Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Missing Hollyhocks

 I've heard them called 'Outhouse Flowers' because there was apparently a tradition at some Iowa farmsteads to plant them next to the outhouse to shield that necessary building a bit more from the rest of the farm.  Hollyhocks are pretty tough flowers that can reseed if you let them.  But, what happens when the hollyhocks disappear from the farm?

We always want more flowers on the farm, but the reality is that we do not have the space to start everything we want.  And this year, we don't have the space to plant everything we want as we work to re-format our fields and add swales. 

You see, it had been a tradition to have some hollyhocks down in the southwest corner each year and we let them reseed themselves.  The problem is that after a while, the area gets overrun by less desirable plants and you have to start over.  We just haven't given ourselves the opportunity to start over with the hollyhocks.

That is the difficult thing about 2020 at the Genuine Faux Farm.  We're trying to "start over" on so many levels.  We certainly have enough experience at the farm to know what we like about it.  And, we actually have pretty good knowledge about how to get to where we want to be. 

So, what's the problem? 

Two key resources - time and energy
Two key issues - too much rain and too many buffalo gnats and now.. mosquitoes.  The wet limits our time and the flying flesh eaters gnaw away at the energy.

It's the same old themes all over again.  If we had cows, it would be deja moo.

Nonetheless, there has been some progress.  We spent some significant time in two plots with the wheel hoe and the soil behaved beautifully - just as we picture it behaving in our farm 'handbook.'  We got some trellising and caging up and the plants look pretty good.  We've been harvesting zucchini and summer squash ALREADY!  Usually, that's a just after July 4 treat.  Meanwhile, the peas we planted on time are just getting going - so they are a little late.  But, still we had a nice big pot of peas tonight as the highlight for dinner.

Keep giving me fresh peas, green beans and a good bit less of the nasty biting bugs - and we'll have hollyhocks before you know it.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Heat Index Wear and Tear

We are thankful that we have not had to deal with many days with heat indices in the upper 90s and 100s at the farm so far this season.  It is not so much that we cannot stand working in the warmer temperatures.  It's the fact that, when you do, it makes it difficult to do other things - like write a blog post.  Pushing a wheel hoe for an hour or two in the heat doesn't always leave you with much energy for a mental exercise.

The other issue is some fall-out from our house siding project.  The ancient A/C unit was taken out, with the intent that we would work to replace it with a more efficient cooling unit.  Well, we haven't been able to get the replacement as of this moment.  So, while we don't really want to cool our house much, it is helpful to take some of the edge off at night so we can sleep better.

I knew when I started that the streak of daily posts was going to come to an end at some point and I was pretty certain it would be at the point that these sorts of days started popping up.  Perhaps I will surprise myself and adapt so that I still have the energy to do my jobs and write daily blogs.  Perhaps not.  But, it is more likely that we'll try to move to a realistic (and still ambitious) three post a week schedule.

This blitz has been a good thing for me as it has encouraged me to hone writing skills that I now employ for PAN and it also has served as a proving ground for some ideas and concepts I can use with that new job.  I also think there are some people who have appreciated seeing these posts as well. 

The silly thing about all of this is - here's a post for today.  The streak is actually unbroken (even if it is later in the day).  Maybe we're not done yet?  Let's see how this all shakes out now, shall we?

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Trending (at the Farm)

And for today's post we're just going to see what sorts of things are trending with the farmers right now!  Without further ado and whole lotta todo - here we go!

Some Music We Are Currently Enjoying

Not Our First Goat Rodeo featuring Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile, Stewart Duncan and Aoife O'Donovon

The song we're linking here is call "The Trappings"

Something We Are Getting Tired Of

Broilers that want us to "walk them around the building just one more time" before they go in at 9:30 at night while the mosquitos are biting and the farmers are tired.

A Book I Hope to Re-Read Soon

Barbara Hambly's Dragonsbane.  I just completed another Hambly book that reminded me how much I liked her writing and Dragonsbane would be my favorite of hers.  This comes on the heals of reading Elvenbane by Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey.  So, it's a "bane' thing, I guess.

A Game We Are Currently Enjoying Playing

No.  Nothing new here.  We're still playing Wingspan. And enjoying having the European expansion now.

A Recent Meal That Was REALLY Good

Chicken, snow peas, garlic scapes, summer squash, zucchini (all from the farm) and a piece of Tammy bread with real butter (from Hansen's) and rice (uh.. despite rumors that we have had enough rain to grow rice, we still have not tried to do that).

A Picture We Both Enjoy
From the base of the Latourell Falls in Oregon.  After a warm day, this looks very nice to us right now.

An Accomplishment We Are Really Hoping to Achieve Soon
We want to get it ALL done. 

Ok.  Being realistic now.  We'd both be pretty pleased if we could get all of the tomatoes trellised - for example.

Because we want to harvest some of THESE!
Something We Think Will Begin Very Soon and We'll Be Happy When It Does

The beginning of Lilypalooza on the farm.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Cultivating Thoughts

The seeds are gathered from my experiences and the knowledge I have acquired by reading, listening and experimenting over time.  I am not the source of most of these seeds.  Many of them come from other people.  A significant group of them came from observing the natural world.  But, in most cases I no longer remember where I got them.

But, I plant this diverse set of seeds into the soil of my mind and wonder what the harvest will bring.

I cultivate the seeds I have planted, selecting which young ideas and thoughts will be given time to grow into something that has more meaning.  I honor those I keep by assigning them names and words that identify them and I add to the richness of the soil by arranging and re-arranging these words so they are just right.  Over time, I find many ways I can express what I see in these living things - these ideas - that are beginning to gain strength.

Sometimes, they develop into a weed and I find that I am no longer interested in where they will lead me.  Rarely, I discover one that needs to be aggressively removed.  But, usually, I remain curious about how they will turn out.

So, I cultivate the soil and supplement it with what I discover and how I feel as I work around them.  I select more words that represent these feelings and I begin considering descriptive words that might express how I want things to turn out.

Or maybe how I think things will turn out.

Or how I fear what will be revealed at the harvest.

I harvest the new understandings I raised from seed.  This harvest includes connections to other people, places and things in my world.  I recognize the idea that came from the Meadowlark sitting on the line and the philosophy presented to me as I witnessed a rainstorm.  The fruit over there came from that moment when I saw an angry person stop and apologize rather than continue to place blame.  The flower by my feet came into being when someone else gave a little extra effort to do something well.  The carrots?  Well, we usually don't talk about those.

Some of these are new to me and some are well known.  Sometimes, I enjoy the fruits of this harvest and I consider new words that express my gratitude as well as a longing to do even better.  Occasionally, what I have learned leaves me wondering what there is to be grateful for and I fight to express that disappointment and how I still long to do better.

I look around and I find that there are seeds that come with this harvest.  And I realize there are plants that I do not remember putting into the gardens of my thoughts and they provide seeds as well.

I view the gardens others near me have created and I see other ideas of beauty, kindness and wonder.  Sometimes, they offer me some of their own seeds.   And they surprise me when they ask for some of mine.

Now I have a new batch of seeds.  Some I know well.  Others are entirely new to me.  And still others have an origin story that I have since forgotten.

So, I plant this diverse set of seeds into the soil of my mind and wonder what the harvest will bring.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Mellow Turklets

We've figured it out.  The turkeys are plotting to take over the farm ... and then the world.

They may LOOK innocent....
I was asked several times over the past couple of days how our turklets are doing on the farm this year.  Our response has been that this is the most mellow bunch of baby turkeys we have EVER had.  Of course, they DID make a good deal of noise when they were still in the shipping boxes.  And some of them kept trying to hop back INTO the shipping boxes.  But, once we got them settled in the brooder room and put the lid on their brooder area to keep the heat in....

It doesn't seem to matter what time of day we visit.  Move the lid, the birds look up at you as if to say,
"Oh.  Hello.  It's you."  Then they just go about relaxing and chilling as if nothing has changed.

They are healthy and they appear to be happy.

I think it's a ruse...

I have noticed a few of the birds insist on making it look like they were napping when I go into the room.  With other flocks, those birds tend to at least be mildly startled when we move the lid.  These birds?   They almost remind me of kids who are trying to act like they are asleep when the adult comes in to check on them. 

I am beginning to wonder if they are pretending to be sleepy so they have an excuse not to get up and move.

Why?  Because they are hiding plans.  Secret plans in baby turklet code that would be revealed if they stood up!  And once we leave, they get right back to work...

Jake: "Is he gone now?"
Lookout Bird: "Yep, looks like he's heading out to the hens."
Tom: "Cool!  So, let's talk about the idea Jenny had earlier."
Jenny: "If we could only get access to a wheelbarrow and a holocaust cloak..."
Jake: "Where did I put that wheelbarrow?"

The rest of you should thank us for taking this crew on.  I now have a good idea why they were trying to get back into the shipping boxes.  The original plans they had for taking over the world were foiled when the postal service failed to recognize the change of address they attempted to scratch into the label as they traveled.   Our farm was not their intended destination.  It turns out that these birds must have had access to public television at some point in time because we have deciphered the scratches on the box and they wanted to be delivered to...

Sesame Street. 

We suspect they were trying to make contact with Big Bird.

Who knows what would have happened if they had accomplished this?

Stay tuned, I just might be able to find out.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Genuine Faux Farm Delivery June 25

The list of available items is fairly short this week, which is normal for the time of year and the reduction in capacity our farm has after dropping the CSA program from our repertoire.  On the horizon are peas, zucchini and beans.  Again, with no CSA program, we are giving ourselves the chance to adapt our farm to weather changes by spending more time doing things like digging swales (ditches to handle excessive rains).  If we are successful, we suspect we will have more product in future years on a consistent basis.

Oh, and don't discount the normal surge we have when we get to late July!

Available This Week:
  • eggs - $3.50/dozen (limit 1 doz per family)
  • garlic scapes - $1.00/bundle
  • lettuce - $4/bag (2 heads leaf lettuce)
  • oregano - $1/bunch
  • thyme - $1/bunch

Pick Up Locations Today
  1. 5:00-5:15PM  Cedar Falls - Jorgensen Plaza West parking lot
  2. 5:30-5:45PM  Hansen's Outlet - back parking lot
Drive by delivery.  Drive up/park, open your trunk or tailgate, stand aside and we'll put your order in your vehicle.  Do not approach us, even though we would love to see you. 
If you are biking/walking, we will place your order where you can get it after we step back.

We will NOT take payment at delivery, please see below for how payments will work.

Thank you so much for tolerating this process to help keep everyone safe and healthy.  We will modify the process as the season progresses and available product dictates the need to do so.

How Do I Order?
For the time being, we are taking orders via email.  We are asking those who wish to place orders to participate in our Pre-Paid Farm Credit Program.  The program is simple and easy to join.  You get better prices and you will help us to limit transactions (and remove the process of passing money back and forth during deliveries).

How Can I Participate?
2020 Pre-Paid Farm Credit Program
We will run the system in $50 increments.  In other words, you can purchase a minimum of $50 of farm credit at a time.  We will cap the maximum amount of credit at $200 and you can refill your farm credits at any point.

Like the CSA program, this gives you the advantage of not having to pull out money at each delivery.  Instead, we will have a ledger with tracking for your current credit balance. Farm credits can be used for ANY farm product the Genuine Faux Farm offers.  If you buy farm credits, you can apply them to purchasing meat chickens, vegetables, eggs or any other thing we offer this year.

If you want to send us a check via mail - email us for our farm address. Want to use Paypal? You may send cash to gff@genuinefauxfarm.com We are accepting purchases of credits now and throughout the season.

Upcoming Schedule
  • The following week will have no deliveries - the farmers are taking a 'week off'
  • We will announce our future schedule next week.
  • Please note that we are considering our options for Cedar Falls delivery.  With Hansen's Outlet construction, that location may not serve well for deliveries.  If you have opinions on the matter, please let us know.

Crop and Poultry Report
Oh look!  We crossed over the eight inch mark for rainfall in June.  When have we heard this before?  In 2018, we had about nine inches of rain for the month and we're on pace for that this year as well.  The swales (shallow ditches) we have put in thus far are helping us out a bit, but we do wish we could have done more.  It's the old litany that if the ground is too wet to work, you don't work the ground.  The Buffalo Gnats haven't seemed quite as bad as they have some years, but we've got plenty of sores to prove they are out there.

We don't want to dwell on the challenges, we'd like to share some successes as well!  Tammy and I did get over 1000 lettuce plants transplanted prior to the rains.  We also have 500 or so brassica in the ground (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, romanesco, cabbage).  For those who are wondering, we HAVE scaled back.  Normally, we would have 400 broccoli plants in the ground and another going in about now.  the peas are starting to bloom as are the youngest green beans.  The scapes look great!  The first batch of zucchini may give us enough fruit to offer after the July 4th week.  Some of the potatoes look good and others not so good.  It has a lot to do with how much water is in the area - not a surprise there.

The broilers are looking good and healthy.  They will be available after their trip to "the Park" on July 7.  The turklets arrived and are in the brooder room.  This is one of the most mellow batches of turkeys we have ever had.  We're not sure why that is, but perhaps it is because there are no broiler chicks on the other side of the room?  Regardless, we like how this flock is acting.  And, as a friend of ours likes to say - they are stinkin' cute!

Personal Updates from the Farmers
We realize we don't always highlight how the two of us (Rob and Tammy) are doing - kind of hiding behind the farm, the weather, the plants and the poultry.  So, here is a quick update.

We're struggling a bit with the farm's new normals - no seasonal workers, no volunteer days thus far, two people working a LOT in the offices for other jobs and fields in transition as we hope to adjust to weather normals and other challenges.  We also have family worries with both of our Dads having some serious health events in recent weeks.

I don't want to paint a picture that we are in horrible shape.  Overall, we are doing remarkably well.  But, it doesn't take much for us to feel overwhelmed and unsure of how we're going to get through everything.  This is the point where we tell you again how much we appreciate your support, your patience and your kindness.  We're pushing to get things done and we're working to find the things that are best to let go so we can get the best subset of everything done. 

Thank you.

Broiler Chickens
Our first flocks of broilers are scheduled to go to "the Park" on July 6, which means they are available beginning July 7. 

Egg Production
The egg production still resides mainly with our 75 bird flock of 'older' hens.  This batch has not been particularly reliable from the get go and they've let us know they do not appreciate that we moved them to the 'Summer Cottage.'  That means egg production took another hit, reduced by about 20% over the past two weeks.  We expect they will rebound once we get past gnat season (and maybe rain season?).  In August, we expect the new hens will begin to add to the production.  Patience will pay off here folks and we'll have plenty of quality eggs for all of your orders.

Be Well!
Rob and Tammy

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Good Works

Back in November of 2018, I was given the privilege of speaking to a Dr. Ai Wen's class at the University of Northern Iowa.  They gifted me with a host of fantastic questions and I tried to respond them as best as I could in the blog.  The first installment is here in the post titled Queue and A.  I took a quick look at them and realized there is lots of great stuff in those posts.  I took the following from Queue and A Again and I thought I would expand on it after I 'reprinted' the content from the older post.  If you want to see more of these, check out the November 2018 grouping from our blog.

From Nov 2018:
So, I ask you, are you optimistic about the future? My generation and generations that follow all speak about how we want to be progressive and how we want to keep our earth alive, but I constantly wonder if anyone is actually doing anything. We talk a big talk but I’m not sure we walk the walk. I have always been pessimistic when it comes to the environment and those who are in charge, and so I don’t see a bright light at the end of this tunnel. If you are optimistic about the future, what exactly is the change that you’re seeing that makes you optimistic?

I understand where this is coming from.  It can be horribly frustrating when it is so easy to tear something down and freakishly hard to build something up.  I will not lie, I have good days and bad days, probably just like the person who wrote this section in their reflection.  Here is where I land on this:

This is all a matter of choice.  Your choice.  If you want to read another post called A Choice of Litany, you will get a sense of some of the personal process I go through JUST for how I feel about our own farm and my own life as it interacts with the farm.  I am not being the eternal blind optimist who can't see when things are heading the wrong way - I question where things are going and I wonder if anything will make a difference.  In the end, I choose to emphasize those parts of the whole that show a path towards making a difference.

We have more monarchs on our farm than we did when me moved to it

Am I optimistic about the future?  I choose to be optimistic about the future, and I hope you will as well.  Because if both of us make that choice, then that's two of us who will be working to make things better.  Twice my effort.  I'm all for that!

How can we make things better?  We make things better by exercising the best parts of ourselves every single day.  Every meal, ask yourself if you are making choices that promote better food systems.  If the answer is "no," start finding small changes that make that a "maybe."  Then, find more changes that make it a "yes."  Every day, ask yourself if something you are doing or have done could have been done better.  Then - do it better the next time or take steps to remedy a shortcoming in what you have already done.  Put yourself in someone else's shoes every day, especially when you hear yourself criticizing that person.  Find ways to give feedback without tearing down.  See something that isn't right?  Speak out, but do it with integrity.  Check and double check facts, find out if sources are reliable.  Then, when you speak, do it in a way that shows knowledge without belittling others who might not agree or know what you know.

Is it hard?  You bet it is.  Do I always succeed?  Of course I don't.  But, that's part of what makes it worth the effort.  It's a challenge that is worthy of all of us.


So, I fast forward to June of 2020.  What I wrote in 2018 is still me.  And, I am tempted to leave it at what is written there.  But, I wanted to bring it all one step closer to the present day.

Here are some of the small things I am trying to do to make things better.  Perhaps they aren't enough - and maybe some are misguided.  But, I am still going to give it my best shot.  Let's do a matching fund here... match me effort for effort and see how far we can get!

1. I am going to keep trying to learn - I will not rest on what I think I know now because I do not believe I know enough to be the best I can be.

2. The next time one of my farmer peers says, "those damned Mexicans..."  I'm going to call them on it rather than pretend I didn't hear it.

3. I am going to send a letter or email to someone I am concerned about this week.. and the next...

4. I will slow down the lawn tractor or tiller and wait for that toad to get out of the way.

5. I am going to plant another batch of cover crops as soon as the rain stops and the soil lets me.

6. The next time a person asks me a question, I will honor them with a decent, honest and respectful answer.  The next time I ask a person a question, I'll be sure to listen fully to what they have to say.

7. I will not let that piece of trash that blew out of my truck get away from me.

8. Despite the trend towards 'throw-away' products, I will keep trying to find things that can be fixed when they break rather than being thrown and replaced.

9. I will seed many more zinnias and marigolds, even though it is a little late for them, in hopes that the pollinators and wildlife will benefit from them later this year.

10. I will work to give equal weight and power to something positive today instead of allowing a negative statement or event rule how I feel.

11.  I will continue to write as long as others see it as a worthy gift.

This list - it went to 11!  And, as always, I've got more on my personal list.  Be well everyone!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Historically Imperfect

I had someone state a common lament to me recently.  "I just want to go back to the way things were."

We can all understand that sentiment at some level or the other.  There was a time when you knew less and were aware of less, so things were simpler - yes?  Perhaps you had less responsibility?  Or maybe you are having trouble navigating the uncertainties of today.  After all, since you've already lived yesterday, if you could go back and live it again, you might have a shot at doing better because you had some insight as to what would happen.

I have also heard people make claims that the current generation "doesn't know how to work" or that they "don't care about anything."  And, "things worked better then."

Yep, I'm sure they did and I am also sure that they didn't!

I thought I'd show you a few postal history items from my collection that I enjoy very much.  But, instead of boring you with all of the fine details I find interesting, I am going to point out imperfections.  All of the items below are from the 1860's and were mailed in the United States with the intent of going overseas to Europe.

A Piece Missing

The first item shows a piece of mail that was sent to France in 1862.  Three different stamps were used to add up the the 30 cents required to pay for a piece of letter mail that weighed over 1/4 ounce up to 1/2 ounce.  From a collector's standpoint, this is a very nice looking item.  The colors are bright and the envelope is pretty clean - especially considering it is almost 160 year old.  I like it - that is for certain.

But, look carefully at the bottom center of the brown 5 cent stamp.  There is a nice little chunk out of the stamp.  Many people living today barely understand the function of a postage stamp, with the advent of the internet, email and social media.  Even fewer will recall fully that stamps came in sheets with perforated holes that were intended to give you a guide so you could 'easily' separate them.  You also had to wet the back of the stamps (usually by licking them) to activate the gum so it would stick to the envelope.

Many of you might remember that - but remember, the US Postal Service has been issuing primarily self-adhesive stamps since the 1990s and the first self-adhesive was actually issued in the 1970s!  Most people under the age of 30 will not have the experience of separating these stamps unless they are or are related to a stamp collector!

Some collectors are nostalgic for the 'good old days' when these water activated gum stamps with perforations to separate them were the norm.  But, I am certain they are forgetting how often the stamp itself would tear in the wrong place (like the 5 cent stamp above) if you rushed the job.  They are conveniently omitting experiences where the gum on a sheet of unused stamps would get wet (for whatever reason) and they would stick to each other - or other things that you didn't want them stuck to.  I am also guessing they don't remember the time their cat found a sheet of stamps and licked them until they folded over and stuck to themselves.   Ok - that one is mine.  Thanks Strider.

Imperfect Solutions

We live in a world where things aren't perfect.  And, the solutions we create for problems rarely work out on the first try.  And, before you try to tell me that we were better at that sort of thing in the past, I'll remind you that we have always used the trial and error process with varying degrees of success.  This is true now.  It was true then.

The letter above was mailed in 1863 from Chicago to Liverpool England.  It was then forwarded to another address in England.  The 24 cent stamp paid for the mail from the US to England.  The red stamp paid the forwarding postage.  But, that's not what I want you to look at.

Look in the blue circular postmark that says "Chicago."  The letters inside the circle at the top are "RA."  These letters were part of a short-lived experiment that likely was an attempt to help the post office find the person(s) who sent this letter if it should be returned for any reason.

You see, they didn't use return address labels AND it was common for mail to be refused or for a recipient to have moved on with no where for the item to be forwarded (or bad addresses, etc).  Such items would go to the "Dead Letter Office" where clerks would attempt to ascertain who sent the letter in hopes that they could return the contents.  This was especially important if the sender was mailing anything of value.

Well, even in 1863, there were lots of people in Chicago.  How do you find the sender of a letter in "Chicago" if they leave no further clues in the content?

Well, what if you use some codes in the postmarks to indicate how things were routed OUT of Chicago?  That might limit where you need to look, right?  So, the "RA" has been deduced to likely mean "Randolph" train station.  It's actually a fairly clever idea, but it apparently wasn't deemed a success after a short trial.

Since that time, we have made return addresses at the top left common practice and we have implemented ZIP codes to help focus where things go in our postal system.  And, if you want to pay for tracking, you can see where your mail is going as it finds its way - assuming no one makes a mistake.  So, it wasn't perfect then - and it could likely be improved now.

Close Enough

I'll close with an item that has 30 cents of postage on it to cover the 28 cents of postage due to a destination in Germany in the 1860s.  I'd like to remind everyone that 2 cents in 1865 was a bigger deal to people than it is now.

There are two things going on here.  First, the postage rate had declined from 30 cents to 28 cents early in the decade.  In fact, there was still an option to send mail without postage.  So, if someone in Germany sent a letter to someone in the US unpaid, the recipient would need to pay 30 cents to receive the letter.  It was a simple matter of reading the postal tables incorrectly.

Or, maybe it had to do with convenience?  There were 2 cent stamps issued at the time and there were one cent stamps as well.  In other words, there were plenty of ways a person could select stamps to add up to 28 cents.  Is it worth it to over pay by 2 cents if you only had 24 cent and 3 cent stamps?

Human error won't leave us.  I misread things, you misread things.  We also make daily decisions about what is going to be 'good enough' and often accept less than perfection as an acceptable result.  It is not new and it is not likely to change. 

That may be true, but I'll make an exception.  Each of us can continue to apply ourselves to be our best in the present by learning from the past and thinking about how the things we do will affect the future.  That's also something we humans can do.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Balanced Scales

How do we balance the scales in our lives?

I've struggled with this question on and off, but I know recent events have encouraged me to bring it out so I can turn it around so it catches the light in different ways.  I am aware that these feelings and questions are not unique to me, nor am I any more special than any other person.  It just so happens I am willing to share some things I am thinking via a blog on a regular basis.  Others could certainly do the same if they wished.  If some of the things I share here help someone else, entertain another person and perhaps encourage yet another to learn something new - wonderful.  If they don't?  Well, at least I got to have that chance to view my thoughts and examine them for a while. 

Good enough.

How do we recognize problems that exist without allowing them to overwhelm us?  If we take a moment away are we guilty of ignoring something that we should be acting upon?

A couple of people I know shared this very interesting and moving 'short film' by Canadian Liv McNeil.  If you have the internet to do so, take a moment to view it.

Even an introvert, such as myself, recognizes that we are social creatures.  The physical distancing we should be following to reduce the spread of COVID-19 has, in fact, led to a certain level of social distancing as well.  The strain is showing and many are becoming overwhelmed.

Sometimes the reaction seems to be that we should rebel or completely turn off the switch when it comes to concern for the pandemic.  It isn't hard to understand where this is coming from.  But, ignoring the threat and pretending a problem doesn't exist won't make it go away and it will only hurt more people.

You're tired.  I'm tired.  We're feeling overwhelmed.  What can we do to help each other (and ourselves) without ignoring this virus?  I am seeking that balance in my own life and I hope you are as well.  For us, we will remain cautious and do the things in our power to not spread the virus.  We will wear masks and we will limit our physical contact with others.  But, we are also working to improve our social contact while still maintaining some physical distance.  We'll just keep learning - it's what we can do.

What will it take for you and I to be able to be aware and empathetic to someone else's fear and pain while still realizing our own joy, peace and happiness?

I have long admired Yo-Yo Ma as a musician and I have come to admire him even more over time as a good person with a kind heart and generous soul.  I have also recognized Rhiannon Giddens' talent in the past, but her genre of music is not one I often listen to, so I am less familiar with her.  These two talented people put together a powerful piece that I enjoyed and I thought I would share it here.

It is very difficult to hear the lyrics of this tune and not hear the pain in them.  I am hopeful that I can find a way to acknowledge the pain, fear, anger and suffering of black people referenced here while still recognizing and feeling gratitude for the good things in my own life.  It is tempting to put on the "sackcloth and ashes" to show public remorse and there is also a fear that my own happiness would be a betrayal of their pain.

So again, I am looking for a balance in my life.  It is not right, and it has never been right, for people of color to be systematically mistreated and abused.  But, I actually think I might be capable of doing what I can to speak out for those who are struggling without disowning the good things in my own life.  This isn't supposed to be about making everyone miserable.  It's about getting rid of a weight that so many people carry around with them that is tied to the color of their skin.

Where is the balance between extending ourselves to achieve something great that could help others who need it and preserving enough of ourselves so that we can also live well?

Our farm has been a great training ground - if you can call it that - for working on the balance between pushing hard to achieve and keeping our own mental and physical well-being in mind while we work.

The answer - at least to us - is still unknown, because it seems to shift and morph with every new day.  If you have followed our blog for some time, you know we have been working hard to find the balance between dedication to excellence and preservation of our own physical and mental well-being.

But, let me say this.  I still believe we are ALL better than what we have shown thus far.  We let ourselves 'off the hook' too easily too often.  We even do a poor job of allowing ourselves to enjoy the things that are supposed to bring us that coveted balance.  And so, I do what I hope I will always do - I will keep trying to do better.

When will we acknowledge when things aren't right so we can try to find useful solutions that can move us forward to something better?

I recognize that I can get impatient when people spend lots time outlining a problem and trying to convince me that there is a problem.  Perhaps that is because I can often see that there is an issue that needs addressing and don't want to spend time on the 'convincing us there is a problem' stage.  I want to get to the 'fixing it' part.

But, then again, part of the fixing it just might be listening to those who are being affected by the issue.  And perhaps another part is actually taking the time to have a conversation.  Does that solve everything?  Of course not.  But it is part of the process.

This brings me to one more video.  Emmanuel Acho has been creating a series titled "Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man."  I appreciate the gift he is giving by attempting to have conversations with/for white people that address questions and issues that we might not otherwise consider.

The video above was his first installment.  The two that follow include face to face discussions with white people, making it more of a dialog.  I am certain Mr. Acho does not speak for every black man or woman, just as I do not speak for every white man or woman.  But, he is right about one thing for sure - if we take the time to have an honest conversation with someone we are uncomfortable with, we just might find that the discomfort is misplaced and that we can locate common ground for understanding.

As I viewed these conversations, I did not find that I was uncomfortable with the content of the discussion at all.  If anything, most of it made perfect sense and was generally in alignment with my own beliefs.  On the other hand, these videos, the Rhiannon/Yo-Yo musical composition and all of the Black Lives Matter protests have made me uncomfortable for a different reason.

The Man Standing on the Corner
I can think of dozens of times that I found myself on a street corner or parking lot or outside a shop just standing around waiting for a ride or for a friend to meet me.   I have waited in a car parked on the street and put my head back to close my eyes multiple times.  I have placed myself in mall food courts in strange cities so I can do work while my lovely bride attended a conference for her profession.  I've spent hours in hotel lobbies doing the same thing.  Students, staff and faculty of Wartburg College know that I sometimes will work in the coffee shop, library or other locations on campus.

I admit that I have gotten odd, questioning looks.  I do tend to be a bit scruffy looking and my red baseball cap isn't always in pristine condition.  I have a tendency to wear hoodies, but usually with the hood down.  My clothing is typically clean, but sometimes a bit worn.  I have been known to talk to myself as I think something out and I will occasionally stop typing or writing and stare at nothing - though some who do not know me might not realize I am not seeing whatever it is that I appear to be looking at.

I have only been approached by police or security five or six times.  And in all but one of those instances, I was not terribly worried about the outcome.  In the lone exception, I was still in high school, so we'll include that as a 'strike' against me.  In several of those instances, I was struck by the mildly confrontational tone the police or security person took as they initiated contact.

What would have happened if I was black skinned?  Or perhaps a Latino?  Would someone call the police because I was pacing back and forth for ten minutes in front of a Seven Eleven as I waited for a ride?  Would that mildly confrontational tone the police officer had remain mild or would it push the boundaries of civility?

Better yet - how about the times I have stood outside, on a cold evening, after the sun has gone down, by myself, pacing back and forth, mumbling, humming or whistling - while I wait for the last person to come pick up their turkey?  I have had the police stop by to chat a couple of times because they are curious about what I am doing at our various drop-offs.  If my skin were black, would it be more than a 'chat?'

Sadly, the answer is this.

If I were black, I would probably work hard to NOT be left waiting on various street corners for rides.  I would consider hiring a white worker to stand with me by the truck during produce distributions.  There would be fewer choices for pick up locations and times because I would not want to be stuck waiting for customers under many of those conditions.   I would think twice about going and sitting to do work in various public spaces for fear that someone will think that I look threatening and then do something about it.

I have gotten away with being free to do these things this way for most of my life.

And I want people of color to be able to do the same.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Not An Iris

This is an iris.  The rest of the pictures are NOT iris.  And now you know.

Iris season started late for us and it was over way too soon, as far as we are concerned.  But, we are being reminded that there are so many other flowers that deserve our attention at the farm.  So, before the daylilies start, we thought we would take a moment this Sunday and recognize some of the other blooms that are gracing us with their presence right now.

We also thought our dads might enjoy seeing the flowers we have at the farms.  I know that the tradition is that moms like the flowers.  But, let's give our dads some credit for knowing what is beautiful in the world too.

Shasta Daisies


Gerbera Daisies


Climbing Rose


Mock Orange
Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Planting Windows

Most seasons at the Genuine Faux Farm are packed full of activity and it seems that we're always behind on our tasks or very much about to fall behind on our tasks.  This year is, of course, no different from all of the others.  The issue in May through June is that our farm often gets too wet to do field work and our planting windows are shortened because of that.

This year - even though we are reducing the number of crops that are going into the ground - we have restricted our planting windows further.  First of all, there are our work schedules.  If you have a meeting, you have a meeting.  This remains true even if conditions are currently perfect for planting.  If you have a deadline to produce something for your job, you need to meet that deadline - even if you just watered a bunch of lettuce in trays that really would prefer to be in the ground.

Then, there is the reduced available labor on the farm due to a combination of our scaling down and the COVID-19 pandemic.  It's just Tammy and I right now, even though we are reaching out to see who is willing to be on-call workers.  The reality is - the windows for planting are smaller and we're still trying to get it all done as best we can.

That leads us to Thursday of this past week and the marathon that has been the past week for both of us.  The day started with getting the turklets settled - which included scooping out the part of the brooder room that had previously housed the henlets.  Interspersed throughout were phone calls for Tammy with respect to her job as faculty for Wartburg and tasks for Rob with respect to his Pesticide Action Network job.

The afternoon and evening was filled with setting up irrigation, prepping ground for planting and, of course, the actual planting. 

The Inspector... not inspecting - but lounging.  Hmmmm.
As you can see by the photo above, the soil is not in the best condition in this field.  Part of the problem, of course, is that we've had some heavy rains.  Another part of the problem is that we have done some digging for swales in this area this Spring.  The net result is that the ground is hard and it breaks into hard clumps.  It should be better next season after we run a late season cover crop and it goes through a normal freeze/thaw cycle.  But, for now, it is what it is.

And, what it is - is it is darned uncomfortable to kneel or crawl on it.  We did run the tiller through to soften it up a bit, but that still doesn't really solve the problem.  Only time and proper care will do that.

Inspector was sitting next to our young kale plants in the photo above.  But, we also got broccoli, cauliflower, romanesco, cabbage and lettuce planted!  

Speaking of lettuce.  We were pleased that we were able to sell nearly all of our first succession of lettuce before it started to bolt.  This is in large part because Jorgenen Plaza was able to start taking lettuce again AND the Northeast Iowa Foodbank applied a grant they had to purchase some produce from us - to the tune of about 50 pounds of lettuce.

This is something we wish foodbanks could be empowered to do more often.  It isn't about us wanting their money per se.  But, it is about the reality that so many who try to grow for local markets would likely be customers of the food banks themselves if they weren't already raising food they can eat.

Now, before you take this wrong.  We have donated food to the food bank in the past.  We are also regular financial contributors to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank.  I am not saying that to receive praise, I am bringing it up to be clear about my intentions.  It is just easiest if I talk out the idea from the perspective of our farm, rather than pretending to know how everyone else might see it.

What if?

What if a food banks would be empowered to enter contracts with local producers for consistent high quality (and local) produce?  I know this is not an entirely new idea and it likely has been tried (or is being done) in places.  But, I just don't hear about it all that much.

First of all, I suspect many growers, such as ourselves, would be happy to provide contracts that were favorable to the food bank if they are able to do so.  Most of the growers I know already make significant donations of 'excess' produce.  It was a regular occurrence for farmers' market vendors to bag up product still on their tables for either the food bank or another worthwhile organization and send it along with no thought for compensation.  All of that food was perfectly fine and tasty - but they were still the items left behind after a market.

Don't the people who need help deserve some of the best product out there just as much as anyone else?  If a grower had a contract to grow... oh... lettuce, for the food bank, then the food bank would be treated as any other customer.  The grower would expect to provide top product, properly cleaned and packaged per whatever agreement they had.  It would be fresh - not having sat on a market table for three hours.  It wouldn't be a left-over product.

There is another indirect consequence of this idea.  Supporting local growers (local businesses) could help to reduce the desperate need for the food banks themselves.  A consistent growing contract gives the small farm a consistent baseline to work from.  It makes them more likely to hire another individual who could use some income.  And it makes it less likely that the farmers will call it quits and find themselves waiting in line at the food bank themselves.

Yes, yes.  I realize that I might be making this all sound much grander than it would actually be.  But, we get success by doing hundreds of little things that lead to a bigger and better whole.  Could this be an important 'little thing' that might help move us in the right direction?

I'd love to hear comments about this idea if you are willing to share!

Friday, June 19, 2020

Beep Beep

We marked our calendars wrong apparently.

You see, we thought the turklets were coming on June 16.  So we worked hard to have things pretty much ready enough so that we could get the turklets into the brooder room.  It wouldn't be perfect, but it would be doable.  But, here's the thing.  When chicks arrive at the post office, we get a call around 6:30am telling us they have arrived.  Then, we go pick them up. 

We got up Tuesday morning - just a little hyped up to get the turklets settled and then on with everything else. 

And we didn't get a phone call.

Ok, so we did a whole bunch of other things on Tuesday, including moving the brooder room further forward so we were even MORE ready for turklets on Wednesday morning.  Wednesday was already going to be a pretty rough day, but hey!  They're turklets!  We can squeeze them into the day can't we?  Sure!

Except, we didn't get a phone call Wednesday morning either.  Hmmmmm.

But, we did get that call on Thursday.  So, for your viewing pleasure - turklets in a box.

That is only fifteen of the seventy-five birds that arrived.  And here they all are, in their small brooder area.  You might notice that they all decided to start running to one side of their room (closest to the camera).  You see, that wall was down so we could more easily dip each bird's beak into the water and then put them in the room.  These crazy birds wanted to keep coming towards us rather than explore their new space.  Some even jumped BACK into the shipping box.

I'm not sure if this is a good sign or not.

But, by the time we hit the end of the day, the turklets were quite mellow.  Looking good for day one.

For those of you that have sufficient internet - here is a brief interlude of turklets "beeping."

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Stress Dreams

Everyone has a 'favorite' set of stress dreams that come to visit when things are feeling a bit out of control.  The most common one I've heard other people share is being somewhere with a bunch of people and suddenly realizing that you are naked.  A close second is the one where you realize that there is a class that you were supposed to be attending, but somehow you have missed all of the classes and today is the final (there are several variations of this one, but the gist is the same).

All the way back when this blog was 'new' I shared a stress dream featuring our turkeys (among other things).

For me, the two most common themes that appear when I am stressed and dreaming are:

1. the impending storm
2. being responsible for teaching others and having things go wrong so that people eventually leave/disappear or stop listening

I have had the first stress dream semi-frequently for most of my life.  Once we started farming, this really became my 'go to' stress dream because I really do have a concern for and connections with the weather.  Typically these dreams start going bad by featuring a tornado.  But, my tired brain doesn't know restraint.  By the time I notice there is not just one, but three or more tornadoes, I get a clue that it IS just a dream and I wake up.

I even caught myself saying out loud, "you can't fool me -  you're just a dream."  Happily, Tammy is a sound sleeper most of the time, so I don't think she caught that one.

The second dream used to occur frequently when I was teaching college courses.  It would often feature markers that wouldn't write, uncontrolled distractions that pulled attention away from everyone or... most horribly... my own lack of focus as I try to figure out exactly WHAT was so important that I tell everyone in the first place.  These are usually a bit harder to identify because my brain is a bit more creative AND restrained at the same time.  It selects events that are plausible (and perhaps have evened happened in waking hours) and these dreams usually last until I get so frustrated that I wake up out of spite.

This week's new stress dream featured lettuce.

Yep.  Lettuce.

I was having all kinds of trouble with the lettuce crop.  I planted the wrong seed.  I planted the right lettuce seed, but they turned into zinnias.  Then, I kept stepping on the lettuce plants as I reached down to harvest them.  And, of course, there was the scene(s) where I just couldn't find them.

I know I planted those around here SOMEWHERE!

The deer ate them.  The rabbits ate them.  The slugs ate them.  Some men drove up in an unmarked van, ripped them out of the ground... and ate them.  They didn't pay for them either.

The nerve.

But, I woke up at the point where I realized the lettuce I was about to harvest was shrinking or growing backwards towards seedling stage.  I've got to hand it to my brain, this was one of the more entertaining stress dreams I've had in a while.  I seem to recall recognizing it for what it was well before I woke up all the way.  In fact, I think there was a thought somewhere along the lines of ..

"Wow!  I wonder what I'll dream up next!"

Here's hoping that, if you must have a stress dream, it will be at least half as entertaining as this one was.  Have a great day everyone!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Available from the Genuine Faux Farm June 17

We will be putting our available items up on the web the day of a delivery each week on the blog in addition to our email newsletter list.  The email list goes out the day prior to the blog posting, so if you wish to get in on the earlier version (and avoid having things sell out) then contact us at our email address.

Available This Week:
  • eggs - $3.50/dozen (limit 2 doz per family)
  • garlic scapes - $1.00/bundle
  • lettuce - $4/bag (2 heads leaf lettuce)

Pick Up Locations Today
  1. 5:00-5:15PM  Waverly - St Andrew's parking lot
  2. 5:30-5:45PM  Waverly - Yogi Life parking area
Drive by delivery.  Drive up/park, open your trunk or tailgate, stand aside and we'll put your order in your vehicle.  Do not approach us, even though we would love to see you. 
If you are biking/walking, we will place your order where you can get it after we step back.

We will NOT take payment at delivery, please see below for how payments will work.

Thank you so much for tolerating this process to help keep everyone safe and healthy.  We will modify the process as the season progresses and available product dictates the need to do so.

How Do I Order?
For the time being, we are taking orders via email.  We are asking those who wish to place orders to participate in our Pre-Paid Farm Credit Program.  The program is simple and easy to join.  You get better prices and you will help us to limit transactions (and remove the process of passing money back and forth during deliveries).

How Can I Participate?
2020 Pre-Paid Farm Credit Program
We will run the system in $50 increments.  In other words, you can purchase a minimum of $50 of farm credit at a time.  We will cap the maximum amount of credit at $200 and you can refill your farm credits at any point.

Like the CSA program, this gives you the advantage of not having to pull out money at each delivery.  Instead, we will have a ledger with tracking for your current credit balance. Farm credits can be used for ANY farm product the Genuine Faux Farm offers.  If you buy farm credits, you can apply them to purchasing meat chickens, vegetables, eggs or any other thing we offer this year.

If you want to send us a check via mail - email us for our farm address. Want to use Paypal? You may send cash to gff@genuinefauxfarm.com We are accepting purchases of credits now and throughout the season.

Upcoming Schedule
  • (Wed) June 17 - Waverly, St Andrew's Church & Yogi Life
  • (Thus) June 25 - Cedar Falls, Jorgensen Plaza and Hansen's Outlet 
  • The following week will have no deliveries - the farmers are taking a 'week off'

Crop and Poultry Report
Since we were busy scooping bedding out of the hen room today, we'll start with the poultry.  Tomorrow AM, the turklets will arrive at the farm.  To prepare for that, we moved the hen flock to the Portable Pavilion and parked that mobile building out by Crazy Maurice (our Weeping Willow tree).  There will be a short decline in egg production as the hens adjust to the new environment.  Thus far, they seem to like the shade and environment around the tree.

Once the hens were out of the hen room, we worked to do a 'deep cleaning' where we take out all of the old bedding, etc etc.  The henlets will then move from the brooder room to the hen room.  This frees up the brooder room for the turklets.  Meanwhile, the broilers are growing and liking their day-range buildings out in the East fields.

We have managed to plant 800 row feet of cucurbits (mostly winter squash) and added some pollinator support (zinnias, etc) around them.  We have had some problems with laying the drip tape with the wind coming out of the East and Southeast, but we keep plugging along on it.  The peas are starting to flower.  Most of the tomato and pepper transplants are looking pretty good.  Zucchini and summer squash are growing rapidly.  In short - we keep plugging along!

If you are new to this email newsletter for the Genuine Faux Farm, we would like to welcome you.  If you are an 'old hand,' we want you to feel welcome too - but we were gently reminded that we need to introduce people a bit more to the system.

The basics are as follows:
  - we deliver once per week - alternating between Waverly and Cedar Falls locations.
  - Waverly is on Wednesdays
  - Cedar Falls is on Thursdays
  - anyone with farm credits can order from either location, you just have to arrange to get what you order.
  - to order, you only need to respond to this email - sent the day prior to the delivery.
  - a "gentle reminder" email is sent the day of the delivery.  This email confirms that we have received orders by listing those from whom we have received orders.
 - delivery instructions will be in this email each week.  Please pay attention as circumstances may require a change.

Broiler Chickens
Our first flocks of broilers are scheduled to go to "the Park" on July 6, which means they are available beginning July 7. 

On-call worker list
Are you interested in helping out at the farm on an "on-call" basis?  We are creating an on-call list of people who are willing to provide a helping hand at the farm.  We would be cognizant of physical distancing for safety reasons, but the outdoor environment will help with much of that.  Please let us know if you are interested as either a volunteer or if you are interested if you receive compensation. 

Be Well!
Rob and Tammy

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Mid-June Wear and Tear

I was trying to remember why it seems like every year - right around the the 15th of June - I go through the process of a reality check as to how much I can actually get done.  This is usually prompted by the question "why am I feeling so tired and overwhelmed today."

So, while you will read this post on the 16th - I just want you to recognize that I wrote it on the 15th.  And, I am doing the reality check and I am asking myself the normal question.

June - the Month of Disaster?
Some of you might recall that June was the month that the well died at the Genuine Faux Farm in 2013.  Things were wet at the farm, of course, that year.  But, wet ground prevents planting, but it doesn't get fresh water to poultry or keep seedlings in trays alive.  

If you haven't had to work around the equipment that is used to drill a new well - let me tell you that it is loud and it is hard to not feel like you are clenching your jaw the entire time.  Ok... That's probably because we were clenching our jaws the entire time.  At least it is now just a 'happy' memory.

June is also the month when big things tend to break.  Or things break that require big repairs.  One of our key hydrants for water split open and required some major work a couple of years ago.  Once again, the "Snort" visited us.  In this case, it was a mini-snort.  Whenever snorts visit, we end up with lots of earth torn up for some reason.

 Oh - and June is the month where Buffalo Gnats rule the farm.   Ugh.  We'll rate that as a disaster.  The thing is - it is either WIND or GNATS mid-June.  Take your pick.  You get worn out by the wind constantly howling or you get the energy drained out of you with your blood by the gnats.  We typically vote for the wind, but that doesn't stop us from complaining about it after a long day in it.

June - the Month of Big Change?
It seems like June is a month where we schedule some really big changes at the farm as well.  In 2011, we had the granary re-roofed.  Of course, like so many other things on the farm, the choice was to repair it or take it all the way down.  There really wasn't a middle ground anymore.

Then, there was the construction of Valhalla, our bigger high tunnel, in 2015.   The long days certainly helped the crews to get things done a bit more quickly than they might any other time of year.  But, the long days were just that... loooong daaaaays. 

And remember, we still had to farm too.

And you can't really forget the kitchen project from last year (ish).  The thing is - that one was just kind of continuous and forever - if you know what I mean.  So, maybe it is unfair to include it in the list.

What About 2020?
We have to admit that 2020 is very different than any of the prior 15 at the Genuine Faux Farm.  I don't think either of us has worked so FEW hours outside in the fields and with the poultry than we have this June.  This certainly makes sense when you realize that Rob needs to put in 30 hours per week for his new Pesticide Action Network job. 

The net result is that I am not nearly as 'tough' as I have been each of the prior years.  Normally, I'd have spent much of that 30 hours outside moving around.  The stamina to keep at it just isn't there yet.  And perhaps this is the new normal I have to adjust to.  It's going to be interesting and frustrating to discover what things are going to fall off of our farm 'to do' list this season as the time flies by and opportunities to do things are missed.  We'll certainly do what we can to make the misses less frequent than the hits.  But, right now, we're not always so sure what we'll manage to get done. 

Check one thing off the list though - we've kept the blog going this far.  It is entirely possible that we'll have to cut this back to a few times a week as I run out energy and time for such things.  But, I think we have built up enough stamina for writing now that it isn't actually so hard to get something put together. 

Apparently, I still have the stamina to do things - but they've transferred to the written word.  Is it a good thing or a bad thing?  Let's keep plugging along and find out.