Friday, September 18, 2020

Critters

Our indoor plants go outdoors for as long as the weather allows them to stay out there.  It is always so much easier to water them outside than it is inside.  And, when the farm season gets rolling, it becomes difficult to remember to water indoor plants unless they are... outdoors.  

We are fortunate to have a couple of sheltered locations to put our plants.  The Plumeria sit on the front porch, where they are protected from the harsher elements to some extent - though they tend to get knocked over a few times each year by wind.  Apparently a tree frog decided that at least one of these plants is big enough to be a tree.  (check out the top photo)

Both Tammy and I enjoy finding these little frogs and observing how they use camouflage to hide in plain site.  I have not taken the time to figure out exactly which kind of tree frog this one is.  If someone wants to tell me, I'd be happy to learn.

The Inspector is NOT a tree frog.  He typically does not mind being seen and he manages to keep his white fur nice and clean so he can be viewed in his full glory.  On the other hand, he IS a cat.  Cats have an ability to find places where you cannot see them unless they want to be seen.  That comes in handy if you are an inspector - you can sneak up on someone and observe what they are doing before announcing your presence.  

The good news?  The Inspector is always quite polite about telling us he is on his way to see us.  

We have noticed many honey bees buzzing around our driveway in recent days.  The cold and rainy days pretty much caused the bees to stay in and around their hives more than they have for most of the warm months.  Once the rain abated and the temperatures rebounded, the bees came out.  Wet, fine gravel or damp soil are perfect for bees to pick up a little moisture.  So, they are all over our drive area for just that reason.

We do try to provide some watering 'holes' for the bees throughout the months when water doesn't freeze.  But, no matter what we do, our little watering areas are never quite as popular as the impromptu spaces created by some rain.

This past year was a pretty good one for birds, frogs and bees on the farm.  Unfortunately, this has NOT been a very good year for butterflies.  The Monarch numbers are down, though we hope to see a batch as they migrate - we've got the zinnias ready for them!  

The Blue Spotted Purple shown above hatched on our farm and decided it could rest for a time on my finger - posing for a few pictures.  We typically see a couple of these around our house most years.  Not so much this year.  We also usually have a Black Swallowtail or two that float around the main part of the farm to keep an eye on things.  We have not seen them either.  We did have a brief Tiger Swallowtail sighting.  But, overall, just not a good butterfly year here.  No Mourning Cloak.  Not many Painted Lady's or Buckeyes or Red Admirals.  We're not too fussed about very few Cabbage Butterflies (for obvious reasons).  But, we are used to taking note of our fluttery friends... and there haven't been many to note.

We realize all natural populations go up and down depending on conditions.  But, we worry for many wild populations because so many of them are cycling on a downward overall trend - butterflies among them. 

And, of course, we have hens on the farm.  The current flock is already exhibiting some different behaviors than we have had for several years.  Why?  Well, this is the first time in a long time that we started an all new flock without introducing them to members of an older flock.  

The result is that this batch of birds has had a chance to develop its own habits without the persuasion some older hens might bring to bear on the younger hens and rooster.  So, far, we like this flock.  But, don't worry, they have time to develop some habits neither of us is going to appreciate!

And now you have a partial 'critter update' for the Genuine Faux Farm.  I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Wins

I have been told (by myself and others) that I probably take too much of the world's worries as my own.  Or, maybe I don't do a particularly good job of balancing them with all of the good stuff in my life so I can be a healthy, functioning individual that can work to make things better on this earth of ours. 

On the other hand, I think that it is healthy to care about what is going on in the world and it is right to want to do something to make things better.  But, it only remains healthy and I can only be effective when I can also celebrate and appreciate the positives.  So....

Here are some 'wins' that I want to highlight for this year.

Outdoor Space to Roam

Tammy and I are fortunate that we have outdoor space.  Granted - it is outdoor space in which we work as farmers.  But, unlike so many other folks who live in cities, we can get outside and we do not have to worry about physical distancing protocols because ... well... we're it as far as humans on the farm go (with rare exceptions this year).

We both appreciate wild birds, trees, flowers and nature in general.  It is entirely possible that we enjoy it even more this year than we have before.  Or, more accurately, perhaps we enjoy the outdoors at our own farm more than we have before?  Either way - this is a "win" for us.  Hurray for the outdoors!  

A Supportive Workplace and Team at PAN

When a person works for themselves for many years in a row, it can be quite the transition to working for someone else.  Of course, there are plusses - a regular paycheck and a little less stress that comes with every decision related to the job.  You might think it would be hard to adjust to answering to others for my work - but I answer to others when I offer produce and poultry to customers.  It's a little different, but not entirely so.

The biggest "win" here is that the Communications Team at Pesticide Action Network is a great team to work with.  It doesn't hurt that PAN takes care of its workers.  Many of the same principles I hoped to follow when I had people work with us at the farm are a part of the PAN culture.  It feels a bit odd to be a valued 'worker bee' rather than part of the 'management.'  But, I am appreciating the change and the environment.

Solar Panels and Electric Cooling/Heating

In the past twelve (or so) months, we added solar panels to the farm and some electric powered mini-split air conditioning to the farmhouse.  This is part of an overall strategy for our farm to attempt to reduce natural resource consumption.  Our main heating source is LP Gas, but these mini-split units should be able to get us through cooler nights before the real winter cold hits.  They also replace the highly inefficient window A/C unit for the super hot and humid days when we need to take the edge off so we can sleep (and work) effectively.  

Tammy and I need to remind ourselves that these are positive accomplishments that are worthy of celebrating.  Sometimes we (as in the royal everybody 'we') get caught up in all that we are doing or looking to do and we forget what has been accomplished.  The use of solar power is a 'life goal' and we should celebrate it as such!

Tasty Green Beans

We always set our goals high for production numbers, so it would be tempting to be disappointed in our green bean production numbers.  But, the reality is that Tammy and I have had fresh green beans for many of our meals.  And, frankly, we're not tired of them at all.  

The biggest issue is that harvesting green beans takes a LOT of time.  We hope that we can manage another batch so we can freeze some for the winter.  But, even if we don't, we should not forget that we got a fair amount of beans to our customers, ate a goodly amount ourselves and we were able to donate 40-50 pounds to a place that needed it. All of that qualifies as a "win."

Family and Friends

When the world makes it harder to stay in touch the way you want to, it reminds us all how important our family and our friends are.  Family and friends?  That's always a "win."

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Chicken or the Egg

Our poultry situation at the Genuine Faux Farm has been simplified significantly over the past week.  Prior to last Wednesday, we had two hen flocks, a turkey flock and two broiler flocks.  As of today, we have one hen flock and a turkey flock.

Well, ok.  We still have some responsibility for the processed birds UNTIL they find their new homes (hint hint).  But, we do not have to spend time each day giving them food, water and protecting them from predator threats.  In other words, we just bought ourselves a significant chunk of time each day that would have been spent on chores for these birds.

For those who are really paying attention, you might wonder if this seems a bit early this year - and you would be correct.  We normally do not take the older hens to the park until late October and the last batch of broilers are usually processed in late September to early October.  But, we did follow through on some of our Foresight 2020 plans to adjust how we were doing things to adjust to our new realities on the farm.  

I am happy to report that it seems our choices were good ones for this year and the way it has gone.

Status of the New Laying Flock

The new layers were hatched this Spring and started laying in mid-August.  When I say, 'they started laying' I do not mean that every bird started laying full-sized eggs on August 15.  I am frequently amazed that many people seem to think that chickens have an on-off switch that pumps out full-sized eggs every day when the switch is on... starting on day one.

As of this moment, roughly half of our 90+ hen laying flock have started to lay eggs.  Most of the birds currently laying are the brown egg layers.  Very few of the white-egg layers have started and none of the green egg layers have given us any sort of offering at this point.  Saturday marked the first day we approached the 4-dozen a day mark that we like to get at a minimum.

Very productive laying hen breeds, at their peak, will tend to lay an average of 4 to 5 eggs a week.  The brown and white egg layers are pretty reliable while the green egg layers fail to lay in cold or hot weather.  But, it takes time for young hens to build up to that peak.  Usually, the first several eggs are much smaller, gradually getting bigger as the hen moves to peak maturity.  


What Does This Mean for You?

First - this means our egg production is actually going up.  Our older hen flock was not one of our better flocks (for various reasons) and had very low egg laying numbers.  Even with their removal, the young hens are beginning to exceed the production levels we have had for several months.  That means we will be able to fill more orders than we have for some time.  This is good news for all of you (those of us who do the egg washing are a little less sure about it).

Second - egg sizes are going to be all over the place for a while now.  Yes, there will be many smaller eggs mixed in with bigger eggs as each hen goes through the process of beginning to lay.  Then, there will likely be a period of time where many eggs will have double yolks.  Eventually, things will settle down and we'll have consistent sizing.  Regardless of size, they always have the fine quality our hens have provided for years!

Third - most of the eggs will be brown for a while.  Our balance of brown, white and green eggs will be a bit off for a while until the California Whites and Americaunas start laying.  The ratio of birds for each breed should result in our normal mix once they all mature.

Fourth - there are stewing hens available to purchase! Hens that have reached the end of their laying career on our farm are typically taken to "the Park" and processed as stewing (some call them baking) hens.  These birds are great for creating chicken stock and have very good taste.  Because they are older birds, they are a bit 'tougher' than the broilers so require slower cooking techniques or perhaps pressure cooking.  We usually sell these birds at the cost of processing and travel, so they are a very inexpensive alternative for a little protein.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Park Day

We are taking our flocks of broiler chickens to "the Park" and they will be available for purchase as whole chickens.  We try to give everyone a quick 'look-see' into some of the processes we go through to raise these birds because we think it is important to be transparent with how we do things.  If some of this looks familiar, I will admit to using parts and pieces of our 2019 post on the same subject.  But, I have gone through and updated and edited/added as needed.

If you would like an idea as to what sort of chores we do on the farm each day, you can visit July's post titled Merry Go Round.

the Brooder Room

How the Genuine Faux Farm Raises Broilers

It Starts With Day Old Chicks
We do not hatch our own chicks, we are a 'finishing' operation only at this point. Chicks have been purchased through the JM Hatchery and we raise the Red Ranger chickens for meat. We opt for their GMO-free strain of birds.

We are pleased with their willingness to roam within their pasture. We believe that these birds taste better and have more consistent meat quality from the whole bird. In general, they appear to stay healthy and thrive in our system of growing.

The chicks are packaged into specially designed cardboard crates that are mailed from the hatchery to our post office in Tripoli via the United States Postal Service.  Typically, we will receive an early morning phone call telling us our chicks have arrived and we then drive ourselves into town to pick them up and relieve the poor postal employees of the continuous chirping of the baby birds in their boxes.  We take the chicks to the Poultry Pavilion (an old machine shed on the farm) and put them in one of the sections of the brooder room.

The process of prepping an area for the chicks includes putting wood chip bedding down and covering that with newspaper.  We get a feeder and a waterer prepared and filled.  And, we connect one or two heat lamps to bring the temperature up to the chicks' comfort zone.  Each chick is removed from the shipping box and its beak is dipped in the water to show them that they have a source of hydration.  We put a top over their divided area to eliminate drafts and keep the temperature high enough during cool nights.

Get the Birds Old Enough to Regulate Their Own Temperatures
Once the birds start growing in their feathers, we can consider putting them out on pasture.  In the meantime, we expand their space in the brooder room as they grow.  Each flock has 125 chicks and we raise two flocks at one time. 

The newspaper is removed after a day or two and we add straw as necessary to their bedding to keep it all reasonably clean.  They need food and water daily and we change the height of the heat lamps as they grow and need the temperature support less.  By the time we are ready to put them out on pasture (typically around 3 weeks), they should be getting through the night without any light or supplemental heat.


mobile feed bin
Many Mouths Mean Much Munching
Since we raise 250 broilers at a time, there is a need for a significant amount of food.  We cannot expect broiler chickens to survive purely on forage.  For that matter, we do not expect our layers to survive only on forage.  But, we do provide foraging opportunities and we encourage them to explore their pasture areas.

We have been pleased to support the Canfield Family Farm and their endeavor to grow diverse crops that they then mix into feed on their farm.  We appreciate their approach to farming and we find that we have received top quality feed from them over the past few years of patronage.  Add to it the fact that they are also a local farm (Dunkerton area) and you can now double your effectiveness with respect to supporting local business when you buy our broilers.

some nice clover in that pasture!
The chicks require a different feed mix that is more finely ground than they will receive as they get bigger.  Additionally, broilers require a different mix (more protein) than our hens (added calcium).  This means we find ourselves buying different mixes from the Canfield's and having to find ways to store that feed on our farm as we use it.  The mobile feed bin is taken down to the Canfield farm to be filled with 3000 pounds of whatever feed type we will be needing the most of for the next several weeks.  Other feed is provided either in 50 pound bags or in a bulk bag (usually 600-800 pounds at a time).  To keep rodents from getting into the feed, we transfer the bulk bag into other containers using the tractor.

rain hat over a feeder
Every morning, we let each flock out of their protective building and we provide them with feed and clean water.  By the time the broilers reach full-size (at about week 10 or 11) they will consume four or more five-gallon buckets of feed a day.  Like other living creatures, they have 'hungry days' and 'not so hungry' days.  We may adjust their feed amounts downward if it is clear they did not get through the previous day's feed. We supplement the broilers' feed with forage opportunities in their pasture and we will occasionally give them cucumbers or other vegetables (though the hens and turkeys get more of that).

By virtue of their stocky bodies and thick legs, broilers tend to be less able to hop up onto things than hens are.  That means we need to be sure water and food is at their level.  Of course, our broilers have surprised us by showing us they like to hop up onto roosts in the evening (about 18 inches above the ground).  But, this is by no means ALL of the broilers and we need them ALL to access food and water.  They get the CHANCE to hop up onto a roost if they want it.

Since the broilers are out on pasture, their feeders are also out on pasture.  That means they get rained on!  Many of our feeders have plastic 'hats' that we can place on the feeder to keep the feed dry, though it does look a bit silly when you see a black hat with a bunch of chicken rumps sticking out in all directions.... and that's ALL you see.

Day Ranging Poultry
We do not keep our birds in a 'chicken tractor' during the day, instead we use a 'day range' system. They are out in a pasture with fenced borders to keep them out of our gardens and to slow down potential predators. At night, we make sure birds go into one of our portable shelters to protect them from owls and other predators. We move the birds to a new pasture area periodically to maintain the quality of the grass/clover crop for their benefit.

We have maintained the principle of letting our broiler flocks out on pasture since the beginning, but the process has been refined each year.

One of the earlier discoveries was the quality electric netting sold by Premiere One (another Iowa business!).  We have acquired a number of sections of netting over the years and have six or seven solar chargers so we can maintain multiple pastures for our various flocks (and to protect some of our veggies from varmints).  The combination of portable solar chargers and movable netting allows us to move the area being used as pasture for our broilers.


If you look at the picture on the right, you will see why we move these buildings every other day.  It only takes two days with 125 birds for the footprint of the building to look pretty rough.  We are not in the business of destroying pasture with our chickens.  After all, we want future flocks to use these areas as well.  That means we need to keep the buildings moving.

Happily, the fences do not have to be moved every time the building is moved, but they do need to be moved every four to five moves.  

Other considerations
Like anything else on the farm, things do not always go completely according to plan.  There are weather events that can impact the flocks. 

We have had to pay more attention to where the buildings are being moved so we can keep birds OUT of water.  This was especially true this Spring, but it has been a consideration most years.  Setting a building in a spot that is known to puddle is just a bad idea if you know there is heavy rain possible.  

Remember, broilers don't tend to leave the ground much, though some will get on those roosts.  Birds sleeping/sitting in water will get hypothermic.  Our solution for prolonged periods of wet has been to leave buildings in place and just keep adding straw to keep the birds dry.  Clearly, that doesn't allow us to move them to new pasture - but we are talking about a response to extreme conditions.  Thus far, in 2020, we have resorted to this a couple of times.

Another issue that has gotten increasingly difficult is the increased buffalo gnat population from late May into early July each of the last several years.  Once again, 2018 was exceptionally bad.  This year wasn't particularly good, but after last year, it seemed like a picnic to us.  Either way, the gnats can cause problems for poultry, so providing shelter with good air circulation is critical.  It is also important to pay attention to how the birds are doing in each location because the gnats can be more populace in some areas than others.  Once we notice the birds struggling, we move the building in hopes of reducing the stress from the gnats.

In addition to gnats, we have had losses to hawks, skunks and raccoons.  This might make it sound like it is a terrible situation, but we typically start with 150 - 152 chicks and we process 142-147 birds at the end.  We consider this a reasonable success rate, especially given the health of our birds and quality of the meat they provide.

Processing - A Day at the Park
This post from 2009 gives you an idea of what a trip to "the Park" is like for us.  We still take our poultry to Martzahn Farm in Greene, Iowa (another local Iowa business!) and they do a fine job of cleaning and prepared the birds for sale.  A state inspector is present, which allows us more freedom in selling our poultry.  

The day after we bring the birds in, we have to clean the truck and the cages they rode in.  Once the birds are ready in the afternoon, we go pick them up from Martzahn's.  If we know some people want unfrozen birds, we can arrange to deliver them.  The rest go to Frederika Locker to be frozen (another local business).  After they are frozen, we move them to our farm and our freezers (assuming we have space).

so... Why Buy Our Chickens?

  1. We raise our birds in a way that is humane and supports their natural processes.
  2. We work to maintain our pastures and reduce stress the flock's presence might place on that system.
  3. Our birds are healthy and have some character.
  4. The quality of the meat throughout the bird is consistent.  You'll like the dark meat and the white meat.
  5. The quality of the processing is top-notch, you will not find pin feathers on these birds.
  6. You support a local farm business that, in turn, supports several other local/state businesses to raise these birds.
Let's empty the Genuine Faux Farm freezers and enjoy quality chicken dinners!

Monday, September 14, 2020

Organic Seed Choices

The Genuine Faux Farm has been certified organic since 2007 and passed its organic inspection again for the growing season.  We realize that the process for organic certification likely seems like a mystery for many.  We also understand that most people only have a high-level (and likely inaccurate) idea of what it means to hold organic certification.  What certainly does not help is that there have also been incidents where people who know better have abused organic rules and certification for their own profit. 

We would like to try to make a real difference by improving understanding regarding the practices that a producer, such as ourselves, must consider for organic certification.

We hope you take a moment and learn something new (and perhaps interesting) today.  Perhaps that new thing has to do with organic certification! 

If you have interest, we have a post with links to older posts that address how we farm.  If you want something more recent, this recent post includes a section on how we make choices to leave crop residue in the field. 

It Starts With the Seeds

If you want to grow veggies, you either need seeds or starter plants.  And, if you have even done a little bit of growing and have chanced a look at a seed catalog, you realize how quickly you could get overwhelmed by the choices available to you.  I remember, in the days prior to the Genuine Faux Farm, that Tammy and I typically made choices based on how 'interested' we were based on a quick read of the text in a catalog.  Over time, we started to identify a few favorites based on their performance in our gardens.   But, really, the process was far from scientific.  In fact, we admit that we were often swayed by a good name as much as anything!

Oh look!  Supersmeltz!  That sounds like fun! Let's get a packet of that.

Once we became 'commercial' growers of vegetables, our perspectives started to change.  We needed seed that resulted in plants that performed for us.  And, by performance, I mean we needed to get a decent yield of product that looked good enough for people to buy AND it had to taste good.  And that, is the simplified version of what we were looking for as our farm evolved.

Sometimes we were looking for plants that held themselves more upright than other varieties of the same vegetable.  Sometimes we wanted smaller plants.  Sometimes, we wanted more leaf cover. Smaller fruits.  Bigger fruits.  Sweeter taste.  Tangier taste.  Single harvest.  Multiple harvest.  Holding capacity of ripe fruit.

You get the picture.

But, when you are certified organic you have a little bit more to consider as well.

Seed Considerations for Our Certified Organic Farm

I thought we would start with part of our Organic System Plan from 2020.  This is a form provided to us by our organic certifier.

The first thing to remember is that these forms are created for all types of growers.  A row crop farmer may only have five to ten seed types to document.  Our farm, on the other hand, included a list of 214 different seed types in 2020.  And, that was a year where we were cutting back.

Ideally, a certified organic grower would identify a supply of certified organic seed for each and every crop to be grown during a given year.  In and of itself, this is not so terribly hard to do if you have a limited number of crops and you are looking for some of the basic characteristics for success in a given crop.  But, what happens if you grow multiple varieties for an extensive list of crops?

The Case of the Bunte Forellenschus Lettuce

One of the lettuce varieties we have selected for repeated use on our farm is Bunte Forellenschus from Seed Savers.  We like the taste, the growth habit and we have found the proper growing time slot to be successful with this particular variety on our farm.  We are also attracted to heirloom varieties that produce well for us because we feel that it is important to maintain our heritage seeds and crops.  Successfully growing them out and putting them into the market helps maintain this diversity.

As you might guess, finding Bunte Forellenschus in seed catalogs is not always easy.  Seed Savers has carried it ever since we started growing this variety.  But, the seed for this variety has not always been certified organic.  

So, what does our farm do then?

Step one is to do a seed search to see if this variety is offered elsewhere as certified organic.  If we DO find that it is, we need to purchase that seed instead.  When that happens, we aren't always completely satisfied because different strains of a variety can actually exhibit numerous differences.  In other words, Bunte Forellenschus might not be the Bunte Forellenschus we are used to growing.  For that matter, not all seed houses produce the same quality of seed, so germination levels may not be the same.  We usually do not have too much of a problem with this if the seed comes from one of the houses we are used to dealing with.  But, when we find certified organic seed from a seed house we don't usually deal with - buy some of the non-organic seed from a seed house we trust more in case there is an issue with the new supply.

As you might guess, Bunte Forellenschus is not commonly offered by other seed houses other than Seed Savers.  So, it is unlikely that an organic option exists.  At this point, we can technically use the non-organic seed in our operation because there is not an organic option.  However, the spirit of organic certification tells us we should also continue to explore whether there are other speckled varieties that meet the needs of our farm that Bunte Forellenschus does.  Thus, if a certain variety doesn't seem like it will move to certified organic status in following years, we find ourselves trialing other varieties with similar characteristics to show that we are looking for an organic seed source to meet that crop need.

What happens if that fails?   Well, we can keep sourcing Bunte Forellenschus from the seed source as long as it has proper Safe Seed Pledges (as Seed Savers does) and most certifiers will allow this to continue.  However, another option if to start growing the crop out for your own seed supply.  

That sure does sound easy, doesn't it?  Well folks, that opens up a whole new set of record-keeping and processes for a farm that is already busy.  So, while I won't say it isn't a viable option - since we have done this a couple of times.  It isn't as simple as just collecting a few seeds and being happy about it.  Remember, it is not just a garden for our own use - there is a bit more at stake here.

A Quick Summary

If you didn't want to read all of that.  Oh. ups.  You already did?  Well, here's your review.

To be certified organic, a grower must:

  1. Source organic seed whenever it is available
  2. If it is not available, they must show that they did due diligence in searching for organic options
  3. If, a seed variety is not available as certified organic over a period of time, the conscientious organic grower will look for varieties to substitute or will look to produce their own seed if either is possible.
  4. The grower must document their searches and be able to justify their choices to the organic inspector or organic reviewer at the certification agency.
  5. The grower must maintain sufficient documentation to show the chain of acquisition for seed used in a growing season.  Things like invoices, seed tags and packets, organic certificates and safe seed pledges need to be available.

And now you know.  Thank you for taking a moment to learn more!

Have a good week everyone.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Sealed and Delivered

Welcome to Sunday and a post that looks at a postal history item and gives everyone a glimpse into the hobby this farmer indulges himself in.  Needless to say, if this sort of thing begins to interest you more than the idle curiosity these blog posts might bring, feel free to let me know - there is always room for another person in the hobby.

But, if it is just neat to learn a new thing now and again and that is enough - you are also more than welcome!  Sit back and enjoy for the next few minutes (or however long it takes you to read).

The item above is what is known as a "money letter."  I suspect every one of you can take a wild guess what that might mean based only on the name I have given it.  This particular envelope was sent in 1884 in Germany.  

Transport yourself back in time when there are no computers.  It was not common for everyone to have bank accounts with checkbooks.  The communications service available to everyone was the postal service and, for that matter, the postal service was the primary shipper for small items.

What if you wanted to pay someone a chunk of money for a service rendered and they weren't next door?  How would you do it?  Well, use the postal service!  Most postal services in the 1800s had procedures and fees developed (and well tested) for sending cash in the mail.  These processes might differ somewhat from country to country, but there was was one constant - if you wanted any insurance to protect against loss, then you had to pay more in postage.  And, if you wanted that protection, there had to be a system that tracked how much was in the envelope!

This piece shows some fairly simple processes to track and protect the enclosed money.

At the top of the envelope (on the front) the amount of money enclosed is written (5762 marks and 20 pfennige).  Under that, the amount is written out in words (funf tausend, etc...)  This serves as a way to confirm to the recipient how much was reported to be in the envelope.  The postal service also maintained separate records if they were providing some form of coverage for the event of a loss.

At this point in time in Europe, it was also fairly common to find the envelopes sealed multiple times in wax (usually red or black).   If all went well, the recipient should find that none of the wax seals had been broken prior to delivery and the amount written on the outside of the envelope would match the amount of money inside.

And, here is another money letter sent from Hungary to Italy in 1872.  

So, you may be wondering - did the postal clerk SEE the amount put in the envelope?  It sure seems like it would be easy to claim one amount, put in less, and then blame the postal service for losing some of the money.  

There is a boxed handstamp at the top left on this envelope that says : ALLITOLAG.  This essentially was intended to say that the envelope allegedly holds the amount written at top right, but the postal clerk did NOT see the amount prior to sealing.  This lets the postal service off the hook if the amount inside the intact envelope differs from the amount written on the outside.  It's kind of like the postmaster saying, "Hey.  We delivered it safe and sound.  Take it up with the sender if the amount inside isn't correct!"

Oh look!  It is also sealed with wax!  But, for good measure, the postage stamp was also placed across one of the locations where the envelope was sealed together.  Using the postage on a back of an envelope to help seal the item was also a method used to protect against someone opening the item before it got to its destination.  But, the placement of the postage stamp on the back had other significance in some countries.

Not every item was sent in an envelope and not every item was opened as neatly as the prior two!  The letter shown above is known as a folded letter.  The person took a sheet (or two) of paper and folded them over themselves until they were a reasonable size.  They then used wax AND a postage stamp to seal it shut for mailing.

Someone used a sharp object to open  the letter, neatly cutting the stamp into two pieces.  The wax seal, on the other hand, was cut, but the paper tore, taking some of the seal with it.

Here is the front of this item (from Austria in the 1860s).  It also has a postage stamp.  This stamp paid the letter postage.  The one on the back, that was cut into two?  That one paid for the registration fees.  Austria's postal system of the time required that the stamp for registration be on the reverse and the stamp to pay the regular mailing postage was supposed to be on the front. And now you know!

Thank you for letting me share.  Have a good day all!

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Where's the Funny?

What's been missing with all of the posts we have put out on the Genuinely Faux blog this year?  The "Funny," that's what's been missing.  But, here's the thing.  Funny doesn't always just happen.  The funny posts people seem to enjoy the most are often pieces of writing that take more effort than it seems.

And what happens if the person who is doing the writing isn't feeling funny?    I mean, I am a Gloomy Gus most of the time anyway, moping around the farm, commiserating with the eggplant as their fruits assume a teardrop shape to show some empathy for how I am feeling.  


Um.  Actually, I am pretty certain eggplant fruits assume whatever shape they assume for other reasons than the farmer's state of mind.  And, that's not an eggplant up there.  So, let's move on, shall we?

The first trick:

You Often Have a Trigger

Either I have to find something that is inherently funny or I have to find the humor in something.  Tammy and I have numerous moments most days where we find something that is humorous together.  The problem is, I can't always remember these things so I can expand on them for a blog post.  Hey!  I don't live for this silly blog!  And, no, I don't need everything to be recorded.  Let me be silly on my own time, if you please.

Although, there are times when I grieve the loss of something that would have made for a great post.  But, sometimes, you find something with more permanence that allows you to go further with it.

Something like a Georgia gardener being raided by the police for growing... okra.

OSP What are those plants over there in the field? That's not marijuana is it?!?

Rob No. That's okra.

OSP Well, how about those, are those marijuana?

Rob No, those are cabbages.

OSP Well, surely that over there is!

Rob That's a tree.


OH.  There's the eggplant.

Or You Have to Have a Life That Differs From...

It actually takes less effort to be humorous if you live a life that is different from, well, most everyone else.  The simple act of describing some of what you do is enough to be entertaining by itself.  If you have a decent sense of humor regarding your own interests and occupation, then there is plenty of fodder for funny.  You also should consider using alliteration once in a while.

And, if you like to use different names for things...just because... then your personal vocabulary can be entertaining as well.

Garden Zit - potato beetle larvae. They're orange with some spotting/striping and look a little like mini-Jabba the Hut. They pop when squished (not squashed).

Three Shirt Day - think about it. We work outside. It gets warm. We perspire.

The Beak of Doom. There aren't many flies in the broiler area.  But, every once in a while there is a disturbance where many birds move quickly at once.  Flying insects do cause quite a stir in the flock.  Until they meet a beak of doom.

Or You Like Music?

I am not certain how this got in there.  All I can say is that sometimes different lyrics for a song will float around in my head.  Sometimes, I chase those lyrics long enough to write it down and put it in a blog...

"Land Of Contusions" 

There's too many hens
Too many weeds, oh!
Making too many problems
And not enough gloves to go round
So you see...
This is a land of contusions.

Our thanks to Sam Larimer for finding the faces in these veggies and sharing them with us a few years ago.  It's nice to get a little more mileage out of them!

Friday, September 11, 2020

Details, Details

I try to remind myself on a frequent basis that while I tend to believe that I am smart enough to figure many things out, I should not inflate my own head enough to believe that I know MORE than someone who has worked to acquire and exhibit expertise in an area over a period of time.  And, I wish MORE people would check their own swollen heads before they push their inaccurate understandings on others.

A Simple, Odd Example

Several years ago, I learned how to play the game Ticket to Ride.  It really did not take all that long to learn the process and the rules for playing the game.  After trying it once or twice, both Tammy and I were pretty comfortable that we could set it up and play it again whenever we wished, with only a check or two of the rules.  

So, did that level of experience make us 'proficient' players of the game?

I discovered an online version of the game with an active community of players from all over the world.  I got used to the online platform and played games against people other than Tammy.  I learned that some people played to block others from reaching goals and still others played to finish the game quickly before their opponents could finish their goals.

Was I now exhibiting mastery of Ticket to Ride?

Over time, I noticed there was a 'ranking system' not unlike advanced chess rankings.  I watched some games the top players were involved in and asked a few questions.  I was told I needed to memorize ALL of the available tickets (among other things).  I realized the game could be competitive despite the elements of luck the game employs.  I now knew some of the keys to winning the game more times than luck would allow.

So, why did I still have trouble beating the better players?

It turns out there was more to it than the basic tenants these players sent my way if you wanted to play well at a competitive level.  Much of that could only be achieved with deliberate practice.  Over time, my game improved and I could at least speak with competence on the topic of high-level play of this particular game.  Eventually, I was good enough to win a competitive one-on-one tournament on the Swiss map board.  I had reached a fairly high level of competence, yet I was still aware that there were better players than I.

Clearly, there is a range of competence that can be achieved and there is nothing wrong with people who are comfortable at lower levels of ability and competitiveness.  Unfortunately, there are always folks who know less and have less ability - yet they think they are experts.

Dunning-Kruger Effect

Here we are - me pretending to know more than I have a right to say that I know.  I do realize how ironic it is that I am trying to make a point within the subject of Psychology - a subject for which I do not profess to have expertise.  But, I am willing to learn and I know I have limits.

The issue is that many people are not particularly good at various activities or subjects AND they are unable to properly assess their own competence.  As a result, they overestimate their knowledge and ability.  This is, at my basic level of understanding, the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Unfortunately, many of these people are prone to loudly professing their 'expertise' in ways that make them hard to ignore.  Even worse, there are many other folks who have even less knowledge that will assign expertise to these very people who only have 'a bit more competency' than they do.  It's like a person who has memorized all of the cards and knows the rules of the game - but still doesn't know how to use that knowledge to beat the top players - telling people who are learning the game how they can always win.  There might be some useful knowledge there, but it is likely also infiltrated by some bad information as well.

And that is why I remind myself of how little I truly know and understand.  That is why I do my best to learn as much as I can every day.  It is why I often keep my mouth closed - because I am not sure I am the person who should say something.  And, it is also why I often berate myself when I realize that I have opened my big mouth when maybe I shouldn't have.

And that is why I get so frustrated when others who clearly are not competent to be at the speaker's podium have the microphone in their hand.

Parkinson's Law of Triviality

To further display my partial grasp of these topics, I thought I would bring up Parkinson's Law of Triviality.  My basic understanding of it is that people in a group tend to focus more on trivial, easier to understand, details than they do to the more critical, typically more complex, issues.

For example, let's say I brought a group of people together to discuss some farm plans for our crop rotations in the coming years.  A part of that discussion might be a decision as to whether we should run our planting rows East-West or North-South.  If the group follows this 'law,' then most of the discussion will get into all sorts of nitty-gritty details about whether or not N-S vs E-W is a better idea.  All of this even though the complex details of which crops to select and how to plant them in which order is actually much more critical to the operation - and much, much more complex.

People would rather draw lines in the sand for the basic concepts - even if they aren't the right ones to argue over - than 'get into the weeds' and do a little learning and cooperative discovery so they can make the best decision they can make.

My Take-Aways

  1. There is always more to learn and I will never know it all.
  2. There is a wide range of competency for everything and it is important to recognize your own competency level for what it is.
  3. Those who actually reach a greater competency deserve respect and are a good place to go for more details on complex topics.
  4. You should always (note that word and be skeptical) be cautious when someone makes a simple claim that is 'always' or 'never' true.  Things are typically more complicated than that.
  5. Get into the weeds where the real work needs to be done.  We need more people willing to do that and fewer trying to choose opposing teams and basic arguments on the simpler concepts.

There you have it.  A partial answer to a question.

What was the question?

Where does Rob's mind go when he is pulling weeds on the farm?

You're welcome.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Break

The farmers are taking a break from deliveries this week.  We sent the formal announcement out to our customer list last evening and everyone who reads the blog gets to hear about it when they .. well... read the blog!

We are taking this week off from deliveries for a host of reasons.  We are also taking today off from writing a blog post - so we asked Cucumber Frog to write one.


We did not want to leave you WITHOUT a blog for September 10th, so we asked Cucumber Frog if he would make a few recommendations for you to read in lieu of a brand, spanking new post today.  

Cucumber Frog Recommends:

Cucumber Frog seems to like posts that feature Crazy Maurice and... other frogs.  Imagine that!  His first recommendation is:

Crazy Maurice Talks About Neighbors

Cucumber Frog's second recommendation features... a frog.  And solar energy among other things.

Give the Frog A Name

Cucumber Frog also regretfully submits the following TWO blogs.  You see, he LOVES cucumbers and peas since that has typically been the field he lives in every season.

Minding Your Peas and Cukes

Vine-ally Minding Your Peas and Cukes

 

Cucumber Frog wishes all of you a wonderful day!  Peas be careful out there!

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Not Going to Happen


Other than the fact that we had a problem with a plane spraying half of our farm, 2012 was a pretty good growing year for us.  Not all that surprising to me is the fact that 2012 was also the last time we had drought conditions in our area.  Our farm's soil and layout is such that we can do better in a drier year than a wetter year.  Though I admit it would be best if we got some nice soaking rains now and again.

I mentioned 2012 mostly because the photo you see at the top of this post is from that year.  We harvested over 100 of these beautiful Long Island Cheese pumpkins that year.  We harvested over 1000 pounds of green beans and over 800 pounds of lettuce.  All in all, we had a pretty good year if you remove the crops that were destroyed by spray from consideration.  For that matter, even the crops we had to destroy did pretty darned well (much to our chagrin).

Here we are in the year 2020.  Tammy and I made some important decisions that we would be reducing production this year for all sorts of reasons.   Then, Rob took a job with Pesticide Action Network, a pandemic happened and we had no one working on the farm with us.  That's a really quick way to reduce your capacity for vegetable production and sales.

We have, thus far, managed to maintain the same level of meat poultry production (one more week for the broilers!) and we still have plenty of laying hens - including a new flock for the coming seasons.  But, there won't be pictures like the one above this year.  There likely will not be a "Veggie Varieties of the Year" post either.  Although - it is tradition, maybe I'll find a way to muddle through it this year.

The point is this - we have grown used to harvesting tons of produce (literally) each and every season since we started.  This year, I suspect we'll have maybe a dozen pumpkins (for example).  We'll probably have far more peppers than we (or anyone we sell to) will need.  I just have no reason to put out a crop report like I have so many other times - whether people actually cared or not!

Do me a favor and go look at that crop report post.  Look at some of those numbers we set for goals on a regular basis.  And then you'll get an idea of why I might be feeling a bit lost this September.

Part of me is relieved.  Working that hard and trying to push to grow, harvest, clean, pack and deliver that much produce multiple times a week can be stressful and tiring.  This year, we have simply grown what we are able to - and if something doesn't happen - it doesn't happen.  Now, I am realizing we won't have any broccoli or cauliflower this year.  Normally, we would plant two to three successions of those crops with the understanding that you will miss your timing at least once and lose a succession.  We planted one succession this year - and missed the timing.


We never did find a window of workable soil that combined with available time to plant onions.  

It was all about not dedicating the same amount of time (and of ourselves) to growing produce.  And I miss seeing the fruits (again literally) of those labors.  I miss being able to say that we harvested 5900 cucumbers or 790 pounds of broccoli.  

We still have peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, winter squash, beets, carrots and some other things that are still plugging along at the farm.  There are still 1500 or so garlic hanging up in the truck barn as we speak and a couple hundred pounds of potatoes.  It's just that it isn't what it was - and we're trying to figure out where we go from this point.  But, that is a set of questions we will address as we progress through the Fall months, with final decisions happening in December.  For now, all we can say is that the pictures of the tremendous bounty of produce from the Genuine Faux Farm this Fall are not going to happen.

Maybe we'll get some late crops into the high tunnels and surprise ourselves a bit, maybe we won't.  It's not the same as it was.  And maybe that's ok.  And perhaps that is the way it is supposed to be.  

I wonder how we will re-invent ourselves in 2021?

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Faded


Sometimes the journey is wearing.   You just keep putting one foot in front of the other for no other reason than that is what you have been doing up to this point.... putting one foot in front of the other.  The senses are dulled from the series of disappointments that just keep rolling over your spirit.  

You got too few things done that had to be done today.  Someone you respected said something that shook your confidence in them.  Another person you know is sick and another's father has died.  Something that is new is broken and something that was worn, but trustworthy, is missing.  A kind offer was rejected and a request for aid went unanswered.  Passed over once, twice and forgotten after promises were made to remember.  

The leaves on the trees look tired and the plants by the side of the path are battered, not nearly so lovely as you had hoped.  You keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Until...

The path turns.  A flash of the deepest blue catches your eye. Suddenly, you don't feel quite so tired and you pick up the pace.  You turn again and there it is.  Something that takes your breath away.  Something that renews you.

And you see that what you did today was enough.  You understand a person you respected better than you did before and have a chance to grow with them.  You offer solace to the grieving and those who are ill.  You find that things that are broken or are lost might be fixed or found... or ... perhaps they weren't that important after all.  You find it in you to make more kind offers and are brave enough to ask for help again when you need it.  You figure out how to forgive perceived slights and work on how you can forgive yourself for your own faults.

And the leaves on the trees have character - because they have adorned these limbs through a hot, dry period.  The plants on the side of the trail display a resilience that you can respect, because they too are doing their equivalent to putting one foot in front of the other.  

And there is beauty in the persistence they exhibit.  And hope for the bright blue ocean just around the bend.

Monday, September 7, 2020

What Yield Data Can Do For You

A few years ago an idea was floated around the Practical Farmers of Iowa Cooperators Meeting within the horticulture group.  Without obscuring the point of this blog with too much detail, suffice it to say that growers and PFI staff recognized that it is NOT easy to get reliable yield numbers for all of the varieties and crops that exist.  This is even more true if you want numbers specific to the state of Iowa.  You could go to resources such as Knott's Handbook for Vegetable Growers to get some ideas about what you should expect to produce for a given hort crop.  But, the numbers there are general guidelines and may not be as useful depending on scale and location.

A Simple Yield Data Collection Tool

PFI has created a Yield Data Collection Site that is fairly simple to use and has the potential to be a useful tool for hort growers in the state.  

If you collect yield information and have records for planting and harvest dates.  If you can calculate the square footage dedicated for a given crop.  If you can answer some simple questions regarding your growing culture - direct seed, transplant, irrigation, under cover, etc.  Then your data could be a part of a useful aggregate that we all can use.

Start With One Crop Type

If you are interested in adding data, I strongly encourage you to do so.  And, if you do, concentrate on one crop first to get used to the tool.

In our case, we had onion yield data readily available for a few recent years.  I simply entered the data for one variety for one of those years, made sure to save it and THEN I used the 'clone crop' function to create a new copy.  I then edited the new crop with the data for another variety for the same year or for another year's results of the same variety.

Take a Moment and See What You Can Learn

Once I had three year's worth of data, for a total of 13 crops, I decided I wanted to learn what I could from my data AND the data provided by other growers in the state.

 

I did a search by crop - in this case - onions.  And I found that there were 48 records in the data base for onions at this time.  Entries came from various parts of the state and included records for growers with small production amounts as well as larger production amounts.  As I reviewed the data, I would say that we were a 'moderate sized' onion grower for those that had shared yield data.  However, I could see that we had the ability, with changes to how we do things, to scale up to onion planting areas that were as big or bigger than other farms that had reported using this tool.  This tells me that there are some potential models of comparison in the data should I wish to go that way.

I was curious what would happen if I wanted to look at a specific variety, so I chose the White Wing variety that we like on our farm.

I found five entries for White Wing.  Most of those were entries for our crops, so it was clear that I wasn't going to learn a whole lot more than I already knew at this point.  But, this illustrates the reason why it would be better if more growers entered their yield data into the site.  The data points are not excessive and the clone crop function reduces the effort significantly.  Did you raise White Wing onions?  Add some data so I can learn more!  Ok... add some data so you can learn more too!

The "export CSV" is an easy to use function that allows you to download the data to a spreadsheet so you can do some comparisons and do any of your own calculations you might like to try.   A snapshot of the data I received when I downloaded the CSV file for White Wing is below.

The data includes information on crop spacing, growing zone, irrigation, plant and harvest dates.  If you happen to see differences in the data from entry to entry, it is possible you might glean some of the reason for those differences based on the cultural information found there. 

I downloaded the CSV for all of the onions.  I then focused on the red onions to see what I could learn.  


The three entries at the bottom come from our farm. 

  • Column 3 is square footage for the crop
  • Column 4 is total pounds of production
  • Column 5 is pounds of production per square foot
  • Columns 6 and 7 give the plant spacing and the dates show the date range for harvest

The first thing that jumps out at you would be our harvest for 2018.  Over 1 pound per square foot is a ridiculous number.  But, as far as that year was concerned for our red onions - it WAS a ridiculously good year.  So, we can take that as an example of what might happen if the planets align and everything goes right.  We clearly cannot expect that on a yearly basis.

On the other hand, it seems that numbers from .42 to .69 pounds per square foot are not out of the question in Iowa for red onions.  Based on this information, I might say that a half pound per square foot would be a reasonable goal for a grower in the state.  But, of course, the data set is still small, so you have to be careful about what you conclude.

Other information that might be of use to a grower includes the harvest date range.  You might notice that our harvest dates (again the last 3 entries) are significantly later than other growers.  By the same token, if you were to look at the planting dates, you might also notice that we are slower to get things in the ground as well.  What this data does is give a grower reasonable date ranges to work with and still be able to expect a crop.

You might also notice that the harvest date ranges are small - with a start and end date typically being one or two days apart.  This is no surprise to most growers as they typically harvest all red 'storage' onions at the same time.  Wider harvest ranges indicate crops (like tomatoes, peppers and beans) that are harvested more than once.  In that case, you might get an idea as to what a reasonable harvest window might be.

Take A Moment, Enter A Crop on a Rainy Day

So folks - since Iowa needs rain and some appears to be on the way - use a rainy day to enter some horticulture crop data into this useful tool.  If we can all manage to do a bit of this here and there, we will benefit in the long run.  We will listen to our own recommendation and enter ten entries for green bean data next.

And, before you think I don't understand that this sort of thing can take time - and time is often in short supply for diversified growers - let me assure you that I rarely can get everything done that I think is worth doing.  Despite being a backer of this project for some time, I STILL have trouble finding time to do this.  So, I get it.  And I still say we should all take the time and participate.  Enter one crop for one year today.  Do another one next week.  And one more the week after that.  It's amazing how much can happen with a slow, steady commitment to the process.

Consider how we might benefit from this:

  • Beginning farmers could use some baseline numbers as a starting point so they can learn what they should expect and adjust when they fail to reach those expectations.
  • Those who are considering crop insurance can have some baseline numbers for Iowa that can be used to support claims during a bad year.
  • Growers of all sorts can use each others' experiences to consider varieties to try on their own farms.
  • Growers can consider different cultural approaches, such as plant and row spacing, succession timing and irrigation practices by looking at the base data provided in this tool.

But, it only works well if we participate.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

It Doesn't Seem Like Much

Any hobby or specialty can seem... well, a bit ridiculous to those who do not already appreciate it.  Do you want to roll your eyes when your second cousin, twice removed, wants to tell you ALL of the details as to their plans for deer hunting this fall - right down to layout of the land around the deer-stand and the contents of the cooler full of food they will take with them?  Or maybe you have a friend who collects decorative plates and she proceeds to tell you why THIS plate is so much better than THAT plate?

Well, prepare to roll your eyes!

Ok.  Ok.  You can just not read this if you don't want to.  Much more freedom here.  And, I will also endeavor to keep it at least mildly interesting...

Here it is - an item that has been in my collection for a while that I think is REALLY cool.  

Now, much of my primary collection consists of envelopes mailed in the 1860s from the United States to other countries.  These envelopes show the use of the 24 cent postage stamp to various destinations.  And, yes - there it is! A 24 cent stamp at the top left of the envelope.  Yay!

Now - an envelope sent to England using a 24 cent stamp at this time is NOT uncommon.  After all, it cost 24 cents to send a letter to England from the US.  So, you would be forgiven if you looked at this and said, "Yeah Rob.  Looks like ALL the other ones you've shown me <roll of eyes>."

You probably won't care that the stamp is a different color than most of this issue and you probably aren't going to be impressed with the Detroit marking at the right either.

What makes it fun is the marking just a bit to the left of center at the top.  If it were perfectly struck it would look like this.


This item becomes cool because there is a story that can be told when we see that one partial marking on the envelope.

The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 ushered in the development of steamship services on the Great Lakes.  By the time we get to 1862, when this letter was mailed, there were numerous steam services that carried passengers and cargo from port to port, including cities like Detroit.  If you would like more information about the maritime history of the Great Lakes, the source linked here is packed with information.  

Passengers on a steamboat could avail themselves of a service rendered by captains of such boats.  The captain could be given a properly paid letter to be mailed at the post office once the boat had landed.  This is not terribly unlike the service many hotels have provided to accept letters from their customers and pass them on to the mail carrier when the mail carrier arrives.  

The ship's captain and the ship itself were NOT part of the US postal service, but they WERE entitled to compensation for their services at this time.  The captain (or his representative) would take the letters given to them by passengers to the post office (in this case, Detroit) and the post office would pay 2 cents per letter to the captain of the ship for this service.  The "Steamboat" marking would be put on each letter received, which told the destination US post office that they should collect 2 cents from the recipient to compensate the post office for money they paid the ship's captain.

In other words, the postage stamp for 24 cents did not cover the 2 cent fee, it only covered the postage needed to mail something from the US to England at the time.  The postal service was 'out' the 2 cents until the recipient of the letter paid the fee.

Now we have a problem.  This letter LEFT the US postal service and was delivered in England.  They weren't going to collect 2 cents and return it to the United States as they had nothing in their postal agreement to do so!  So, the postal service lost the 2 cents given to the captain for this letter.  

You see, most of the old envelopes from this time period that show a 'steamboat' marking like this one were mailed to a US destination, not a foreign destination.  I just happened to be able to get an oddball that did not fit the mechanism to pay a ship's captain for a service. 

And there you are - reasons for you to roll your eyes and for me to be happy.  What more could we ask for?

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Miles Gone By

We had just completed the vegetable and poultry drop-offs in Waverly at St Andrew's Church and Yogi Life and we still had a home delivery to make.  We prepared a bag with the veggies that were ordered and made sure we had the eggs ready to go.  Then, we packed up the tables, trays, coolers and remaining veggies so we could make the delivery.

As Tammy popped out of the truck to drop off the produce and eggs - and have a few moments of properly physically distanced chatting - I waited in the truck and happened to glance at the odometer.

Chumley has been a very good truck for us and we still, oddly enough, think of him as a "new truck."  After all, we don't FEEL like we've had this truck all that long.  Never mind that when we purchased the truck, we had every intention of getting it to last at least as long as the last one (we had Grover for ten years after someone else had owned him for about the same period of time).

In any event, I looked at the number on the odometer and saw "102109."  As a person who likes numbers and patterns, I was initially disappointed that I had missed "102102" - though I look forward to "102201."  

Then, I realized that this represents over 100,000 miles of farm activity (ok, there might be some miles on the truck that are not strictly farm, but I think we're pretty safe to say 95% of the miles on the truck were farm related - close enough for the blog -ok?).

Then, this song popped up on the playlist.

It was hardly fair for my truck to remind me of "Days Gone By" as I was reflecting just a bit on how much work we have done using this vehicle since 2012.

Chumley has helped us to make over 1000 (just estimating) deliveries of all sorts.  Sometimes we were delivering CSA shares, at other times we were making larger deliveries to other outlets.  There were times that the back of the truck was packed from front to back, side to side and all the way to the top with coolers, trays and the necessary tables.  In fact, there were too many times that I had to REPACK the truck because I noticed one more container had not gone in and we had to find a place for it.

We've stuffed the back full of square bales of straw.  Chumley has pulled a bin full of 3000 pounds of feed while carrying a bulk bag holding 750 pounds for the laying flock - multiple times every year.  We have packed in an order of supply's from Nolt's consisting of drip tape, starting trays, pots and various irrigation equipment.  We piled in bags of starter soil from another supplier.  There have been trips for lumber, recycling and trash runs and a few memorable trips where we hauled items such as a mulch layer and the farm's lawn tractors.

This doesn't even begin to consider the trips we have made with chickens, turkeys and ducks over the years.  To "the Park," from "the Park."  To "Freezer Camp," from "Freezer Camp."  To customers... ok, there is no 'from' for that one - which is a good thing.  Midnight drives in the middle of a lightning storm on the way back from dropping off the first batch of broilers in Greene... ah... good times.


 I considered pumping the brakes on this trip down memory lane, but I realized that this was a healthy reckoning of a sort.  

You see, I DO appreciate this truck and I DO hope we can continue to rely on it for years to come.  But, this wasn't just about being nostalgic for a truck - it was about the recognition of years (including those prior to Chumley's appearance on the farm) spent doing what we do at the Genuine Faux Farm.  The number of times each of us has climbed into and back out of the back of a truck is a reflection of what it is like to dedicate yourself to a small, diversified farm in northeast Iowa.

And, this is why it can be so hard to try to make a connection with other people when we try to explain what it is like - doing what we do.  How do you get someone to understand our brand of farming until they have climbed into and back out of a pickup truck thousands of times?  How can a person fully appreciate that the continuous motion and low-grade, but continuous, stress that comes with the harvest, clean, pack, load and depart cycle can make it difficult to not want to doze while you drive to your destination?  Can you actually appreciate why I still try not to laugh when I remember the face of one of our outdoor cats that happened to get into the back of the truck and was stuck in there as we started to drive down the road?  Do you really understand why I sigh a little bit when I have to unload the truck back at the farm yet again after another delivery?

Or maybe you can start to understand... even if you do think it a bit odd that the numbers on an odometer can take my mind to all of these places.