Monday, December 18, 2017

Time Capsule

I remember our class trying to figure out what to put in the time capsule when our elementary school opted to create one.  I wonder now what that item was that we decided on, but I am guessing I will not find out.

But, my musings led me to consider trying a 'time capsule' of sorts with our farm pictures.  The rule was that I had to go to the picture files we have and select a random month for each year during the growing season.  Then, I had ten seconds to select a picture I could put into a blog post with similarly selected photos.  Let's see what happened, shall we?

2008 - Grandpa Admires lettuce in a cage
We didn't have a digital camera in 2008, but we do have some digital photos courtesy of Sally Worley, who took a batch of them during the first PFI field day we hosted that year.

I selected this photo because it illustrates how much things have changed and how much things have stayed the same on our farm.  The red cages have all been taken apart by now.  We still have some of the wood that has been repurposed and, of course, we do have chunks of chicken wire here and there that were probably part of these cages.  But, it is the way of a working farm.  Things get built to solve a problem or serve a purpose.  They work for a time until they wear out or the farm moves on to other approaches.  Then, they become something else.

On the other hand, you might notice that this cage in particular is covering Grandpa Admires lettuce.  We grew it back in 2008 and we still grow it to this day.  For that matter, as long as Rob is doing the growing, there is going to be some Grandpa Admires simply because he LIKES to eat this type of lettuce.  If you know anything about Rob's eating history, than you know that is really saying something. 

As I look at the picture, I realize that it may well be the very first season we used these cages.  Why?  Well, look how straight they are?  All it took was one Winter to change that.
2010 - we should have grown cranberries or rice

We have no digital pictures for 2009, but we did finally get access to a digital camera in 2010.  That was just in time so we could record what was our absolute WORST season on the farm.  And, at the same time, it was the MOST transforming season for the farm as well. 

We got rain.  And more rain.  And more rain.  If you look carefully at this picture you will see standing water next to the brassica plants.  There is tall grass in the rows because we had no way to weed.  The veggie plants in this picture are on their way to dying as can be seen by the browned leaves.  In short, we had an awful time of it until we got to mid-July, when it dried up some.

And, yet, that season saw some major changes that moved us forward dramatically.  We built Eden (our first high tunnel), we purchased our first tractor (Durnik), took a crash course in Fall and early Winter veggy growing and began finding that there were other growers in Iowa we could go to for morale support.

2011 - Eden's first Summer crop set
We were within a whisker of quitting the Genuine Faux Farm in June of 2010, but felt we'd better get through our commitments.  Some Fall success and the opportunities a new high tunnel brings encouraged us to give it a go in 2011.  And that's where we learned that green beans LOVE high tunnels.

Tomatoes love high tunnels too, I know.  But, the green beans were a revelation to us.  The rows on the right of this picture went crazy and we could barely keep them harvested.

The thing that strikes me about the 2011 picture is how different our planting methods look now as compared to what they were then.  Let's just say that we've learned a good deal and leave it at that.  But, that doesn't mean we didn't do things relatively well then.  After all, we were working with fewer tools in the tool box.
2012 - Look! Red cages again!

New tools don't always mean the old tools go away.  As you can see in the photo to the right, the red cages made a return as protection for seedlings while they were in trays. 

The backstory here is that the building that had been on the slab was blown down in some years prior.  We finally got it mostly cleaned up so we could use the area for seedling tray central.

I find this particular photo interesting because I know that there are good sized piles of ugly lumber and scrap just to the left that we were in the process of cleaning up.  But, like many things on the farm, we just couldn't get the project all the way done before we absolutely had to get seedlings outside.  The growing season always wins when the battle of priorities begins on our farm.

2013  - Raised Beds
A common theme on our farm has got to be what happens when we get too much rain.  We have flat ground and relatively heavy soil.  Too much rain is probably the worst situation for us to grow in.  As a result, the years that have seen some of the greatest innovations were those that saw the most issues with rain.

Or, perhaps I should say, the years that had the 'most' innovations were the years we had the most issues with rain.  I am not sure that all of our responses during those seasons were all that great.  The raised beds did a decent job for us and still do.  But, like the red cages, they are no longer as important as other tools on our farm.  It's just another interesting way to see how our farm has grown and changed over the years.

2014 - garlic in the rafters

And yet again, there are things that have remained fairly constant.  We still hang our garlic from the rafters in the truck barn.  It is still an impressive sight to find 3000 or so garlic hanging up to cure after a day of harvest, bundling and hanging.

We find it interesting that each of our work crews over the years think this is one of the most exciting work days of the season.  With the event of Facebook, we can tell you that other farms like ours have similar reactions.  The garlic harvest is a BIG deal.   One day, you have rows of garlic plants standing up in the field.  The next, they are all hanging up to cure.  It's a big, big change and the task has a definite beginning and end.  The farmers and the crew can actually take a moment and appreciate what has been done.

2015 - Beans and peppers South of Valhalla
We put Eden up in 2010 and told ourselves that it would be the biggest project we would undertake for our farm's infrastructure.  My how a few years can change your viewpoint. 

We completely restructured some of our fields so we could insert a new high tunnel (called Valhalla).  Like Eden, this building can also move between two growing locations.  The biggest difference is that Valhalla is about 25 feet longer.  That may not sound like much, but if you are used to working a certain row length in a high tunnel, it is surprising how it gets ingrained into your head.  I still find myself stopping and being confused 25 feet SHORT of the end of the row in Valhalla because my internal measurements say I should be finished with the row by then.  It actually gets worse - I get confused in Eden now too because the rows are shorter than they should be.

2016 - the Inspector has arrived
Ah! The life of a farmer - always confusing.

We have had kittens on the farm more than once, but Inspector is the only cat that was born on the farm.  To be honest, this wasn't actually a welcomed event.  Inspector's mother (Soup) had been dumped at our farm and we weren't entirely sure she would fit in with how things worked there.  In fact, we still have some reservations about Soup.  At least she has shown she can handle the Winters - an issue we were not at all sure about early on.

Inspector, on the other hand, has turned out to be about the friendliest feline you'll ever meet.  He's my friend.  He's your friend.  He's EVERYBODY'S friend.  He has gotten more independent as the year has gone on, which is good.  But, he still likes to hitch a ride in a farmer's arms if he can manage.  Some good skritching is always appreciated and he'll reward with a nice purr every time.

2017 - Set up to harvest
The last picture is one that is familiar to me, but it doesn't usually show up on blogs or anywhere else for that matter.  Harvest day usually means loading up the trailer with harvest totes of various sizes, the portable scale, some tunes, a towel, sometimes a coat, various harvesting knives and the record book. 

After a fairly short period of time, many of those totes will be full of produce and we'll be hauling them back to the cleaning and packing area. 

And, now that I've gotten to the 2017 picture for this post, it is time to clean and pack this blog post for your reading pleasure!

Thank you for checking out our GFF Time Capsule!

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