Monday, October 28, 2019


I've been doing some thinking as I've been out digging the potatoes.  And, we all know thinking is a dangerous pastime!

I've been hearing so much criticism by everyone leveled at everyone else lately that I was wondering if anyone was actually looking in the mirror and considering how they measure up.  I realize there are several people in this world who are entirely too hard on themselves, so I recognize my characterization is likely unfair.  But, it seems the loudest voices right now are getting pretty mean without realizing that perhaps the critique being pointed at others just might apply to the source as well.

Case in point:

It is important, if you own a small, working farm that tries to sell locally and direct to consumer, to always put on a 'good face.'  Give the people what they want and maybe you'll make a few sales.  Do what it takes to always make things look good.  Obscure anything that doesn't meet that end and stretch definitions when it seems like it is important.  And, perhaps, above all - make the customer feel like this:

You can take the this several ways.  It could be a critique of how out of touch so many of us are with what it takes to be in touch with nature and supportive of the environment.  Or, you can consider it a statement that calls out all of the small farms that keep putting out the beautiful farm pictures on Facebook to collect as many likes as they are able in hopes that it translates to other support (our farm included).

Instead, I took it as a reminder of how very far away the Genuine Faux Farm is from being perfectly friendly to the environment - despite everything Tammy and I think we do to work with nature.  Do not get me wrong.  It is very important to us that we try to do the right thing with respect to keeping the damage we do to the environment to a minimum.  But, there is no getting around the simple fact that our very existence as a farm is often in conflict with nature.

Deer, woodchuck and rabbit are all likely to destroy many of our crops - especially at moments when we can afford to lose those crops the least.  Foxes, raccoon, mink, hawks, owls and other predators threaten the poultry we raise.  Trees shade gardens that need full sun - or solar panels that don't do their job quite so well in the shade.  We till our soil and make life a bit more difficult for the micro-organisms that try to live there.  The snakes hate it when I turn the compost pile and the rats are generally not welcome where our poultry feed is. We grow plants and varieties that are not native to our soils.  We drive a tractor that creates soil compaction and uses fossil fuels.  We use single use plastic bags for green beans in shares.

I could probably make an extremely long list of things that we do that are contrary to the image we hope to project.  But, I have to avoid crossing the line into despair. 

We have to hope the difference we make because we actually TRY to work with nature is enough to start with.

We're happy to have some bumblebees on the farm and we'd love to have more.

It would be too easy to just throw up our hands and say, "Well, I guess that was useless.  It's just easier to stop caring."  Well, ok.  I'm wrong.  I think it would not be easy for the two of us to say this unless it was a moment of sheer frustration.  But, I don't think I am entirely wrong in saying that many people have opted for this attitude.

The - "oh well, nothing I do really makes a difference, so why try?" - attitude.

Bill Watterson (creator of Calvin & Hobbes) often got it right.
Being willing to be self-critical might actually help us do better than just trying.

I had the dubious 'honor' of having to euthanize a song-bird today.  I didn't enjoy it at all.  But, I was enjoying watching it go through its suffering even less.  This bird clearly had either been injured or it was dying from some sort of disease.  I realize that creatures of this world are constantly dealing with threats to their well-being and have been doing so well before humans started piling on additional threats and obstacles.  But, I still found myself questioning whether I had some part in the circumstances that led to this particular bird's demise.

Does the concentration of poultry on our farm create some sort of imbalance that might impact wild birds?  This is certainly a possibility that I can not discount.  I also know that the habitat we have installed attracts more birds to our farm than the surrounding corn and soybean fields do.  So, I suppose I should feel good about that.  And the Goldfinches love the sunflower seeds right now.  But, sometimes I wonder if I just lure these birds into a trap that exposes them to the unhealthy things that surround our farm at certain times of the year.

It is not required that every criticism I level at myself should have legs to stand on its own.  What is required is that I ask the questions so I can continue to seek out better answers.

By providing what might be considered a very small oasis by migrating song birds in the middle of corn-soybean fields, we probably expose ourselves to more instances of exhausted creatures who just don't have enough in them to continue their journey.  So, I guess we will continue to provide habitat because we think that is better than the alternative.   And, I will once again provide the dubious service of easing suffering if I am called to do so again. The difference is that the Genuine Faux farmers will move on and look critically at the habitat we provide in hopes that we can improve it.  We will also continue to consider the size of our poultry flocks in an effort to keep them, our pastures and the rest of the farm as healthy as we are able.

In the end, we know we can do better and we are willing to be self-critical so we have a prayer of actually becoming better.  We'd love it if more people joined us in this endeavor.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The GFF 2020 Foresight Survey

The Genuine Faux Farm 2020 Foresight Survey

We are looking for feedback from those who have purchased products from the Genuine Faux Farm or those who are considering doing so.  We are looking for feedback from those who would buy from us locally. 

Thank you for providing us with your guidance as we look for ways to navigate our farm’s future in a changing world. We have paper copies at our distribution sites, but if that does not serve you, please feel free to print this out or copy/paste to a word processor and fill it out.  You can email it to us, give it to us at a distribution or even mail it to us.

1. What is the best way to contact you with announcements about farm produce or farm news?

___ Email     ___ Text    ___ Social Media                

Other ____________________________

2. Which do you prefer when ordering productions from the Genuine Faux Farm?

___ Pre- Order      ___ First come first served   ___ pre order with some add-on

3. Which do you prefer for selecting product from the Genuine Faux Farm?

___ A la carte (choose what you want and how much)

___ Farmers' choice package (predetermined)

4. Which payment option appeals to you most?

___ Pay as you go  

___  "credits" system (pay in increments and use the credits to purchase)

5. Which payment method do you prefer?

___ Cash     ___  Check    ___ Electronic payment method

6. How often would you prefer to have available product delivery?

___  Once per week at a given location     ___  Once every other week at a given location

7. Which locations would suit you for product pick up?  (check all that apply)

___   St Andrew's Waverly     ___  Jorgensen Plaza Cedar Falls   

___  Hansen's Outlet Cedar Falls   ___  On farm Tripoli        ___ Deliver

Other _____________________________________

8. Which day(s) of the week do you prefer for delivery?  (check all that apply)

___ Mon   ___ Tue    ___ Wed   ___ Thu    ___ Fri    ___ Sat

9. How long would like a delivery session to run?  If you have a time range preference, please share that with us here.

10. Check each of the products below that interest you.

___  Plant starts for the garden

___  Cut flowers

___ Eggs

If eggs, about how many dozen per month? _____________________

___ Turkey

___ Broiler (Meat) Chicken 

If chicken, about how many per month? _____________

___ Vegetables  (see next questions for preferences)

11.  Do you have other product suggestions you would like to see from our farm?

12. Vegetable Grow List for 2020

Tier One:
The following are vegetables that we intend to grow in 2020.  You do not need to give us any feedback on these unless you wish to.

Asparagus, green bean, broccoli, carrot, cauliflower, garlic, lettuce, onion, bell pepper, sweet pepper, kale (curly), tomato (slicer, snack and cherry), butternut squash, tan acorn squash, zucchini, potato (red and blue flesh)

Tier Two:
The following vegetables require feedback to help us make choices on what and how much to grow.  If you print this out, circle the veggies you want us to grow.  Put an "X" through any veggie you really don't want to see.  If you don't have an opinion about a particular crop, don't make a mark.  If you are doing an electronic copy, somehow indicate your choices in a clear fashion.

Basil     Golden Beet     Striped Beet    Red Beet   Romano Bean     Eggplant    Herbs     Melon   
Napa Cabbage    Hot Pepper     White Potato    Yellow Potato       Romanesco     Spinach    
Tatsoi     Summer Squash      Komatsuna      Watermelon     Pie Pumpkin     Snow Pea     
Snap Pea     Lima Bean     Cucumber      Buttercup Squash       Papricka Pepper      Roma Tomato

Tier Three:
The following vegetables are on the 'chopping block.'   We do not intend to grow these commercially unless we get feedback that convinces us to change our minds.  Indicate veggies on this list that you really want us to consider growing again next season.

Dry Bean     Cabbage (white)   Cabbage (red)       Chard      Daikon        Kohlrabi       Pok Choi
Radish         Turnip        Spaghetti Squash       Delicata Squash        Rutabega     
Mustard Greens     Arugula       Rhubarb         Brussels sprouts      Parsley      Cilantro       
Parsnip        Collards      Shell Peas       Kale (flat leaf)       Kale (dinosaur/lacinato type)      
Okra        Watermelon Radish         Leeks         Bunching Onions   

If you wish us to know who filled this particular survey out, please give us you name here.

Thank you! If there is someone else you think should participate in the survey, take an extra copy and a Genuine Faux Farm business card for them.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Not Smart Enough

 I still clearly remember my second trip to the elementary school library when I was in the first grade.  I know that might seem odd to you that I would remember the second trip, but I think you'll get it once the story is completed.  I only vaguely recall the first trip when the entire class of 25 students went all at one time to get a tour.  They showed us the 'section' where the books 'for first graders' were located and the librarian probably waved around at the rest a bit as well.  I am not sure.  I suspect I was probably looking at a book...

Yep, he doesn't look all that smart.  Notice the cat has its back turned to him?
The second trip was when I was sent with the rest of the advanced reading group to go to the school library and select a book.  One of the perks of being in the 'advanced' group was that you could pick things from other shelves that were NOT in the first grader section.  Looking back, I realize the sections were an attempt to help guide us to things we were likely to enjoy and/or have success in reading.  But, I guess I feel that if any kid saw a book in any other section that might have been of interest, they should have been allowed to check it out and at least thumb through it.  Who knows where it might lead?

In any event, our group was actually SENT to the library while the teacher stayed in our classroom with the rest of the students.  I wonder if that still happens now?  We arrived and headed for some of the advanced books and for some reason that is still a mystery to me, the librarian singled me out and said, "These books aren't for you, you need to go over here."  And, she steered me to the first grade section.  My childhood memory tells me that she was pretty harsh about it, but I really can't tell you for certain if that was just my perception that has built up over time or if it was the actual tone she used.

Those who know me probably recognize that as a kid, I would not seek out confrontation.  I would normally keep my mouth shut and do one of two things.  If I was certain that the other person was very much in the 'wrong' I'd find a way to circumvent the situation.  If I wasn't sure what just happened, I would retreat to the point where things still made sense.

In this case, I felt a combination of confusion, shame and embarrassment with a dash of 'but I've already read some of the books located in the advanced section, so there!' thrown in.  So, while my somewhat confused classmates moved on, I turned around and went back to the classroom.  I went back to my desk and started doing whatever it was we were supposed to be doing on our return.  This was the place where things last made sense to me - so there I was.

I seem to recall that I opted not to go back to the school library for some time, though I would go to the city public library and happily browse, read and check things out.  I don't recall how word got to my teacher that I had been stopped from looking at other books, but she did go back up with me at some point and she made a point to tell the librarian that I was allowed to check books out from anyplace in the library I wanted.  I recall I checked something out that was a stretch - but I am sure I read it (as best I could) just to prove the point.

Smart idea?  Might be worth its own blog post someday!
That story is probably one of the first of many that illustrate someone either underestimating or overestimating what I was capable of doing.  I am sure that everyone has some of these in their own life-story.

I re-tell myself this particular story to remind me of a two things:

First, it doesn't take much to hurt someone - and there doesn't have to be intent.  I still recall feeling the burning shame and the beginnings of self-doubt putting cracks in my self-confidence.  Maybe I really wasn't all that smart after all?  Thankfully, I had plenty of additional support from family, my teacher and others and enough of my own self-confidence to heal up rapidly.  I circumvented the limited access problem by going to a 'friendlier' library, so things were fine as far as I was concerned.  But, this story reminds me that not everyone has enough of a support system or sufficient self-worth to weather things that don't seem so big to the rest of us.  And, that's why I try to consider what I say.  And, why I make myself apologize when I err in what I say.  And, perhaps it is why I often just don't say anything!

And second, I tell this story to remind myself that I am not as smart as I might think I am - but I am also not as stupid as I think I am either.  There is such as thing a healthy self-doubt and self-criticism.  But, they must be balanced by a healthy doses of confidence and self-assurance.  I just know that if there is something I am not particularly good at it's assessing my own capabilities accurately.  Let's just say that I know enough to know that I don't know enough.

Maybe I should go to the library and check out a book on the subject.

Maybe it's in the first-grade section.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Frost's Eve

Feher Ozon papricka peppers.
 Here we are at "Frost's Eve."  No, it's not an official name as far as anyone else is concerned.  It is a name I've used with myself for the last several year's of farming.  For us, at the farm, Frost's Eve can be an event that lasts for a week as we prepare for the inevitable cold that will terminate many of our crops.  This year, Frost's Eve will actually be the same as the freeze date.  That's not unheard of for us at the farm, but it certainly puts an exclamation point on the whole thing.

We will certainly be doing some things to 'celebrate' Frost's Eve.  We have already done our best to bring in crops that will not survive the cold.  Some things, like the carrots and potatoes still in the ground, will not be affected by the cold (it's more the wet that concerns us there).  The kale should be fine and maybe the chard will be ok.  Frankly, I'm not too worried about the chard because the Japanese Beetles have rendered most of the leaves unmarketable.  It looks more like Swiss cheese rather than Swiss chard.

The crops in the high tunnels will get another layer of cover for the next few days in hopes that we can continue to extend the season.  We're moving the indoor plants back indoors (they reside outside during warmer months) and harvested crops are getting moved into warmer storage areas.  Hoses need to be disconnected from water supplies and waterers for the poultry will need to be dealt with so we don't have freezing and expansion that splits them out.  I am certain I will miss something - I always do.  But, it won't be for lack of trying.

Goodman, Amazing and Mardi
Cauliflower and broccoli are among those plants that can handle a freeze - as long as it doesn't stay below freezing for a couple of days straight.  However, most of the cauliflower is in and the broccoli hasn't been interested in sending up much for sideshoots this season.  That may have something to do with the timing of the rain and wetness of the soil.  Ok - it has a good deal to do with soil moisture.  I haven't had enough days with the soil being firm enough to go exploring for side shoots.  So, perhaps I missed a few out there that I couldn't see from the grass/clover paths.

Speaking of wet weather - something we have done a fair amount of over the past year or two... or four, I grabbed a graphic that illustrated some of the recent Fall wet weather issues we have had for three of the last four seasons.  Waterloo is probably our best comparable most years.  However, we are just far away from each of these places that you might be surprised by how much difference there has been.  This past September, we were closer to Dubuque's numbers for rainfall, sitting between 10 and 12 inches of rain.  It was better than last year's 14.66" - I guess.  

So, what is happening right now at the farm on Frost's Eve?  It is sleeting.  I know you can't see it in the photo below, but it is.  And, yes, the farm is still quite damp.  The benefit of sleet at this point in time?  You get a new blog post while I wait this squall out.  I realize that you might think I should be feeling more urgency to prepare for the freeze right now.  But, I am sooooo over that.  Really.  I might feel differently if the wet weather hadn't already terminated a number of our crops or if our squash harvest had been better.  But, I don't.  I'll get what needs to be done... done.  It will be fine.

 The comment about the squash might be easier to understand if you look at the next photo.

Those two containers are the extent of my harvest for 200 row feet of acorn and delicata type squash.  That's it.  In a decent year I would expect to fill up six to ten of those tubs from the 200 feet alone.  So, winter squash harvest was quick.  If it had been a normal harvest, I would still be hustling to bring them in.

Well, actually, I would have been bringing them in over a period of time anyway.  But, that's neither here nor there.

So, let's move on to something that is getting closer to being HERE!  Turkey TIME!  The turkeys have sized up nicely and are getting excited about the upcoming opportunity to be guests of honor at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners in our area.

I also went out and asked them if they might like to be called Gnarly Gobblechickens (see graphic at left).  The general consensus was that they liked being 'gnarly' and they were fine with the 'gobble' part.  On the other hand, they were not so certain that the proposal that all of these birds be some type of chicken was such a good one.  Now, if they were all some sort of turkey...

So, perhaps we will call them Gnarly Gobblers and leave it at that.  I'll go talk to Crazy Maurice our weeping willow and get his insight at some point on this matter.  After all, he does observe the turkeys far more often than the farmers do since he stands sentinel at the corner of their pasture.

And, continuing to move from positive things to more positive things.

What?  I was positive right from the get go in this post!  Positive that this is Frost's Eve.  Positive about things I have done and will be doing to prepare for it.  Positive that Gnarly Gobblechickens think it is cool to be gnarly...

We continue to have lots of forward movement on the back house entry project, thanks to Duncan Home Services.  Travis and Rory have done a fine job working around the weather and what we need as we continue to do farm things.

It is very nice to have a better back door that seals out the wind appropriately - especially on Frost's Eve.  Imagine what this might look like once the deck and siding are on!  We might even have an outdoor light at some point here.

Ok, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.

On the inside, we've been getting used to the new orientation of the stairway to the basement. 

The door to the outside is at the left of the picture and the door to the right goes into the house.  Straight ahead is the stair to the basement.  It is wider and sturdier than our previous stair, which was actually oriented in the opposite direction prior to this.  Clearly, there is still work to do, but we are liking this stair very much.  It will still take time getting used to it, but I think we can handle it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Clueless No More

We know most of you don't get it.  But, we still love you anyway.  And for those that do get it.  We love you too.

I've had a couple of conversations recently with other growers so I could actually talk with someone who really understood what I mean by "it's really wet out there."  It's certainly not your fault if you don't quite understand what I mean.  But, perhaps it IS my fault for not helping you to understand what we mean when we tell you it is really wet and it has gotten difficult for us to do the things we need to do as farmers.

Look!  Really!  It's wet out here.
Let me tell you what it means when we say it is REALLY WET on the farm.

1. It Means You Can't Use Most of Your Tools Effectively
What you see in the picture below is one of the paths we maintain so we can drive our tractor, or the lawn tractor, or pull carts to and from various parts of our farm. 

We actually maintain clover/grass paths so we have a place that isn't muddy to travel after some rain.  But, what happens when things are so wet you can't drive on those paths?
Well, you can try to drive on them.  And, there are times that you have to.  Until you get stuck.  Thus far, we haven't pushed our luck too much this year.  But, still, it does mean that I have the option of hoping not to get stuck OR I walk out with a couple of harvest crates.  Fill them.  Then walk back with full harvest crates.  Repeat.  Until you are out of time.

2. It Means You Lose Significant Parts of Your Harvest
But, don't worry so much about how much time it takes to harvest.  Why?

Well, because your harvest is melting away in front of your eyes, that's why!  If you'll recall, we couldn't plant on time and we were running four weeks or more late on much of our planting.  The field tomatoes, for example, were just getting into peak.  But, too much water and you lose the plants, fruit and all.

Sure, you can try to pull the green tomatoes out ahead of the rains.. or during the rains... or...  But, it's not easy pulling in tomatoes when it is this muddy.

With the old weather patterns that typically resulted in drier Fall months, you could expect that you wouldn't have to fight fungus problems with your cauliflower.  Well, never mind.  These heads can look great one day and not so good the next.  Not helping, Mother Nature!
Here, this picture is actually kinda pretty.
 3. Chores Become... well... More of a Chore
We pasture raise our poultry because we think this is a better way to maintain the health of the birds and the health of the flock.  Unless it gets really wet out there.  Then, well, it's still better for them as long as they have some shelter to go to if they wish it.
But, it still makes the effort of raising poultry and working with them that much more difficult.    The picture above is actually before today's rain.  It's much wetter out there now.  And, the more the birds travel on the pasture, the muddier and more beat up the pasture becomes.  And, the indoor areas?  Well, they go out, they bring mud and wet back with them.  So, we need to clean up the rooms a bit more often.  And the eggs.... we clean them anyway, but it takes more time to clean them when it is wet and muddy outside.

We have to fight to find 'higher ground' to put feeders and... ironically enough.. waterers.  We have to dump the slurry of wet feed and rainwater out of feeders that collected rain and try to find ways to get birds their food where it is drier.  We have to wear our muck boots and try not to slip and visit the surface of the ground... er... the surface of the puddles, in a rapid and undesired way.  And the longer it goes, the uglier it gets.

We find ourselves walking differently to handle the conditions and then we wonder why feet are sorer than usual or back muscles or other muscles are cramping up.  And.. the chores take us three times longer to complete than they usually do.  We find ourselves having to make adjustments and changes to our systems on a daily basis simply to handle the fact that it is REALLY wet out there.

4. You Get Shorter Windows to Do Your Work
This one may be obvious.  If it is too wet to do work four days out of seven, then you have three days, instead of seven to get your week's worth of work done.  That's ok, because we know that is going to happen sometimes when you farm.  But, when it happens over and over and OVER again?  Oy.

4.5 It Means You Need to Walk Around
Oh.  Heck with that.  I'm walking through.

5. Farmers Struggle to Keep Moving
Sep 1 to Oct 1 rainfall in 2019, we're in the 10-15" range
Some farms may not struggle with the wet as much as we do.  Our farm has heavier soil and it is quite flat.  In other words, it takes less to make us struggle a bit with too much rain.  So, we do things to attempt to address the situation.  But, when you do what you can and it still isn't enough, it gets pretty difficult to keep at it.

We'll certainly do our best because that's what we should do.  But, we're not going to be sad to see this season end.

Because it's really wet out here.