Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Foresight 2021 - Poultry Prognostication

A little over a week ago, we put a blog post out that announced a week off from new blogs so we could give ourselves some space to think about things.  Well, two things happened as a result of that decision.  First, I actually enjoyed pulling out some older posts from September and putting them out there (with a little editorial reflection).  It was a good exercise.  Second, I was able to back off of the build-up of self-imposed pressure to produce new writing for this blog.  The blog does not need to live for itself, it only works for as long as I truly feel it is doing something positive for myself and for others.

As far as taking time to think about the future of the farm?  Well, we did do some of that too - but we came away with more questions than answers.  That's ok.  We need to ask the questions first anyway!

How committed is the Genuine Faux Farm to poultry?

Our first post this week (Not That Simple) should have been a warning to you all.  Some of our struggle is with the labels and identities that Tammy and I have built for ourselves since we moved to Tripoli in 2004.  We raise chickens and turkeys (and sometimes ducks).  It is a part of who we have presented ourselves to be.  Who are we if we stop raising poultry?

If you were reading carefully, there is a strong realization that living up to a label is not a good reason in itself to avoid change or growth towards something new.  But, we do still have to recognize that these critters ARE a part of the identity we have built for ourselves.  It is actually not that easy to just drop it and move on - especially if there are reasons why we actually like some of what comes with that identity.

Let's not be too surprised here.  Some of these thoughts come on the heals of processing 250 plus broilers in the last couple of weeks.  Even though we do not process the birds ourselves, the effort over a period of two days is not inconsequential.  The longer days with a fair amount of difficult labor is certainly enough to make one reconsider whether they want to do this again (and again...and again).

A Little Background

Since we are talking about meat chickens right now (the above photo shows a hen - so don't get confused!), let's give everyone a little back story to help you all see where we are coming from.

When we started raising broiler (meat) chickens, we pushed very hard to get all but a few of the birds (which we kept for ourselves) sold prior to the processing day.  This wasn't horribly difficult because it seems that there was a trend at the time for people to stock their own freezers with local meats.  It was not at all uncommon for one family to buy 15 birds at a time.  It really did not take that many sales to move a 100 to 150 bird flock.

Over time, things changed.  Many of the people that would buy 15 birds at a time moved away or moved on in other ways.  We found that we needed to start adding a trip to the locker to freeze birds.  We had to add freezers at the farm to store birds.  For this last flock, we had one commercial order for 50 birds.  The next largest sale?  Three.

For the most part, people who now patronize us want a bird or two at a time.  Over the last few years, we are still selling meat chickens until February or March of the following year.

In short, the landscape has changed.  While we have little doubt that we will eventually sell all of the birds we want to sell, there is a longer period of time where we 'float' the expenses of raising the birds until we see a break-even point.  On the plus side, the commercial order will help us this year - with fifty birds ordered each month until they are gone (assuming various shut-downs don't turn that opportunity off again).  As it is, we enter October with about 200 frozen meat chickens that we will manage.  Not a complaint - just a fact.

And that's all we're doing here.  Giving some of the facts that must influence our decisions for the future.

Realities of poultry at Genuine Faux Farm

First and foremost on our minds is a realization that we are actually pretty good at managing flocks and providing good pasture for them.  Over time, we have acquired or built some excellent infrastructure to help us be successful in raising and caring for these animals.  Certainly, there are some improvements that we feel need to be made.  But, overall, we've got a pretty good system down with some pretty good materials to work with.

We have an excellent record for quality eggs, meat chickens, stewing hens and turkeys.  We know that all of these are excellent quality - especially compared to the average product you might find in a grocery.  In short - we're pretty good at this by now.  I suppose we should be, after many years of practice.

On the other hand, livestock on the farm limits our personal freedom in many ways.  Take a look again at our Merry Go Round we do every summer.  Yes - good things take effort.  Raising poultry require daily efforts - yes, that is a plural.  It can be difficult to leave and visit family and friends.  And, when you add an off-farm job to the list, you find out how little time and energy you have left for care-taking your crops!  As I write this, do you know what is running in the back of my mind?  "I have to go and collect eggs and check the turkey's water - I hope they haven't gotten out of their pasture again."

Do not get me wrong here.  I know good things require effort and dedication.  I am certainly not allergic to working hard and committing to doing things well for a long time.  And there are times when it is just FUN watching the antics of the turkeys and there is SATISFACTION that the hens like their pasture and come running when they think you might have some veggie scraps for them to snap up.  There is PLEASURE when you realize that the extremely tasty dinner you had was partly due to daily efforts to raise birds well on our farm.

So, Now What?

Once again, we are putting all options on the table.

The two options with the least to discuss are 1) stay the course and do what we did this year and 2) stop raising poultry all together.

How is that for a full range?

Obviously, we are committed to seeing our current turkey flock through.  We are also committed to over-wintering the current young hens and probably taking them through the end of next season.  But, it is not impossible to find a new home for the hens if we decide to go for the 'nothing' in the 'all or nothing' choices.

Either way, we still need to do the detailed enterprise budget for our poultry to determine whether or not we are actually breaking even (or better) on this part of our farm.

The reality?  We are most likely to fall somewhere between 'what we did this year' and 'raise what we need for our own family.'  If you have suggestions, opinions or thoughts on the matter - the time to share them has begun!

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Covid Lemonade

Tammy has been using a phrase on and off since the pandemic became a global reality.  Some people think it's funny, some people aren't so sure about it, but it actually makes a lot of sense to me.  But, perhaps that's because I get to hear more about it than most people.

In other words, "Covid Lemonade" is another thing that is just Not That Simple!  On the surface, you might decide (without having any other information) that it's a silly attempt at putting two opposites next to each other (assuming you like lemonade, of course).  And, depending on how you feel about things, you might decide to be amused or offended without even bothering to understand anything further.

What?  Covid Lemonade?!?

Generally speaking, we are all in agreement that Covid-19 is not a good thing for humans.  But, let me point you to two common sayings:

  • It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good.
  • When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

Hence, "Covid Lemonade."  

Life gave us a pandemic.  It's a natural process that occurs every so often in all natural populations on this Earth.  We don't have to like it.  It's impact is causing us to take precautions and deprive ourselves of things we typically enjoy - and that's for those of us who have it good!  There are many people who still are unemployed or underemployed because of Covid.  Hundreds of thousands of people are dead in the US alone.  Even more people are likely to deal with long-term effects of the disease. 

These are some pretty nasty lemons.

And yet, is it the truly ill wind that blows nobody any good?

Only if we let it.

Making Covid Lemonade

This is exactly what Tammy is referring to when she labels things "Covid Lemonade."  Looking for the things we can do simply because life is different with the pandemic.  It has nothing to do with ignoring the negative things or belittling losses or pain and suffering.  It has everything to do with doing what we can to make things the best they can be given the circumstances.  And you know what, sometimes there are opportunities that come up when things change!

So, what sorts of "Covid Lemonade" have we been making at the Genuine Faux Farm?

1. We are remembering what we value

It has become clearer than ever that we value the natural world.  We value health, friendship, and family.  We value learning and knowledge and we love to share and help others to learn.  We value integrity, honesty and kindness.  We value craftsmanship, friendly competition and cooperation and we appreciate the accomplishments of honed skills.

2. We are realizing what we have over-valued

Most of the things we have found we over-value are commercial in nature and not a necessity.  Does it mean we don't miss some of these things?  No.  Does it mean they had no value?  No.  What it means is that before we hit the adversity that is the pandemic, we had them in the wrong spot in our priorities list.

And, yeah.  I suspect we've also found some things we were wrong about and shouldn't have valued them at all - but that's not what this blog is about today!

3. We are finding opportunities to highlight what we value in a new world

I've kept it on the philosophical side up to this point.  And, I realize that I have mentioned some of the things that follow in other posts.  But, I want to clearly show others how Tammy and I are trying to make Covid Lemonade for ourselves.  Sometimes, a batch might taste a little bitter and other times a little too sweet - but overall, I think we're doing ok.

  • Play a board game about once a day if we can.  It can be both friendly competition and sometimes cooperation.  It helps us remove distractions from our connection to each other.
  • I have been writing frequent blog posts.  I hope that doing this is both a learning and a teaching process.  I am trying to encourage a positive connection with other people by encouraging critical thought, honesty, kindness and integrity as best I can.
  • Take short trips to parks within an hour drive and walk around and take photos (if we remember the camera).  We continue to exercise our appreciation of nature and our connection to each other and connections to others who are appreciating the park as well (even if from a distance).
  • Eat better food - home made bread and many more meals at home and more selectivity about where we might get prepared foods.  
  • Converse with more purpose. I think we are saying more of what we mean and sharing more of what we feel and that goes hand in hand with really listening to what others have to say.

So - how are you making Covid Lemonade?

Monday, September 28, 2020

Not That Simple

We are drawn to the simple answers for a very specific reason, I suspect.  

Because - once we accept a simple answer, we can stop thinking.  And, thinking is a dangerous pastime!

Unfortunately, accepting a simple answer and putting a halt on your thinking is, in my opinion, even worse.

I was actually beginning to think that I could stop this blog post right there.  Point made.  Nice and simple.  Don't accept the simple answer or the simple opinion at face value and work a lot harder at critical thinking and putting what you hear under the microscope.  It doesn't matter the topic.  It doesn't matter if it already matches something you happen to agree with or believe.  It doesn't matter if you're inclined to disagree.  In fact, it doesn't even matter if you think you have covered some of this territory before.

Think.  Question.  Ask.  Accept that very little in this world is easy and most everything is complex.

And it can be stinkin' hard to do.

So, do it anyway.

I Hate Beets

I am going to bet you all thought I was going to go off on some highly philosophical or current event tangent after all of that.  You weren't?  Oh.  Now I am not sure you're telling the truth, but that doesn't really matter.  What matters is the point that I am trying to make.

We like to take simple either/or decisions and make them a part of our identity.  Oh... oops.  That is kind of philosophical.

So, about those beets...

Beets are one of those vegetables that we have identified as being one of the most polarizing among the persons who have patronized our farm over the years.  Some people just LOVE their beets and others look at us like we are offering to poison them when we offer beets.  Kale and eggplant rank right up there with beets - but we're not talking about them now, are we?

I was once a hater of beets.  Beets?  NO thank you.  Did not even want to look at them.

Then, I started farming - and some people wanted beets with their CSA.

Well, I guess I can grow them.

And, harvest them....

And, clean them....

And, maybe it would be cool to try some different varieties...

And then people asked how they tasted.  Uh oh.

The point is this.  There are many, many different varieties of beets.  There are golden beets, striped beets, red beets, white beets, beets for beet greens, cylindrical beets, round beets, etc etc.  Beets have a range of tastes and textures.  Yes - they are all still beets - so they do have similarities.  But, there really is quite a diverse range for different palates.

And, you can prepare beets so many ways.  You can boil them, grill them, roast them and pickle them.  You can mix them with other ingredients or you can just put a little butter on them.  You can cook them so they are really soft or make it so they have a little crunch.  Once again - still beets.  Once again - a surprisingly wide range of tastes and textures for different palates.

I Like Beets Most of the Time

It turns out, I like beets most of the time.  I prefer the golden beets over the other types.  I like them roasted or steamed and a little real butter melting on top.  But, I've found that I'm just fine if red beets are prepared in these fashions.  In fact, I'll tolerate cooked beets in most forms now.  But, there are still times I do not like them.

This did not happen overnight.  First, I had to be willing to learn more about beets.  Then, it took a while to explore the world of beets and learn about it in my own time.

After that, it took me awhile to get over my own, self-applied label that I am a person who 'doesn't like beets.'  I had to admit that I might be wrong and that this label doesn't apply to me.  I even had to face up to the fact that some folks who know that I am a self-described 'beet hater' were surely either going to be disappointed in me or were going to take an inordinate amount of glee in my 'conversion.'  

In the end, I discovered that the responses of others who felt I had to either love beets or hate them did not matter - because they haven't taken the time to know beets like I have.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

In Print

It is Sunday and we're going to do a different sort of looking back by looking at some postal history.  This one will be a bit different because we're actually looking at some of what you might consider to be 'Junk Mail!'  Yes, postal services around the world have provided discount services to bulk mailers for quite some time.  And, yes, postal historians do actually collect some of that stuff!

The item above was some sort of printed matter that was sent to Switzerland in the 1890s.  At a guess, it probably held some sort of advertising papers that had a Christmas theme (note the "Compliments of the season" printed at top left).  To qualify for the reduced rate at the time, envelopes had to be sent unsealed so the postal clerks could inspect the contents to be sure that the sender was not trying to sneak personal correspondence or other unqualified material along for the ride.

This item, again from the 1890s (shown above) actually illustrates another way a mailer could accomplish making contents available for inspection.  This is called a 'wrapper,' which was simply a wide strip of paper that was glued together on one end to make a tube.  Typically, the contents would stick out of either end (at the right or left of this piece).  Often, newspapers were sent with a wrapper to keep the newspaper together.  

And yes, mailing newspapers used to be a thing.  Actually, it used to be a very big thing.  Postal treaties between countries in the 1850s and 1860s typically included whole sections on how newspapers would be handled.

It is hard to find examples of printed matter from earlier years because the content was not typically of a personal nature - and most people saw no reason to hold on to it.  A newspaper was read and then discarded or used in a bird cage as a liner.  The wrappers or envelopes carrying these items had a slim chance of being saved.  But, finding something with both the content AND the wrapper/envelope?  That can be even more difficult - especially if you prefer material before 1900!

The Morning News item above was mailed in 1893 from Georgia to Germany and it does not have any content either.  But, what it does show is that 'mass mailing' short cuts were already in use at the time.  Preprinted labels for mailing addresses, for example!  And, apparently, the Morning News from Savannah, Georgia was willing to spend the money to have pre-printed wrappers or envelopes for their materials.

Here is an example of something from the late 1800s to early 1900s that DOES have contents.  The contents include multiple sheets highlighting the implements being offered by Childs & Jones.  While we do not have a spring tooth harrow at our farm, we certainly considered one.

It might be a little easier to understand how something might still have the contents if the recipient was potentially interested in a product.  They might hold on to the envelope and the contents figuring they could reference it later on should they decide to make a purchase.  It goes into a pile of papers or a file.  Then one day, it all gets cleaned up by a person who realizes someone might be interested in collecting it.... or... not - and it goes into a dumpster or burn barrel. 

And that's why it can be hard to find these things.  Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of them out there for collectors to enjoy.  But, consider how many of these were probably mailed and what a tiny percentage of them most likely survive to this day!

And there you have it!  A postal history post that might have something new for you to learn today.  I hope you all have a great week!

Saturday, September 26, 2020

A Walk on the Absurd Side - Look Back

We will close "look back" week with something from September 14, 2017.  We had a great crew that year and there were so many silly things that came from working with people that were willing to develop a shared sense of humor to go along with the shared experience of being a team on our farm.


We've had "General Strangeness and Minions" as one of our labels for the blog for some time now.  I realize we play pretty fast and loose with which sorts of blog posts land under which labels.  But, it's our blog and we can use labels any way we want to!  So there!  In fact, I have instituted a new rule that allows me to use a label name as the title for a new blog post.  Not only that, I will allow myself to reuse a good title if I want.  But, I don't want to this time, I'd rather walk on the absurd side!

It's just complete and utter anarchy in the GFF Blog-o-verse.  What's next? 

Horned Fanged Bats?!?

Oh, yes! There it is, the horned, fanged bat of the mighty chalk door!
Each year there is at least one thing that serves as a consistent "inside joke" for the farmers and the farm crew. This year there were two in particular that had a longer shelf-life.  The "horned-fanged bat" is something that requires hand motions to indicate horns and fangs and came about during one of our lunchtime forays into the absurd.

Oh wait.  That's how the other one came about too.  And here it is:

Bohemian Rhapsody (the original version by Queen) is a common occurrence on playlists Rob puts together.  Needless to say, whenever that song started, various crew members would pop up out of the weeds and yell "Mamaaaaaaaa!"

Who said farming can't be fun?

And maybe sometimes... a little odd:

We know you've seen this one before.  But, it illustrates a bit just how absurd things can be at the Genuine Faux Farm.  But, here's the kicker: it's during times that we see more of this type of absurdity that we feel as if everyone is a bit more positive about what's going on at the farm.

Ok, maybe Hobnob is not feeling more positive about this little bit of absurdity.  In fact, Bree is looking a bit annoyed as well.

When we take the time to do something just a little absurd and maybe a little creative it shows that we have some positive energy - even if it is just a response to things that are difficult.  If you see a recent picture of one of your farmers doing a selfie - like this one:

You've got to figure there is a little bit of a sense of humor still intact.  It's a good sign.  It means they aren't about to give up.  In fact, they see reasons to have hope.  And, if your personal farmers see reasons to have hope, then maybe you should work to find your own reasons for hope as well.

It's an interesting ability we humans have.  Take a negative situation - like rats killing turklets on the farm.

Then., you find a rat that got himself stuck in the chicken wire surrounding the turkey room and you suddenly have an absurdity that is ripe for humor.

But, it doesn't have to be as ridiculous or as dramatic as a rat with fat um.. hips, stuck in a wall.  It could be a farmer mowing down a field of ragweed with the rotary mower on the tractor who takes the time to work his way AROUND a patch of goldenrod.

Why would I do this?  I like goldenrod.  I think that's good enough reason, don't you?  I'll give more positive reasons some other time.  But, that's not the point of this post.

It's all about letting yourself look at things like this picture and poke fun at yourself.


Well, I've got fence posts up for a permanent fence for the turkey pasture.  But, clearly, there is no fence there, so we're using a portable electric netting fence immediately to one side of the permanent "not quite a fence." 

When time flies and you just have to make do, you have an opportunity to walk on the absurd side. 


This might highlight one of the biggest changes at the Genuine Faux Farm in 2020.  We had no workers on the farm.  We had very few people come to the farm to volunteer or do a quick job.  There weren't as many opportunities to be 'absurd' with different people as we have had in the past.  

That is certainly something for us to think about.  But, we also have to get past a pandemic too.  Things are always changing. At least that never changes.

Friday, September 25, 2020

The CSA Prep Dance - Look Back

As far as blogging goes, this one comes from quite a ways back (the blog started in December, 2008).   I find it instructive to see how we handled our daily CSA day routine at that time.  There are many similarities and many differences to things that go on even today.  I suppose the biggest difference is that we no longer do a CSA and our crop variety is much smaller than it was then.

The picture above is from September of 2010.  We have no digital pictures from 2009!

Perhaps this will still speak to people who take advantage of farmers market sales or CSA sales.  This is a version of what local growers do to put food on their tables for your use.  This is NOT a small thing.  Just think about it a little bit....  This one was published on September 28, 2009.


Tuesdays and Thursdays, in particular, are very full days that usually require motion for most of the day. For your enjoyment, we present to you the merry-go-round that is one of these days! *

6:00 Get up
6:10 Stretch, shower, wonder why the sun is not yet up
6:30 T typically will make biscuits, muffins, eggs, or some such thing - bless her!
6:30 Feed cats & fish
6:45 Feed & water ducks, hens, broiler chickens, turkeys
7:15 Figure out day's tasks - post on board for worker(s)
7:20 Determine pick amounts needed for distribution
7:30 Pack up flats with peppers, summer squash and zucchini picked yesterday afternoon
7:30 If Tues, send T on her way to school. If Thu - send her on her way about 10.
7:40 Gather potatoes, onions, garlic (already picked) for distribution
7:45 Locate scales, bags, market box, signs, etc for distribution day and get them to truck
8:00 Prep for worker arrival - set out tools, gather containers, set up tables, etc.
8:15 check tractor fuel, oil, etc.
8:30 Arrival of worker
8:45 Pick Lettuce - R (note to self - that knife is really sharp, check for all fingers every so often)
8:45 Pick beans - worker + Tammy?
8:55 Hydro-cool lettuce
9:10 Pick kale and/or chard
9:20 hydro-cool kale and/or chard (check again for fingers, they're getting numb in that water!)
9:30 pick beets and/or turnips
10:15 hydro-cool/wash beets/turnips
10:30 pick eggplant - one worker weighing/bagging beans
11:15 pick hot peppers/sweet peppers
11:30 worker lunch break
11:45 load flats into truck picked thus far
12:15 lunch break (hopefully)
12:45 pick tomatoes
1:00 worker returns - cleans beets/turnips, bundles kale/chard, packs lettuce (she's a really good worker!)
1:30 pick snack tomatoes
2:00 pick okra or basil or other items
2:25 uh oh - look at the time- roll carts back to truck as fast as possible
2:30 load truck up rest of the way, worker seems to have most everything ready to go. Play "tetris" and get it all in the truck.
2:45 Rapidly put away any tools, tractors, laundry, etc that we would be very disappointed in finding outside if a freak storm should arrive. Don't laugh, we learned from experience.
2:55 Run around and find anything that has not yet gone in the truck. Change into clean clothing. Oops, don't forget the eggs!
3:00 Get out of Dodge - try to make calculations for distribution amounts for produce that did not come out with desired numbers in the pick.
3:30-3:50 (depending on location) park the truck and try to set speed records for setup. (current record is 11 minutes - including pop up tent set up (3:27) , four tables, produce out and labeled)
3:30-6 or 4-6:30 - keep produce trays full, answer questions and watch people walk away with yummy produce.
6 or 6:30 - Determine produce to donate to Food Bank or Cedar Valley Friends of the Family.
6:10 or 6:40 - Pack up/reload truck
6:30 or 7:00 - Load ourselves into truck
Upon return - "Lock down" birds for the night (ducks, hens, broilers and turkeys) - hopefully everyone is where they are supposed to be - if not, we have more to do.
Take critical items out of the truck and put them away.
Close up buildings, make sure water sources are off, check mail, etc.
9:30 - play a game if we are both able to count the number of fingers being held up by the other person at this point.
10:20 Set alarm
10:30 We don't usually remember what happens at 10:30

* note - this schedule assumes a day that is generally well-organized. don't assume you'll catch us exactly on this schedule any given day! 


This schedule was written for a year (and time of year) where most of the work was done just by Rob.  Tammy would help when she was not at school.  So, yes, she worked (and still works) more than one job when we are doing farm things.  Our helper in September of 2009 worked only on CSA distribution days.  If I had not had that help...  Well, we did - and that's why we succeeded.

It is a good reminder to me what we used to do regularly on this farm to get produce to everyone.  If we want to re-enter the world of CSAs we're going to need to consider doing it differently, because I am not sure I am willing to go back to that schedule!

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Are We a Real Farm Now? - Look Back

This post was originally published on September 27, 2011.  I actually found this one somewhat amusing AND depressing.  Why?  Well, this particular hayrack represents one of our equipment success/failures.  We did a fine job building the deck, but we never did get the front wheels to turn left/right freely on this thing - which made it only moderately useful on a small farm where turning is actually an important feature for a trailer.  This running gear still sits on our farm.  The deck has some problems now and it still won't turn.  If someone wants to take a crack at it, we'll make a good deal for it!


Now that we have a deck on the running gear - making a functional (if not perfect) hay rack.... are we real now?

The running gear was picked up at a late summer auction.  It has a few problems - one of which is the simple fact that the tongue/front wheels will NOT turn.  That's the next task.

But, the lumber came from the old building that came down several years ago.  The lumber has been salvaged and some of it put to use here.

While we realize it isn't a fine piece of furniture.  Painting this thing *should* make it last longer.  We really don't want to pull it apart and replace boards any time soon.

And it is always easier to paint lumber before it is assembled.

Ready to put the planking on the deck.

And...there it is. Okay - you might notice there are unpainted boards on the side.  That's the result of an error on two levels.  First, I selected a board for the deck that had a bit too much of a dogleg in it.  So, I have a painted plank with nowhere to go.  Second, I can't count.  An odd number of boards - you start with the center of the first board in the center of the crosspieces....  Even number is different, you start with an edge at the center point of a cross piece. 

I know this.  Therefore, I must not be able to count.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Casting Stones - Look Back

Ah!  Let's have a little fun with a post that seems like I could have written it brand new just for today!  In case you are wondering what I am talking about, Rob is taking this week off from writing NEW blogs.  Instead, he is taking some older blogs and re-publishing them for your enjoyment.  Ok.  He is enjoying this too.  There may be a few small edits here, but it is largely as it was on September 21, 2015.


Our farm uses Facebook, at least a little bit, to keep people aware of us.  I have to admit that I'm not entirely dedicated to it since I realize that the system Facebook utilizes does not favor our getting word out consistently without paying them.  And, even then, I'm not sure there is any way to confirm that anything we put out there is actually viewed by our 'target audience.'  But, that's really aside from the point.  The point is this - I take quick looks at Facebook now and again because some of my friends and acquaintances put important news out there and neglect other venues.  As a result, I miss a lot of things.

And I end up seeing things I really didn't need to see.

For example, memes and short, badly written articles that fail to confirm facts or are written to spread misinformation appear frequently.  If that isn't bad enough, we are then treated (?) to commentary that we all might have been better off if we had not seen it.

It's almost as if they want to beet each other up!

Examples of what I have seen recently follow:

  • "People are freaking idiots." 
  • "Really, anyone who believes this is just plain stupid."  
  • "Well, of course the (fill in the blank) people are clueless."
Here... some flowers will help to calm you.

It's really very easy to forget that posts on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites are intended to elicit response.  And, the more passionate and inflammatory the response, the more attention (and hits) it will get.  Talk about a great way to encourage people to skirt the facts - or at least come up with a title that will get us to look, even though it is inaccurate.

These eggs found quarters on the sidewalk.  What happens next will SHOCK you!

In fact, these techniques seem to be so successful, I am considering using this technique to get our farm more attention!

Eight Subtle Ways Chickens Will Tell You They Want Food (#5 ain't real!)   
You Won't Believe the 24 Things These People Found in Boxes (#14 will cause hiccups!)

But, seriously, what bothers me most is how willing we are to assume the worst of those who have an opinion different than ours.  This is especially true if you don't think very hard about it.

Consider this: odds are that half of the people you encounter each and every day will give a simple answer to a politically or ethically loaded question that you would strongly disagree with.  But, if you were given an opportunity to spend some time with many of these people you would disagree with, you would find that a couple of things (at least) are true...

1. They are not necessarily idiots or evil or ... whatever anyone who disagrees with you might be.
2. If given a chance, you will find some common ground with most of these people - even potentially on the subject that might otherwise cause you to call them bad names.

I don't know about you, but I'd rather collect more friends than enemies.  And, oddly enough, I'm willing to respect that my friends don't always agree with me.  After all, that's what friends do.

Power companies hate him for this one amazing trick.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Different Kinds of Tires - Look Back

Rob is taking a short break from writing new blog posts.  Instead, he has selected a few posts to republish this week that he thought you might enjoy.  The first selection is from September 4 of 2012.  I have added a couple of pictures and made a couple of smaller edits.  But, if you see something that is 'out of date,' well....  that's why it is a 'retrospective.'


The original title was "Different Kinds of Tires" but it apparently also made me think of "different sorts of tired."

We've been hearing a clicking noise on the front left wheel on one of our green carts the last couple of days.  We had an idea that the weld wasn't holding.  But, of course, this was the cart that had the correct pins for pulling behind the lawn tractor during picking today.  Since Rob was the only person on the farm today, he may have been a bit more focused on doing and less on things such as.......well... keeping an eye on how the cart behind the tractor is doing.

The wheel is now resting somewhere between the field and the packing area.  Happily the swiss chard that was picked was not also strewn along the path.

I did kind of wonder why the cart snagged the hose as we went by.

These green carts are important tools on the farm.  But, they are also representative of what seems like persistent shoddy work on equipment such as this that a small farm, such as ours, might want to purchase and use.  This was a "new" wheel that replaced an older wheel that had also lost its weld.  So, in a way, it has been re-tired twice...

In any event, if you rate a cart at 800 pounds, then the cart AND the wheels should handle 800 pounds.  Now ask the question.

How many times have we actually put 800 pounds on these carts?
Answer: never.

I was not prepared for today to be as warm as it was.  And, it was a bit more humid than I expected as well.  The result was a three t-shirt day (of course).  Needless to say, I attempt to clean up my attire just a little bit for the CSA distributions.  But, sometimes I wonder if I should even bother.  Today, being a prime example.

Setting the scene:   It's been dry (yep, again).  Our road was just graded with some new gravel in places on one of the roads we take to get to Waverly.  We have a new truck and the topper has even more places to let dust in than it did before.  It was hot and humid.  I had to load what probably turned out to be half a ton of produce into the truck, then unload it and set it up for distribution.

I was wise enough to try to change shirts AFTER I loaded the truck.  But, if you've worked outside on days like today, you'll understand what I mean when I tell you that I didn't see much of the loading today.  Hey - my shirt was soaked through.  I had no dry place to wipe the sweat out of my eyes.  So, I was just guessing.

I guess the truck is here.  I guess I set that crate with cucumbers on the tail gate.  I guess I'll pick those cucumbers up since that wasn't the tail gate.

Then, of course, I had to take OFF the offensive, wet shirt and put on a new shirt.  I was in a hurry by then.  But, how do you put a nice clean shirt on when you are still stinky AND damp?  The A/C was not on in the house, so I went and stood in front of the fan.  Sorry kitty cat, I know you were downwind.

Once you arrive at the distribution, you have to unload.  Containers are NOT any lighter at this point.  So, you work up a sweat.  Once you get a bit sweaty, all of the dust that has accumulated all over your truck finds you more attractive.  In any event.  Water + Dust = Mud.  Suddenly, the nice clean shirt is sweaty and a bit muddy.  Whatever.  Please take my word for it.  I tried to improve my attire for the CSA distribution.

But, it begs the question - should I retire from improving my attire or should I tirelessly work to improve it?

Just Tired
This is perhaps the biggest reason for this silliness.  I am tired.  There are a number of things that could be done.  But I don't want to do them.  So, I wrote a blog post!


note: The pictures all came from August/September 2012.  They were not included in the original blog post.

Monday, September 21, 2020

A Week Off to Look Back

Since April, I have missed posting very few times on the Genuine Faux Farm blog.  I even announced at one point (July) that I was going to step back from the daily posting.  Since that time I may have missed a handful of days.  So... never mind.

Well, this week, from September 22 to September 26, I am going to take a break from publishing new material on this blog.  There is still plenty I would like to write about, and I expect I'll get right back on the horse with a postal history blog on Sunday and my normal witty self the following Monday.  At that point, we will see if I wish to continue with daily posts or move to the three times a week schedule I had mentioned in July.

However, I am not going to leave everyone hanging!  I am going to resurrect some older posts and re-publish them this week.  The nice thing about this is that I can schedule these posts before the week even starts.  I have lots of posts to choose from that may be worth another look.  I hope you enjoy them.

Why Take a Break from Blogging?

I won't be taking a break from writing, it's just that I have some other types of writing that I'd like to give some attention to for a few days.  It's back to that 'balance' thing I keep talking about in this blog space.  But, that's not the only reason.

I do not want to post something out here for no other reason than - I have to post something every day.  In my mind, that is a recipe for disaster.  Ok.  Disaster is an over-reaction.  But, posting just to post does risk doing something I am very much opposed to - creating a bunch of useless noise that has no depth, no breadth, and very little value to anyone, including myself.  There is already plenty of useless noise out there with minimal value.

If I am going to put things on this blog, I want to say I put some real effort into what I wrote.  I want to put thought into what is said.  I think it is important to do a little research to get things as right as I am able to.  I hope to include tidbits of new and useful information throughout.  My goal is to learn as I write - and hopefully bring a few people along on the journey too.

The danger, of course, is that I will get too far out of the habit of putting material out here.  There is much to be said with making something part of a routine.

If you like this blog, don't get too worried.  A huge part of my motivation for writing frequently is that I know there are some people who are finding value in reading these posts regularly.  It's a way I can reach out and provide something that might be of value to help us all get through each day.  Perhaps it provides a bit of a connection?  I hope so.  At least that's what I tell myself I am trying to do here.  That, and I hope I get us all to think a little harder about a bunch of things.

Time for Our Periodic Assessment

It may seem like I go through the process of 'assessing where I am' all of the time.  And, that is probably correct at some level.  However, the tail end of the growing season has been a traditional period of reassessment on the farm since the beginning.  This is usually the time when the two of us start looking deeply at how things are going.  What is going well?  What isn't?  How do we respond to issues and what opportunities do we think we should pursue?  

This year will be no different.  I was thinking we might wait to do some of that.  But, my brain is already moving in that direction.  So, maybe we should just take a little time and see what we need to see.  The brain is ready to do it, why push the rope when it has grown legs and is already moving on its own?

We have enough information about how the farm has worked (and not worked) with both of us holding down outside jobs.  We have a pretty good idea of what we can expect if we continue to follow the current growing and sales models.  We see the trend our poultry enterprise for the farm is following.  So, we need to start making some of the higher level decisions so we can make the detailed decisions in December.

This is how farming works.  You have to assess what is going on so you can decide what you are going to do for the next season before you start ordering seeds and chicks.  Before you fill out organic certification paperwork.  Before you start scheduling processing dates and recruiting for a customer base.

So, take a wild guess about what some of the content will be on during the following week.  I'll give you three guesses and the first two don't count.  Bet you'll get it right!

Up for Discussion

If you are curious as to what is up for discussion this Fall, I don't see a problem with giving a few sneak peaks.  

Our poultry are due for an enterprise budget assessment this year.  For those who do not know, this is a detailed look at both the tangible and intangible balance sheet for everything that has to do with that part of our farm.  This is also the process by which we determine if we actually get paid anything to do the work that goes with raising and selling poultry.  The base numbers only tell you so much.  You can be in the 'black' or in the 'red' and still find that final answer runs counter to what those numbers tell you.

If you have paid attention over the years, you will know we have been adjusting all of our farm operations each season.  Sometimes the changes are bigger, sometimes they are smaller.  In the last few years, it feels like we have been making more significant changes.  I don't think that trend will stop just yet.

We will, of course, be discussing how the farm credit system worked this year (and how it failed).  There will continue to be discussions about how we continue to adjust production on the farm, handle heavy rain events, and deal with the likelihood that we will (again) have no additional help on the farm next season.

Once again, we will put everything on the table and allow ourselves the opportunity to dream - and be realistic.  It will be very interesting to see where we land this time.  But, that's true every year, isn't it?

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Can't Get There Right Now

Welcome to our Sunday postal history foray!  For those not familiar, in recent weeks Sunday blogs have provided Rob with an opportunity to share a little of his hobby in a way that gives everyone a glimpse into what makes some of the things he collects interesting.  Like so many things, these will last as long as they don't become a chore for me.  If they do, I'll back off until I feel like writing them again.  Seems fair enough...

Here is a piece of mail that was sent in December of 1940 from Louisville, Kentucky to Paris, France.  At the time, airmail services overseas were becoming much more prevalent, but mailers had to pay the cost for the faster service.  The cost for a letter to France via airmail was 30 cents per half ounce instead of the 5 cent rate for surface (by boat) mail.

The back of this letter has some Christmas Seals, which probably gives us a clue that the envelope probably held a Christmas greeting of some kind - perhaps a card given the size?  But, that is not what makes this item interesting to this postal historian!

On June 14 of 1940, Germany took control of Paris.  A significant part of the population evacuated Paris and mail services were interrupted to occupied France (which included Paris).  A new, semi-autonomous government for 'unoccupied France' was established with its headquarters in Vichy in July.  Mail sent to France would be directed to Vichy-France, but there was no way to exchange mail with occupied France.  Essentially, mail for the occupied zone simply built up until...

In September of 1941, by order of the occupying authorities (Germany), mails were suspended to occupied France.  All of the mail built up waiting for a chance to be sent forward were returned to their origins.  Estimates at the time suggested between 100,000 and 180,000 pieces of letter mail were returned to the United States between September 17 and October 1 in 1941 - of which this is one!

In addition to the interesting journey, this item has a paper tape seal with the word "Controle" printed on it.  Between that paper tape and the football shaped marking, we know that a censor in Marseilles opened this envelope to inspect the contents.  Mail censorship was not an uncommon practice as authorities were concerned that military information could be leaked via the mail services - both intentionally and unintentionally.  

And this item illustrates yet again why I enjoy postal history.  A simple Christmas greeting opens the window on a broader story in history.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Is It Just Me?

I was in the mood for selecting an older farm picture to see what I could see.  The problem is - we don't have all that many photos of the farm prior to 2010.  That has something to do with no access to a digital camera.  When you had to develop film, you tended to be much more deliberate with your picture taking!

Apparently, at some point in 2007, we had brief access to a digital camera and I found a few pictures from that year, most of them taken during one of our "Tom Sawyer Days" where we invited volunteers to come help at the farm.  It was a good idea that worked for us for a few years until interest in them waned.

At the time this photo was taken, our biggest piece of equipment was a lawn tractor with a rototiller attachment.  We still set ourselves up for multiple farmers markets, our CSA number was 40-50 shares and I believe I was still doing a little adjunct teaching at Wartburg College that fall.  

My remembrance of how things looked at that time has been clouded somewhat by time, but I seem to recall trees, plants and wildlife being more vibrant than they are now.  I realize we all have a tendency to glorify the past.  But, I look at this picture and see enough that makes me feel that I just might be right.

Is it just me?

Please note that I am not saying I want to go back to 2007.  That is not the point.  The point is, I've been feeling as if the land is growing ill and has been losing its look of glowing health.  Is it because I am becoming jaded or am I observing something real?  

Sadly, the science says I just might be observing something real.  I'd like to work to reverse the process.  And, I'd like you to join me.

Friday, September 18, 2020


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


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."