Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Moving Day

The Genuine Faux Farm features two high tunnel buildings.  If you don't know what a high tunnel building is, you are soon going to find out (assuming you actually read this blog post!).  We have named the smaller of the two buildings (72' x 30') "Eden" and the larger (96' x 30') is called Valhalla.  A high tunnel is essentially a hoop building/structure that has a plastic covering.  The intent of a high tunnel is to grow crops in the ground under this structure.  Needless to say, the protection provided by the building can allow for growing crops earlier or later in the season AND it can help control the amount of moisture (most of the time) during wet seasons.

The cool thing about Eden and Valhalla?  Well, unlike most high tunnels, these two buildings MOVE!  And Valhalla recently had a moving day.

Valhalla was in its West position
But, we wanted it moved to the East position.
We admit that this move happened later than we planned, but the season has forced us to make some choices that lead us to this situation.  Tammy and I moved Valhalla on a Saturday with no other helpers.  It took longer than it has most years because there were a few roadblocks, but we figure it was time well spent.  We actually managed to take some pictures during the process this year which means we can FINALLY give everyone a moving day rundown!
Step 1, clear the tracks
 We are often able to spend some time prior to moving day getting the area around the tracks cleaned up.  That was not quite the case this year.  The weed whip came out and we spent time getting things out of the way.  If you have sharp eyes you might notice an irrigation line and a hose over the track as well.  It is usually NOT advised that you should leave such things on the track on moving day...
Step 2 - free up the apron plastic
We have all kinds of high tech methods for keeping the plastic down.  I sometimes wonder how technical we should get on our blog, so I am hesitating telling you about this part.

Oh, ok.  It's just some t-posts. 
 Now that we are no longer mystifying everyone with our clever ideas and techniques, we shall now discuss wind.  Lots of wind.  And the things wind can do to our high tunnels.

Step 3 - put the wheels BACK on the track
Both high tunnels have multiple attachments to the ground to keep it from getting away.  Even so, strong winds can move the building off of the track enough that we have to put those wheels back on the track before we move the building. We typically use a sturdy board as a lever to put these sections back on the track. 

Step 4 - Pound in the anchoring posts that secure the track

Unfortunately, the pictures I have of this just don't show what I'm talking about.  Suffice it to say that there are rebar stakes that hold the track to the ground.  These tend to pull up a bit over the course of the year, so they all need to be pounded back in with a 3 pound hammer.  If they are not put back down, the risers on the building will catch on them and you have to stop the moving process until they ARE down.

Step 6 - admire the crops currently in the building
One of the reasons for our delay in moving the building was the lack of dry ground to plant in on the farm.  We adjusted and put some of our crops into the side of the building that was going to be exposed after the move.  It's not our ideal plan, but sometimes you just do what you have to.

Tammy can be seen at the left cleaning up the track INSIDE of the building.  What?  You though we only had to clean the track outside the building?  Silly you!  Any obstructions on the track tend to cause difficulties during the move.  So, thank you, Tammy, for clearing the tracks!

Step 7 - take the doors off of each end

Step 8 - can you see the difference in this picture from the step 6 picture?

Remember, you can click on images to see a bigger picture.  So, what do you see that is different here?  Yes, the tracks are clean.  Good job, Tammy.  Maybe the crops have grown just a wee bit since the last picture?  

Step 8 - remove the T-Posts that secure the end walls

I realized AFTER I pulled the t-stakes that I hadn't really taken a good picture of them.  But, since the building moves, we have to be able to raise the end walls in some fashion to allow it to move.  When the building is in place, there has to be a way to secure those end walls to the ground.
Step 9 - take bolts out of end wall that attaches end wall flap

This is usually the step where one of us trudges back to the garage to get the socket set that we didn't bring out with us to take these bolts off.

Step 10 - take the poly-carbonate cover off the corners over the tracks

These little pieces of poly-carbonate keep the critters out in the corners over the tracks.  Unfortunately, you can't lift the tracks when they are on, so we have to take them off.
Step 11 - dig out the flaps
We throw some dirt in front of the outside (and inside) of the flaps to help hold them in place.  But, that means you have to dig that back out when you want to raise the flaps.

Step 12 - Raise the flaps and tie them up

And, step 13 - nest the roll up bars on top of these flaps so they don't create drag when you move the building.

At this point, the building is pretty much ready to move EXCEPT, we have yet to disconnect it from all of its anchor points with the exception of the end walls.  If the wind were to pick up at this point, we have the option of putting the flaps back down and closing the building up.

But, things were fine, so we decided to proceed.

Step 14 - disconnect the building from the track
There are several sets of turnbuckles connecting the building to the track.  These must be disconnected, which means loosening the turnbuckle and then opening the c-connector to free them.

Step 15 - loop turnbuckes onto hip 'board' to avoid making these an obstacle when moving the building.
 Laugh all you want that I give this its own separate step.  You won't laugh if you forget this step - we'll just leave it at that.

Step 16 - take off the turnbuckles that connect the building to ground anchors
 We save this one for last usually because these anchors could probably hold the building in place if a freak poof should come along at this point.  The idea is to have the building unsecured for the briefest amount of time possible without getting sloppy.  You might notice the orange tie to keep the turnbuckle up and out of the way of the wheels on the track.  We usually use duct tape for that task, but the roll we had with us was old and not meeting expectations.

Step 17 - inspect everything one more time
 THEN, HEY PRESTO!  Your building is moved.
 I suspect many of you are now suspicious that I was tired of typing all of this out and I took a short-cut there.  No, that's not true.  At this point moving the building is pure magic.  We say the magic words.

"Please, Valhalla, will you move to the Eastern position that we have meticulously prepared for you?"

And then you....

Hook the building up to your tractor (Rosie) with a rope
Oh.  I forgot that part.

In any event, this process is slow and deliberate and usually includes several stops when wheels pop off the track or we identify a potential issue as we move the building.  
Oh look!  Valhalla DID move.  Yay!
The temptation at this point is to celebrate and go eat lunch, or some such thing.  But, the building is still not secured.  So, we need to reattach the turnbuckles to ground stakes and the track (there are ground stakes set for each position the tunnel resides in) and it is a good idea to at least put the flaps down before you have a sandwich.

After lunch, which was a bit late on this particular day, you get to put the building back together again.

The final steps?  Prep the soil and plant your crops.   

QED (?)

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Always More to Do

The difficult thing about trying to share all of the things that are going on in a blog when you are farming in Iowa - during the month of June - is finding the time and motivation to take timely photos and THEN organize them into posts.  No time for creativity in writing for this farmer!  Just the facts, sir!  Ok, maybe there will be some additional exposition, perhaps a pun, maybe a speculative comment... but definitely some....


We asked the henlets if they would take some pictures.  They said, "no."
We asked the henlets for a volunteer to take some pictures on the farm and we were roundly rejected.  Instead, they just wanted the food Tammy was carrying at the time.  We asked Inspector, but he just looked at the camera and then walked away.  We'll take that as a rejection as well.  Soup spends most of her time sleeping, so that was a non-starter from the beginning.

The next solution?  Use pictures we already have from earlier in the month!

Capital idea if I say so myself.  So, here we are.

We made the decision this past Winter to go 'all in' on the paper mulch idea this year.  Now, when I say 'all in' I don't actually mean that every thing we grow will be on paper mulch.  There are things where we feel it will work well and then there are things where we don't think it is a very good match.  However, we are growing melons, winter squash, summer squash, tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower on paper mulch this season.

The photo at right shows some vine crops recently transplanted into paper.  We're using 3 foot wide paper so we can avoid weed pressure right next to the crop.  Our most time consuming weed control efforts are always in row, closest to the crop.  While we have cultivators to help us with the work, we have found that the last several seasons have been too wet for us to get out and cultivate when we need to.  The result is that the weeds get too big for the cultivators, so the effort becomes much more labor intensive.  While it is true that the paper mulch will eventually break down, the goal here is to get us past the heavy weed development season in June, July and early August.

The heavy planting push saw us using some of our equipment for long stretches of time.  The picture above shows our walk-behind tractor (Barty, in blue) and our tractor (Rosie, in red).  The mulch layer is attached to Rosie in this picture.  For those who figure that equipment like this makes the job 'easy' for the farmer, allow me to point out that Barty is not a small machine.  It takes some effort to keep him going where he is supposed to be going.  Rosie is a bit kinder, allowing me to sit down.  But, there is never a time when I spend long stretches in that seat - there is normally a good deal of climbing up and down to and from said seat.  Oh, and the you can really feel every bump wherever you drive.

Another, less expensive, piece of equipment that has seen time is the 'irrigation cart.'  It's a simple green cart that carries tools and supplies for setting up irrigation on the farm.  There is also a nifty holder that allows us to feed out drip tape for new rows.

It may seem a bit odd to be doing so much with drip tape when we've been so wet and we certainly see the irony in it.  But, transplants live in the top couple of inches of soil, which dries out quickly.  Until they expand their roots into the zones deeper in the soil, we have be prepared to support them with some extra water.  We have also learned that if you haven't got drip tape down, it will stop raining for.. like... three years or something.  Until you get the drip tape in.  Then it's ark time.  Not sure which way to go!

We were also graced with the presence of some fine people recently when three of Tammy's good friends from high school days visited the farm for a day.  It is always difficult to explain to people exactly what we do and how we do the things we do.  It becomes much easier when they can see some of it in person.  Seriously, a 200 foot row of any crop becomes much more real when you stand at one end of it!

Thank you to Angie, Missy and Lee for your visit!  It was good to see all of you.

We are also continuing with attempts to keep the farm house from falling apart this year.  We have been trying to designate some time on Sunday's to do some work on the kitchen and are now at the point where we need to tape the sheetrock.  Both farmers are getting VERY tired of not having a decent sink for doing dishes and no counter tops.  But, we remind ourselves that the old counters were falling apart, the floor was threatening to send us to the basement and the electrical was not, shall we say, the safest arrangement.  We just keep telling ourselves it will be worth it in the end.

Right?  Oh, c'mon... give us a little affirmation!

The farm house projects continue with efforts to try to get some help making our back entry a bit less precarious.

But, if you look more closely, you might realize that this old farmhouse is going to require a bit more than just some new steps....

Ah well.

It's all part of living in an old farmhouse.  Every home needs repairs over time, we just have this thing for acquiring 'projects.'  The good news is that the two of us are fairly handy and able to do a wide range of things.  The bad news is that Tammy is a teacher and Rob is a veggie farmer.  It's not always a good combination with home remodeling.  Here's hoping we can get a little contractor help with some of the more time-critical things on this project!

And there you have it - the things that popped into my head as I looked at pictures from earlier in the month.  I wonder if it will motivate me to go out and take more pictures? 

No, I think I'll go tape some drywall though.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Blink of An Eye

One of the most difficult things about June is that so much happens on the farm in one day that it is pretty difficult to actually believe that it WAS ONLY ONE day.  I was just looking at some of our 'most recent' pictures and I'm realizing they no longer accurately depict the current status of our farm.  Many of those pictures were taken... today.  Even harder to believe are pictures that were taken a little less than a week ago.  At least that's what the calendar tells me.  I don't really believe it - I suspect someone is pulling a fast one on us and it really is still May 15, 2006.... or something like that.

 It seems like just yesterday that the first iris were blooming on the farm and now we're looking at the tail end of the bloom.  There are more out there than one might think, of course, but we are clearly past the peak bloom.  Nonetheless, we have a nice bouquet in the kitchen area and there are still some nice blooms in the field.

Speaking of which, I did see some honey bees on iris flowers yesterday, so I'll call that a win from the perspective that iris are not usually known as a big attraction for pollinators.

We do regret that we don't have much time to just look at the iris and we wish we had the previous number of flowers we had ten or so years ago at the farm.  But, we remain grateful for what we are blessed with.

 We were honored with a visit from Torger last week and he helped us with some drywall in the kitchen.  Why?  Well, when you can reach the ceiling without a ladder, you could be handy when the sheetrock has to go on the ceiling.
 And I asked Torger, would you like to build a tongue for this cart?  And he said... ok.

As far as we can tell, Torger enjoyed his time at the farm - even if we did go to the 99 cent theater and watched a movie we all 'generously' gave 2 1/2 stars out of five.  It feels like Torger just got here - but he's now been gone since last Saturday.   How does a week go by that fast?

We are glad that some of the crops we pushed when the soil was still too wet to work are doing something.  But, clearly, they haven't loved life until the last week or so.  The cucumbers in this plot have been in there long enough that they should be much more visible in the picture.  They still live and they are starting to show signs of healthy growth, but they might have done just as well waiting in trays until this week.  Then, I went out later in the day AFTER the picture had been taken and the cucumbers were showing much more healthy growth.  Well, at least many of them did.  Some still look a little rough.

The sky decided to put on some of its bluest clothing, so I decided to show it off with a picture of... a portable chicken building?  Ok, not the best choice - but it's what I have for the blog.  We made a quick adjustment a few days ago and moved the henlets because we lost several birds in 48 hours.  The culprit?  Buffalo gnats.  The area was too sheltered and not enough sheltered all at once.  Too sheltered because the breeze couldn't get in there to knock the gnats down and not enough sheltered because gnats don't tend to cause problems inside of buildings.  A bit more breeze and different orientation for the portable building and things settled down for the henlets after that.

We executed this move early in the morning and we both looked at each other at 4pm today and asked ourselves, "When did we move that again? Was that today?"  Is it a good thing or a bad thing when your list of things you have done is long enough that you think the early morning stuff must have happened earlier in the week?  We'll get back to you on that when we figure it out.

The broilers, on the other hand, have their building moved every other day.  And, they are beginning to anticipate their trip to "the Park!"  June 24!  The countdown begins.  But, we aren't likely to get the countdown done because we can't keep track of which day of the week it is...  Heck, we can't even remember that moving the henlet building happened THIS morning.  Well, ok.  We CAN remember - it just feels like it's been longer, or shorter, or something different than it actually is.
Field prep and planting has been all-consuming for the past week since the soil has finally reached a stage where we can work it without causing more problems later (see the cucumbers for an example).  Part of the issue with cramming it all into a shorter time frame is that we have to figure out how to move resources around so they can be used and we don't bottleneck the work effort.  For example, on Friday we had four people available to do work.  You don't want any of them just standing around when time is of the essence, so you have to figure out how to keep people moving.  Sometimes, that leads to decisions that might not be what you would expect. 

Do you see the plants at the left of the picture above?  That is basil.  Why is the basil in before the tomatoes or the peppers?  Well, we needed our workers to be working and the tomatoes and peppers were going to be put on paper mulch.  We don't mulch the basil because our workers typically LOVE to weed it.
Speaking of paper mulch (we were? Oh, yes, we were!), we have decided to go with more row feet of paper mulch this year to cut down our in row weeding efforts.  Paper mulch also helps keep seedlings from drying out if the soil is rough - which is a good thing this year. 

Unfortunately, we have to pay for the benefits with more work on the front end.  Each bed has to be prepped so that the soil is loose enough to allow the disks on the mulch layer to cover the edges without pulling up huge chunks of dirt that make life difficult.  We also want the soil under the paper to be soft enough that we can plant through the paper and into the soil.  Once the soil is prepped, we lay the paper.  After the paper is down, we put drip tape down, using ground staples to help hold it in place.  Our drip tape has water emitters every 6 inches which allows a person to easily see how far apart to punch holes for the transplant.  THEN, we put the plants in the ground.

We're telling ourselves the extra effort will be worth it.

Meanwhile, the onions are starting to show a little more quality.  Here's a nice bed that has recently been visited by the flex tine cultivator.  It looks nice now!  But, we have a couple of rows that have some crab grass that the cultivator couldn't get with soil being too wet and 'rocky.'

The areas between our onion beds will be cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage.  Where are they?  Well, did we tell you about the Dred Pirate Woodchuck Chucky McChuckface?  I am pretty sure we did.  Well, that irritating creature took out our first two successions of those plants.  The third batch is looking good and will go in this week if the weather allows us to do so.
The final picture is another example of how quickly things have changed.  Here is a hayrack with about 60% of our squash seedlings.  They were probably some of the best looking squash plants we've put in at transplant time - so we did something right this year!  By the end of the day on Friday - that cart was empty. 

Here's hoping for a great squash crop in 2019.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Catch Us Catching Up?

We actually have a significant number of posts and post ideas sitting in the pipeline, but no time to follow up on them.  The simplest post is always the 'what's going on at the farm' type of post where we share a few photos and a few words - so that's what you're going to get!  We hope you enjoy us catching you up with the process of our catching up.  Now, here's hoping we actually catch up.

Recent conditions in our Middle Earth plot can summarize for you some of the reasons we are in the 'catch up' mode.  If you look carefully at the photo, you'll see a wet spot to the the left of the center row.  We planted cucumbers to go with the peas and borage in this plot.  The ground was a bit wet to be working, but we had to get something in, so we worked it anyway.  Well, the seedlings had wet soil to start, but that top couple of inches clumped up and dried up after a couple of days.  The cucumbers needed water - but it didn't take much to hit the water table and then there was too much water.

We're walking a fine line with transplants because we DO have to give them some water to keep them alive.  But, even a little too much puts them in TOO MUCH water, which also stresses them.

The good news is that we were able to proclaim several of our plots as ready to work on Friday.  That means we were able to bring out some of the 'toys' to do some work! 

Vince is our rotary harrow and he does the initial prep of our planting beds.  He does a fine job of ripping out the weeds in the beds and loosening things up so we can plant.  It's a tool you don't want to over-use, but it sure does help us get more done in shorter windows of time.

We had a short period in April (I think it was April) that were able to get Vince out to do a little work, but that's been it.  So, on Friday, Vince came out and prepped plots for winter squash and melons.  The field for tomatoes and peppers was deemed a bit too wet still, but it should be ok for Sunday or Monday - as long as the Sunday rain chances don't hit us too hard.

The other difficulty with planting waiting until June?  Well, the things that are in the ground (onions, potatoes, peas, turnips, carrots, beets) all need to be weeded.
The flex tine weeder was brought out to try to clean out the onions and the potatoes.  For the most part it - it worked.  But, there were still areas that had crab grass that was too far along to be removed by this tool.

Thankfully, we had a great crew of four that were willing to run the potatoes and the onions and clean them up the rest of the way on Friday after the flex tine cultivation on Thursday.  We also had good help from Emma on Wednesday (or was it thursday?) getting the beets and carrots weeded.  We even planted a few flowers not far away so the farmers and workers can enjoy them.

Speaking of flowers.

We're seeing more bumble bee activity on the farm right now as the perennial salvia are blooming.  We particularly like the May Night cultivar as it seems to have a longer bloom and the bees do like them.  And, unlike so many of our other perennial plants, they appear to be on schedule this year.  Early to mid-June is a period of time when flowers of this type aren't as plentiful, so we're happy to have them on our farm for the pollinators that favor them.

I think we would enjoy more of these perennials, but we just can't keep our perennial beds weeded.  It's a problem that we have simply because we do so much field work - it's hard to go out and weed a perennial bed after ward.  Instead, we look at the perennial beds and feel a bit depressed.  Until you see a bumble bee happily bumbling about on a salvia.

 Since we are still speaking of flowers, the iris show continues after a late start.  We've enjoyed cut flower vases in the house and we've made sure to stop and take a sniff or enjoy the view on a semi-regular basis as we walk about the farm. 

We have to admit that bearded iris don't really do much for pollinators and we rarely see them visited by much other than an occasional hummingbird.  But, we do like them and they help us feel like going out and doing more of what we do.  That seems like a good enough reason to have them.

 The lettuce tower experiment continues.  While this is the most recent picture, it is really not representative of what is going on with it right now.  The top couple of tiers are quite larger and the tiers further down are stalled.  We had some suspicions about this when we started and we're seeing some of it confirmed. 

Certainly some of the issue is likely user error.  But, there are some logistics regarding the lower slots that had us wondering in the first place. 

Trays of plants wait for us to be able to put them in the ground.  Here are some melons.  Can you see them clamoring to be put into their field?  It is odd to see melons clamoring.  But, there you have it.

The plus side of fields being wet, I suppose, is that you can get other tasks done that need doing - assuming it is not also too wet to do those things as well.  We pulled a batch of cattle and hog panels out of bush line areas where they had been 'temporarily' stored.   They are now in a better 'storage' location until they get pressed into service later this year.

 And, while some of this is happening when the weather is nicer, it is happening because we NEED it to happen.  The farm kitchen continues to progress slowly, but steadily.  The sheetrock is going up!  Actually, this picture is also dated already since we only have a couple sheets left to put up now.  The entire area shown below is now completed.

Once the drywall is all up, we can carve out an hour here and there to tape and paint.... then... cabinets?  Wouldn't that be nice?  Or is it too much to ask for a kitchen that has a sink and running water?  It is.  Oh.  Well.... um...

 And, Valhalla continues to do its job for us.  With the help of an electric fence surrounding its perimeter.  If Mr. Dread Pirate Chucky Woodchuck McChuckster tries to get in, he'll get permanent curls in his fur. 

No, it won't kill him - but we'll be happy if he has a really good scare and decides to leave our veggies alone.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

June Newsletter

Roller Coaster
As I worked my way down the row planting onion starts into soil that was really too wet to have worked  but I worked it anyway) I had plenty of time to muse on things related to life, the farm and life on the farm.  If you wonder where we come up with some of the things that show up in our blog, consider the fact that some of our tasks are repetitive and may take a while to complete.  The brain needs to go somewhere and it is often a wonder where the farmer's brain wanders.  See!  I got to use 'wander' and 'wonder' in the same sentence.  Now I am happy.

This time around I was reflecting on the number of "mood swings" I had gone through up to the point that I started putting in the onion plants.  The soil conditions, as I stated, were not what I normally prefer for tilling - which put me into a bit of a funk.  Prior to that, I was noticing some things germinating in Valhalla (our larger high tunnel) and I was feeling pretty optimistic that we can get things going.  Before that, I was feeling pretty grumpy about another important tool breaking (no worries, we figured out a good fix later on) which was just after the relative high point that came from building a temporary shelf for more seedlings in Casa Verde (see prior post).  Sometimes the highs and lows are less specific and more philosophical or general in nature.  Other times, the specific event is merely a symptom of a bigger worry (how do we handle weather extremes or spray drift) or more encompassing joys (the iris are blooming, isn't it cool how seeds sprout?).

But, the main point I am trying to make is that I find myself swinging from end of the spectrum multiple times a day - every day - on the farm.  One moment, I am telling myself this is the LAST TIME I will go through this @$^$% and the next I am thinking we'll finally manage to achieve certain goals we set for ourselves every year and that it's great that we can do what we do.

Which brings me to planting the onions.  It's a longer task.  It could be a tedious task.  But it is steady.  And, I usually don't have new highs and lows being placed in front of me for a period of time.  I can process and level it all out.  Does it work?  Sometimes.  The trick is to avoid getting stuck down at the level of the most recent low and digging it in deeper.  Frankly, I don't usually have a problem with getting overly happy with things on the farm because there is always something that isn't done or isn't going right to temper that particular feeling.  But, each onion placed in the ground represents a mini-success that has potential.  After a couple thousand mini-successes, it isn't so hard to balance out some of those failures or problems.

Grow onions!  Grow!

Weather Wythards
A cool, wet May.  We'll let Mark Schnackenberg's blog summarize if you are inclined to read it.

May's Report
High Temp: 88
Low Temp: 31
Rain: 6.03"

It's not the rain numbers southern Iowa received and we sure feel for them and the struggles this has caused.  But, we still ran a couple of inches above the 'normal' levels for the month.  Broken record time - it isn't helping to dry out the soil enough to work.  All I can say is that our plan to backload the 2019 growing season that we created in February is looking positively brilliant at this point - even if we STILL need to get things in the ground if we want longer season crops. We won't look brilliant if we never get anything to grow.  But, maybe that becomes the 'right' solution for the given situation?  We shall see - but for now the plan is to get it planted and have some quality produce.

Year Report
High Temp: 88
Low Temp: -29
Lowest Windchill: -53
Rain: 11.72"
Wind: 49+ mph from SW
Barometer Range: 29.14 - 30.90
Snow: you know, we lost count.  It was a lot.

Veggie Variety of the Month - Oregon Sugar Pod II Snow Peas
At the rate of growth the snow peas have experienced thus far, it is safe for us to say that we do not expect them until the end of the month and into July this season.  The plants are a couple of inches of high, but they look healthy enough.

We favor snow peas and sometimes will plant snap peas, but we no longer plant shelling peas.  Among them is the fact that many of our customers don't want to spend time shelling peas and we certainly do not have time to shell peas for them.  One of our long time favorite snow peas has been the Oregon Sugar Pod variety. 

We preferred the original strain of Oregon Sugar Pod on our farm, but a new strain was developed that was a little bit shorter and supposedly had more mildew resistance.  Even though these are shorter, it is still important to provide some trellising to keep the pea pods off the ground and make harvest easier.

What we particularly like about Oregon Sugar Pod is that they maintain a good eating quality even when the peas get a little bigger in the pod.  Some varieties start to get stringy and lose some of their eating quality once the seed starts to get a bit bigger.  We like Oregon Sugar Pod II in stir fries or in lightly steamed.  They are fine eaten raw as well, but we usually prefer Blizzard for the raw snacking.

Here's to a late, but hopefully glorious, pea harvest in 2019.

Song of the Month
A little Over the Rhine for June.  Seems like a good choice - Betting on the Muse.  It has been interesting listening to the musical development of this group over an extended period of time.  While I am not always in the mood for their music, I am always appreciative their skill and quality.  Just good art.

CSA Openings Abound - And CSA Phase I has Begun!
We still have plenty of space in our CSA program, so we would welcome new and returning members at any point this month.  We could certainly still add people throughout the season, but we'd really rather start with you on board now!

We have entered Phase I of the CSA season where current members are able to use their CSA "credit dollars" to purchase early season veggies.  Things like lettuce, spinach, rhubarb and yummy asparagus!  Scroll down and look at some of our informational posts on the blog!

Farm News and Announcements 
We start with onions and we continue with onions.  Our onions are started from seed and were looking pretty good in their tubs and trays.  Once transplanted they go through a bit of a transition focusing on root growth until they start again on the tops.  As a result, they often look a bit rough for a week or so.  Once they start looking good again, we cultivate them with the flex tine weeder - which tends to beat them up pretty good.  But, after that first weeding, they have a real chance to look good - until we cultivate again!  After that we can usually pretty much let them do their thing without being mean to them.

Valhalla as of June 3
We did manage to plant all 7 planned beds, even if some of them were planted much later than we wanted.  The later plantings may not size up as we would prefer, but even half-sized onions are fine.  The trick now is keeping them weeded so they have that chance to fill out and be tasty for us.  And that is why we use the flex tine weeder, even though it beats the plants up.  Seven beds, each 200 feet long with four rows of onions in each would be impossible to weed by hand - so we use a cultivator that has worked for us.  So far, four beds have had their first cultivation and three haven't been in the ground long enough to cultivate.  Ideally, I might have liked to have given the onions a little more time, but the weeds weren't being patient.

Valhalla is our larger and newer high tunnel.  It resides on ground that is a bit higher because we dug out two ditches (one on either side) and used the soil to raise the center a little bit.  As a result, this is one of the dry locations on the farm - though you can hit water if you dig down a foot and a half.  The building moves between two positions, so we're altering our plan to use the higher ground.  

The things you see (and don't see) in the picture above are getting a start in the building until we move the building in the next week.  Once moved, we'll put the Summer planned crops for Valhalla into it.  What you don't see here (yet) are (from left to right) potatoes, green beans, beets, carrots, peas, carrots.  And what you do see (continuing from left to right) lettuce, lettuce, flowers and zucchini.  The flowers are placed in this position in an effort to attract pollinators to the zucchini flowers.

 We have a new building for our broiler chickens that gets moved every other day (with exceptions in bad weather, etc).  The birds are allowed to be in a fenced in area around the building during the day, but we get them to go in at night to protect them from owls.  Needless to say, the birds are hard on the grasses and clovers - but that' why you move it every other day.  You can see from the picture above how things recover over time.

Speaking of broilers - flock #1 goes to "The Park" June 24!  If you want broiler chicken from this batch, now is a good time to reserve them.

An interesting observation that is not new to us, but always a bit shocking when we see it each year.  The grass IS always greener where the building has been - at least after the building has moved on and things have recovered.
We have dubbed this field/plot on our farm "Middle Earth."  If you like Tolkein, then you likely get the reference.  But, the reason for the name is far more mundane and simple than a "Lord of the Rings" reference.  It's a tillable spot pretty much in the center of our farm.  This is its second year in service and its job this year is to grow peas and cukes - so we can mind them for you.

And here are two sights that have been pretty normal around here over the past month.  A gravel road that can be difficult to travel when it is wet and....  more wetness heading for the farm.  For those that know gravel, you can see that it has been recently graded.  This is only the second time the county has been able to service our road since they stopped plowing for snow.  It's been a rough Spring for many.  We appreciate what the road crews do and realize that many who live in the country may be thinking many uncharitable thoughts about them this year.  It's time to extend a little grace folks.  The weather has been truly exceptional.  Record-breaking even.  We're all trying to adjust and deal.

Have a great June!
Rob & Tammy