pie pumpkin?  This one supposedly comes from southern France and was named for its distinctive pumpkin odor.  Yes - it smells good!  The rough translation to Engish is that Musquee means musky.  But, I am not sure that is an entirely accurate description of the fragrance.

Musquee de Provence has also been marketed at Fairy Tale - though I am not entirely certain that the strains are completely interchangeable.  They get to full size with a dark gray/green color and will continue to turn to a golden tan color as they cure.  We tend to not leave them in the field on the vine too long because a heavy rain and soil contact can result in many of them going bad on us.

These pumpkins are also a c.moschata (solid stem) and their vines can get fairly long.  If you can manage to get them a longer growing season, they will reward you.  Pumpkin size can range from 5 to 30 pounds.  Our average tends to be around 15 pounds.  The seed cavity is relatively small and the fruits are very dense.  The meat is a deep orange to red-orange color.  You can almost make a pie out of them without adding any other spices.

If they have a downside, it is that they almost get too big for us to use with our CSA.  On the other hand, they store well.  They look wonderful as a kitchen centerpiece and you can easily freeze the excess in freezer bags for later use.

Winter Luxury
Our third variety is Winter Luxury.  This pumpkin is smaller than the other two (Long Island Cheese and Musquee de Provence) and stores less well.  The seed cavity is bigger in comparison to the the rest of the pumpkin and the size lands in the 4-6 pound area.  On the plus side, you can often get more fruit per row foot, the vines are shorter and the smaller fruit make it easier to make these a part of a CSA share.

It has also been reported to us that these small pumpkins can be used for soup recipes and stuffed pumpkin recipes with some success.  However, when one uses them for pie (or breads) people have reported that it is the smoothest of these pumpkins when cooked down.  The Seed Savers Blog has a post on using the Winter Luxury pumpkin that might be of interest to those who are reading this post.  According that blog post, Winter Luxury was developed in 1893 by a seed company in Philadelphia.  However, Fedco Seeds reports that the initial strain was yellow and this strain with the orange skin was developed 20 years later in Oregon.

Cooking Squash
The following works for any winter squash - from acorn squash to pumpkins. Acorn squash, being smaller, will take far less time to cook. Excess squash reheats readily and can easily be placed in a freezer bag and frozen.
  1. Carefully cut squash into halves or quarters
  2. Empty seed cavity of all seed and 'stringy' goo
  3. Place face down in cake pan
  4. Put 1/4 inch of water in bottom of pan
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F until a fork easily goes through entire squash (30 to 60 minutes depending on squash)
Cutting Squash
Many squash have extraordinarily hard skin. Use a large, sharp knife and use common sense when cutting open a squash. If you are unable to cut a squash in half, you may soften it by puncturing holes in the squash and using the microwave.
As easy as (pumpkin) pie!
Most winter squashes can be made into a pie. However, we can safely eliminate acorn and spaghetti squash from possible candidates. Varieties that are particularly good at being adapted to pies are Long Island Cheese, Amish Pie, Musquee de Provence, Winter Luxury, New England Pie, Australian Butter and Kikuza.
If you find a recipe calling for a can of pumpking just remember this:
1 can = 2 cups cooked pumpkin / winter squash.

Tammy's recipes for pumpkin pie are also found on our website!

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
  • 1 envelope Knox gelatine
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tbs cinnamon
Mix the above on low heat and stir in
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 egg yolks (save the whites)
  • 2 cups cooked pumpkin
Mix well. Cook, stirring occassionally until gelatin dissolves (approx 25 min). Chill until the filling can drop from the spoon.
Beat egg whites until stiff. Beat 1/4 cup sugar into egg whites.
Fold egg white mixture into pumpkin filling. Place into large baked pie shell.

Pumpkin Pie
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups pureed pumpkin
  • 12 fluid oz evaporated milk
  • 1 unbaked pie shell (9 inch, deep dish) - or prepare your own pie crust
  • whipped cream (optional)
Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour into pie shell. Bake in preheated oven (425 degrees F) for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for 40 to 50 minutes (until knife inserted near the center comes out clean). Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream before serving.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Genuinely Farming

If you look at the philosophy of philatelics label on our posts, you will find a series of posts that are related to my postal history and stamp hobby.  Usually, these posts are written during the colder months when I have some indoor time to work on these things.  With winds howling and a wind chill temp in the teens, I am not exactly anxious to get out there and do work.  Yes, I do have serious office work to do as well, but I'll use a quick blog post to get into the groove and work from there!

Last Winter, I started work on a sixteen page exhibit of philatelic items that had some relevance to what we do on our farm.  It's a neat way to combine the hobby with the avocation.  The title page to this exhibit is above.

I was able to complete all but a few pages last Winter, but my goal was to complete the whole thing prior to the end of September this year.  Why?  Well, there was this online event called the Philatelic Digital Rendezvous sponsored by Richard Frajola, a well-known postal historian and philatelist.  He solicited sixteen page exhibits to be posted at this location.

I invested a couple of evenings finishing the remaining three pages and proof reading the rest and managed to get the Genuinely Farming exhibit out there for others to see.  If you took the link, you'll find that this exhibit won the "Most Enjoyable" award!  Awards were determined by the voting of the participants in the event.  It says something when your peers select your effort as an outstanding one!

One page that got the most commentary was the page featuring the pencil.  Yes, the envelope is fun to look at simply because any artwork that can make you feel like you should be able to touch the item being portrayed is worth some level of admiration.

I will only show three of the sixteen pages in this post and figure you can go view the entire exhibit if you go to the PDR site.  If these pages amuse or interest you, please go look.  You might just find some other exhibits by others that interest as well!

I am always happy to discuss the hobby and answer questions and I am looking forward to getting back to the hobby during the winter months.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Crispy Days

We expect things to get pretty cool in November.  But, we don't usually expect the big chunk of cold we have gotten, with very little sun, since the last week plus in October.  Sure, it happens.  But, usually, we don't have to do some of the things we've had to do already this year until mid-November.  Perhaps we took for granted the past four or five years where we didn't have to worry about temps in the lower teens until November 15.  I guess it isn't that far from November 15 - so maybe we have no right to complain.

The cover crops South of Valhalla are now a crispy brown mass rather than a green mass.  We were forced to mow the buckwheat down because our first frost was late.  See - that's a good thing - a late frost.  But, boy, once it decided to frost it felt it important to use some emphasis and just get to the hard freeze soon thereafter!

If you look carefully in the center of the picture, you'll see an overhead watering stand.  Yes, that's a reminder that we had a dry patch and we were prepared to water to help the cover crops get started.  Happily, it rained (just a little) right after we set up the sprinkler.  Buckwheat and millet don't need much moisture to get going, so it worked out pretty well.  Now that these plants are dead, we're just going to leave them on top of the soil for the Winter.  This should help hold soil in place and it will allow them to break down naturally and feed our soil and the microbes in the soil.
The new hens are now integrated with the regular laying flock.  And, now that the retiring hens are at "Freezer Camp" and the last broiler batch has joined them, we are down to one flock of birds.  That's a relief to both of us - especially when weather gets colder.  We only have to deal with keeping one set of waterers unfrozen!
While there are some 'bells and whistles' we want to add to the new portable chicken building, we tried it out for a while with the retiring flock of hens.  They seemed to enjoy it very much.  It is a bit of a ways up to get to it, but once they figured it out, the hens seemed to like to go up and down the ramp we put up for them.  The only issue from their perspective?  Frost makes the ramp slippery.  While the farmer found it funny to watch them slip and slide down the ramp, I suspect they were not as amused.
The turkeys took their trip to the park just as the weather was turning to the colder temperatures.  They had a few adventurous days with a strong northwest wind.  But, all in all, they had a pretty good weather year from their perspective.
The tomato and pepper field after our first hard frost was a sad sight.  Of course, it is always a bit hard to see plants singed after a frost.  Yes, we could have spent time putting covers on these.  But, it was mid October at the time.  We felt we had gotten what we wanted out of these plants and it would be ok to pull the remaining fruits off and let the frost take them.

The field has already changed dramatically.  The cages for the tomatoes are down.  The peppers and eggplant are pulled and piled so we can take the plant residue to Mount Evermess (our compost piles).  Three beds for garlic are tilled and one and a half are planted.
Meanwhile, the annual flower pollinator mix was still trying to do its thing until a couple of days ago.  The picture above is from October.  But, the cosmos and clover were still trying to do their thing right up until a few days ago. 
Maybe the clover will stay green.  But the rest?  I think they're done now.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

November Newsletter

November - Sprint to the End.

November first shows up on the farm and a new sense of urgency makes itself known.  There are only so many days to accomplish certain tasks before the ground is frozen.  Opportunities to plant garlic, move high tunnels, harvest remaining root crops, put up low tunnels, pull in irrigation and finish the electric lines in the truck barn are less plentiful than they once were.  Or perhaps, the opportunities are no less plentiful than they were - it's just that there is a very real deadline looming and failure is not an option.

On the other hand, each task's completion leads to a cumulative sense of relief and, dare I say it, accomplishment.  Garlic is the last planting task of the season for us and once it is done, it symbolically closes out the growing season while opening the door - if only a crack - for the next one.  The turkeys have gone to the "Park" and the last batch of broilers and the retiring laying hens will take their trip to the "Park" and "Freezer Camp" very soon as well.  There will not be another batch of chicks this year and we will finally be down to a single flock of laying hens. We are finally admitting that we're not going to be irrigating anything in the field anymore this year, so the header lines and drip lines can be brought in.  The freezing temperatures have rendered many plants that were still holding on to crispy remnants - even some of the weeds.  So, suddenly weeding isn't a big deal on our list any more.  On the other hand, we continue to pull damaged fruit out of fields so the hens can happily peck away at them.

There is more to do than there are hours of light - and light is a commodity that is growing shorter by the day. This can be difficult for the 'solar powered' farmer, because gloomy days only encourage him to want to take a nap.  And so, we keep plugging away, in hopes that we can get to the end before it is thrust upon us - ready or not.

October Calendar of Events

  • November 1: Broiler Flock 3 to "the Park"
  • November 2: Delivery 24 Cedar Falls
  • November 5: Gang of Five Gathering
    November 6: Retiring Hens to "the Park"
    November 7: Delivery 25 Waverly
  • November 7: Rob at Social Work Research Class
    November 9: Delivery 25 Cedar Falls
  • November 9: Rob at Fontana Herb Society
  • November 21: Delivery 26 Waverly and Cedar Falls
  • November 21: Thanksgiving Shares
    November 23: Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving Shares:
You may notice that we skip a week between deliveries during our Fall season.  Currently, share holders with the Whole Enchilada, Traveler 20, My Garden is Dead and Alternating Delivery Shares are still receiving veggie goodness from us.  But, if you are NOT one of these people, you can still get a Thanksgiving share on our November 21st distribution in either Waverly or Cedar Falls.

$35 gets you a nice selection including potatoes, butternut squash, carrots, onions, kale, garlic and whatever else we put in the share that week!  Contact us if you have interest.

Turkeys Have Found Their Homes - Other Poultry Available
The turkeys have all found a home for Thanksgiving.  We warned you to get your orders in!  So, now it is the broiler chickens and stewing hens that move to the most wanted list.  Batch number 3 of broilers went to the Park a bit early and are now in Freezer Camp.  This batch has some truly BIG birds in it.  No... no.  Not THE Big Bird.  He's still on Sesame Street and alive and well as far as we know.

Broilers remain at the $3.50/pound cost that we have maintained for the past few years.  Stewing hens will be on special during the week of the 6th of November at only six dollars.  

Song of the Month
A little Circle Slide as we come back around at the end of the growing season.  The Choir has been a favorite for Tammy and I for most of our married life.  Great lyrics and great composition.  Enjoy.

Recipe of the Month
We have to share Tammy's pie recipe - it really is quite good!  This one has been on our website for nearly as long as we've maintained it.

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
  • 1 envelope Knox gelatine
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tbs cinnamon
Mix the above on low heat and stir in
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 egg yolks (save the whites)
  • 2 cups cooked pumpkin
Mix well. Cook, stirring occassionally until gelatin dissolves (approx 25 min). Chill until the filling can drop from the spoon.
Beat egg whites until stiff. Beat 1/4 cup sugar into egg whites.
Fold egg white mixture into pumpkin filling. Place into large baked pie shell.

Field Report
We do still have some kale, pok choi, lettuce, napa cabbage, kohlrabi, daikon radish, broccoli and onions still in the field.  We've been trying to pull in what we must as fast as we are able, but there are only so many hours in a day.  The colder than normal temps with little sun and a fair amount of damp are putting numerous crimps into our regular October/November routine.  You cannot harvest these things when temperatures are at or below the freezing mark, so we have to pick our spots carefully and hope there are enough opportunities before it gets too cold for them.  Usually, we get some breaks in the temps this time of year - but we haven't seen much of that on the farm the past couple of weeks and we see no break in the forecast.

Some things can still be done when the soil is damp.  We've pulled most of the tomato cages and irrigation header lines from the fields.  Fences and feeders and other such stuff are getting pulled in from pastures that no longer have birds in them.  And - we're spending a good deal of time in our truck taking flocks to the park, then taking them to freezer camp and then on to their new homes.  You would think by now that we would remember that there are hours of time that are taken by those tasks every Fall.  But, no.  We get surprised by it every season.  Why is that?  No, don't answer - we have a pretty good idea as to why it is.

Eden has not been moved as of this writing.  We're trying to match up our time with appropriate weather to get it moved.  Clearly, we're behind schedule on this one by a good bit now.  But, every time we have time.... the wind decides to make a very strong appearance.  That's just the way it is sometimes.  We'll get there.

Picture of the Month
We caught this little bird peeping into our window on the 2nd floor of our house at 10:30pm one night.  It's always amazing to see one of these creatures managing to hold onto a vertical surface and not seem at all bothered by the situation.  Now, the flash from our camera was not appreciated.  But, I can't blame it for that.
Farm News Shorts
  • We are not taking reservations for next year's CSA at this time.  In prior years we have taken deposits for the next season starting in September.  We have heard from several people that they felt it was too hard to decide how their year was going to go so they could make a commitment.  However, you will be hearing us once we get to mid-January.  We have some things to consider for the upcoming season, so we also like the flexibility this may provide to us as we have some careful conversations about our future.
  • Speaking season for Rob is beginning with an event for the Fontana Herb Society and an event in Canada at the end of the month.  It sounds like he will also speak at the PFI Annual Conference in January.  Now is the time to ask if you want him to come speak at a class or some other venue this Winter.  
  • We got a pear off of our pear tree.  Yes.  One pear.  Proof below:
Time to Have Pun
We have a friend who is a snake charmer.  Sometimes, she does higher class events that require her to dress up a bit more.  In those cases, she puts on an extra garter.