Monday, May 31, 2010

Digits, Specifically TOES

Today, we'd like to talk about TOES. Two kinds in particular:
  • Tomay
  • Potay
Thanks to help from various individuals - we have been able to broadfork the potato rows. This helps loosen the soil. It is our belief that it helps the potato plants and actually is an early season effort that reduces labor later on the farm. We can get into that more later. In any event, the rows are broadforked and tilled. We have planted 2/3 of the taters we intend to put in for the season. Is it late? Not terribly. We have planted potatoes as late as June 15 and gotten a fine crop. We usually do not intend to harvest potatoes until September anyway - so this should work out fine.

And, thanks to some help from our family - we got alot of the tomatoes in today. Again, about 2/3 of the plants are in the ground. Interesting to note that the plants this year are actually BIGGER than they have been any prior year. And, we haven't done too many things differently. It is looking like it could be a very good year for them.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Weekend with Lots Going On

Ah... Memorial Day Weekend and lots going on at the farm.

- We have the Waverly Farmers' Market tomorrow AM from 8:30-11:30. We will have leeks, lettuce, spring garlic, spring onions and asparagus for eating. And...lots of tomato, eggplant, pepper and onion plants for planting. Come one, come all.

- We have a Tom Sawyer Day from 2pm to 6pm tomorrow afternoon. We encourage interested CSA and 'honorary' CSA members to come out and see what the farm looks like and how it feels to do a little work on there. We try to accommodate all skill levels, etc.

- Monday is our annual Iris Fest. This one requires no work. We ask everyone to bring something to grill (if that is your thing) and something to pass. We'll have the grill going. It is a kid friendly gathering. Bring favorite lawn games. Gathering starts at 4pm.

- Tuesday - we wonder where the weekend went.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Market Prep

Ah, it is 10pm and we're ready for market. Except for some signs, packing the truck, remembering a few other odds and ends, cleaning a table, etc etc.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

That's ALOT of pots

It's a short post, but it tells you something about the farm.

We have completed the transplant of tomatoes from tray inserts to individual pots. T does most of the potting and I am support staff for that effort. Thanks also goes out to those who provided some time putting these little guys into pots as well - you know who you are!

Potted were 1750 tomatoes.
Of those tomatoes:
  • 514 will go into production on our farm
  • 120 are at K&K Gardens in Hawkeye. Go visit them!
  • 36 are at Roots. Go visit them!
  • 129 are at Shamrock Acres. Hope they grow well!
  • 60 are already at individual homes via farmers' market sales. We spoke with them prior to sale and they know what to do.
  • 51 more are spoken for and we are training them for their future homes.
  • 65 were lost due to wind or other issues
This leaves us with 785 tomatoes looking for homes. Want some?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Farm Report

I think a quick farm report is due.

  1. The tiller attachment on the tractor is in the shop. The timing isn't horrible since fields have been too wet to till. But, it does mean some serious work has to be crammed into the 2nd half of May. We realized that this tiller attachment is not likely designed for the 5 acres of 'garden' we grow. It probably has more hours on it than most tillers of this sort get in a lifetime.
  2. Thanks to Dad, we now have several heavy-duty cold frames in which we can put plants. The up side - these are unlikely to blow away or beat on the plants. The down side - they hold fewer trays in each. We're learning how to take advantage of them though. Either way, they are an excellent addition. We'll try to get a picture out there eventually.
  3. The old hog building that has been down for a few summers is getting cleaned up and wood is being salvaged. We'll try to take some pictures of that as well.
  4. The meat chickens are doing well in their 2nd (entering their 3rd) week. Starting to see wing feathers, which means they will begin getting some outdoor time.
  5. In the ground - planting 1 of peas, broccoli, lettuce, radish, carrot, spinach, arugula, beet, cauliflower, cabbage, onion, kale, kohlrabi
  6. Cover crops are in a couple of plots. The plan calls for alot more work with them this year.
  7. Looks like we'll have a decent iris bloom this year. Nothing like a few years ago - but I don't expect we'll ever see that again.
  8. The tomato plants have a little bit of sun scalding on them, but they grow through that pretty well. It's what happens when you start hardening them off and you have cool, wet and cloudy weather - then they see the sun for the first time.
  9. Tomato transplanting is nearly done. The peppers and eggplants are now in line. We always wonder (especially T) if this process will end.
  10. The dandelion bloom is past its peak now. We've learned to kind of like these plants. They do some good things for the soil. But, they are a pain post bloom.
  11. As is expected in any of our lists - this one goes to eleven.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Slooooow Mooooootion....

Once again, R takes his Sundays away from the farm with T's (conditional) blessing and goes forth to pretend like he can play baseball. It's a good thing I've always had a good imagination.

We were missing some people, so I *got* to play in left field. We play ball in Newton, so it is a bit of a drive. But, it is the town I grew up in and played ball in - so I know the fields. And, I KNOW that I don't like the sight lines in left field on the bigger field. There are these wonderful pine trees for background. And, like most trees, they have spots where you can see the sky through them. the result for many fly balls is that you get a strobe affect as you attempt to track the ball. Frankly, I find it to be less than helpful.

I was also allowed to toss the ball from the hill in the middle of the field towards the guy with a mask behind the pentagon shaped plate. I say toss somewhat facetiously since it is more normal for me to attempt to throw the ball every bit of 55 mph that I can. Oh, wait, that IS a toss. sorry about that.

In any event, many people can refer to scenes in many movies that involve sports of any kind where they slow the motion down - either for dramatic or comedic effect. It's sad when they try for one and get the other however.

I had one of those today. Ball is tossed towards guy with mask. Offensive person with a club swings at ball I have tossed and hits it. The world slooooooooooooooows down. It's one of those plays where the ball hits the plate area and hops up to my right side. Since it isn't particularly well hit, I know already that I have to get to it for any hope of an out. Usually, when the world slows down in a movie - the play will get made. I was seriously hoping for the director to yell cut when the ball got past me. No such luck.

Ok, granted it wasn't going to be an easy play. But, I feel cheated that my dramatic/comedic movie slow down resulted in a cheap infield hit. I want a new pitching category for script writer errors!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Just Plain Tired

And that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

There are just some days where you can't summon up any more energy to do anything.

Including write a blog post for the May Blog Blitz.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tomaytoe, Tomahtoe

'Tis the season of tomato transplanting.

We start our seeds in 60 or 72 count inserts. (the standard 4 pack or 6 packs you might be familiar with seeing in a garden center) Then, we transplant them into pots before either selling them or putting them into the ground at the end of May.

So - it is tomato transplanting season. Soon to be followed by pepper and eggplant transplanting season. The task can be a bit daunting at times and keeping track of everything can be mildly difficult. But, the most difficult part has to do with finding places to PUT everything. The tomatoes in pots take alot more room.

So - come to Saturday's market in Waverly and get some tomato plants from us - that would help a great deal!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Which Came First?

Our laying flock of hens is producing well enough. Not really hitting on all cylinders (so to speak) but we still pull in around 2 dozen a day.

We collect eggs in the 18-hole cartons and bring them to a refrigerator in the garage. They reside there until we have time for an egg cleaning session. You can see what one batch of eggs to clean might look like below:

It takes a little bit of time to clean them - but that's just part of the deal when you have birds.

Some of our hens are Ameracaunas. They range in coloration and will lay green or pink eggs. They have not been the best producers for us - but the birds are fun. One of these birds has feathers in the cheek area that look a little like jowels. She had a foot injury a while a go, so moves a little slower. But, she does well enough. We've decided to call her Nixon.

Meanwhile, there is the Barnyard Supervisor. Bob has been our rooster for two and a half years now (really?). He was not feeling like posing for the camera because his comb has not yet fully recovered from Winter. Once it comes back in full, I'm sure he will pose.

We run our laying flock on what is called a "day range" system. The birds are closed into a 'safe' room at night and let out in the morning to run in a fenced in pasture. The pasture area is largely grass & clover with a few fruit trees. Of course, some of the hens find their way out of the pasture every day and check out the yard area in front of the barn. It gets annoying - but evidently not enough to get me to redo all the fences in their pasture.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Spring Flowers

Many people may not realize this - but prior to the vegetable farm, we were avid perennial flower gardeners. Actually, we still enjoy our perennials - but we have a difficult time keeping up with them during the growing season.

We are in the process of attempting to pull perennials out of our old flower beds and moving them up by the house in hopes that they can be maintained. Here's hoping!

But, Spring is always full of hope - and the early bloomers are doing well enough for us:



Bleeding Heart


Pasque Flower

Sunday, May 9, 2010

One of THOSE Days

Yes, it was one of those days - or perhaps - it was a couple of those days?

The cold weather and high winds brought their own issues. In the last week, we've had two days with significantly high sustained winds. The first bout with the wind cost a fair number of tomato, broccoli and lettuce seedlings. The second bout cost us one of our cold frames as it decided to take a trip across and down the road last night.

What does this mean for us? We have to build some heavier cold frames and take the time and resources to build something more permanent to handle our seedlings. And, we need to do that quickly.

Then, there is last night's and this night's cold weather. That means all of the seedlings needed to get moved into the garage to stay warm enough for the night. We've handled this just fine. But, it does mean that you spend the time moving the plants around to get them in there and still be able to do work. Whatever, we were already moving plants out of cold frames in order to save what we could from the wind.

Oh, and today was a farmers' market day in Waverly. It was difficult to stay motivated on Friday to pick for a market where we were pretty certain the turnout would be poor. But, we still picked and cleaned the leeks, lettuce, carrots, asparagus and kale. We made a selection of tomato plants, etc. And - we made ourselves go to market. A few brave folks did come to market. For that, we are most grateful. But, as we expected, we came home with a fair amount of produce.

Unfortunately, the kicker to all of this occurred this evening when we went out to do evening chicken chores. We have, er, HAD several hen chicks. But, found all but one missing from the box. The meat chicks appeared to be fine. After some work, we discovered all of the chicks wedged behind the box. Evidently a rat has decided that they are tasty. And, in the tradition of critters like this on our farm - you can't kill just one. So, we have one hen chick left.

This meant we had to slap together more protection for the meat chickens for the night. It also means that we know what we are doing tomorrow, despite the original plans for the day. Hopefully a two pronged plan of rat removal and new lids for the boxes will solve the problem.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

"The Safety Plantz" by a Man with a Hat

The Dance of the Seedling Trays got me thinking about a certain tune. Then I started playing with different words for that song. I couldn't help myself - so here it is:

Revised lyrics for the Genuine Faux Farm to the tune "Safety Dance" by Men Without Hats

We can plant if we want to
We can leave clean hands behind
'Cause the seeds must grow and if they don't grow
We're in the unemployment line
I say, weeds can grow where they want to
Drive us out of our mind
But we can act like we care for this world
Leave the herbicides far behind
And we can plant

We can sow when we want to
The soil is warm, so we can try
And we can mess with peat, spend some time on our feet
And surprise 'em with the brocco-lie!
Say, we'll make a pact if you want to
If we don't, tell me who will?
And you can eat real food, good taste we'll include
And I can be green with chlorophyll!

I say, we can sow, we can plant
Everything out in the ground
We can hoe, we can till
We're doing it from field to field
We can weed, we can mulch
Everybody look at our hands
We can wash, we can scrub
Nothing is gettin' them cle - e - ean!

We can water 'cuz we need to
We've got our seedling trays in line
As long as they could use it, not gonna refuse it
Everything'll work out right
I say, we can plant if we want to
We'll be plantin' all the time
'Cause the seeds must grow and if they don't grow
Well we're in the unemployment line

[Refrain in early Spring when it could still frost or freeze]

Is it safe to plant, oh is it safe to plant? [6x]


The original lyrics of Safety Dance can be found here:

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Mississippi in early Spring

Recent travels took us up to River Falls, Wisconsin so T could present at and attend the Sustainability Conference being held on the campus there.

Both the drive up and back was during beautiful weather and we took the time on the return trip to treat ourselves to some excellent Wisconsin cheese curds. Yep, it's nice to get EXTREMELY fresh cheese curds from Ellsworth, WI. Might be worth a special trip just for that in the future.

We also made sure to take some back roads and enjoy the rolling hills. Once we got to the Mississippi River, we broke out the camera in an effort to catch something interesting. In particular, we were hopeful that the bald eagles we saw while we were IN the vehicle might come by while we were OUT of the vehicle.

While that didn't happen - we did come across an interesting shot or two.

First, it's always nice to have signs to instruct us. Otherwise, we might have had a problem getting started again.

Otherwise, the textures one finds before everything greens up and the reflections in the calm backwater provided for some decent opportunities.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

May Blog Blitz & Some News

The farm news -

- Yesterday's winds were extremely strong out at the farm. We estimate consistent winds of 40 mph and gusts from 45-50mph out here. No wind gauge, so we can't be certain. Our cold frames were pretty well beaten up, along with many of our plants. We are now working to correct the problem as best we can with the time we have. Every year, we have an event along these lines. And, every year, we think we've taken some steps. It looks like this Spring we are going to have to just 'bite the bullet' and do some construction projects that never quite get done because we feel we don't have the resources to complete them. So - stay tuned for more. The plant losses can be dealt with. We lost some tomatoes, we lost some brassica and some lettuce. So, some of our succession plantings won't happen and we may have to substitute for a couple of varieties. Nothing major - but it sure can feel like it when you're dealing with it!

The Blog Blitz -

We admit that we have fallen down on the job of writing for the blog and producing newsletters of late. It is a little like exercise. If you quit for a while, it can be hard to re establish the routine. However, we still believe it is important to communicate with others what goes on with our farm - so, we are attempting to crank up our efforts on BOTH the blog and our newsletter in conjunction with the increasing and expanding farm work.

It probably seems a bit odd to add effort to effort. But....

The blog provides us with a place to record events on the farm and reflect on them. It serves to communicate with our CSA members and other farm customers. It also provides us with a place to analyze how the season is going and think about what we should do next or should not do in the future. It also provides us with a record of events that we can refer to later when needed.

In fact, the blog can be very useful to us in the Winter time when we are trying to figure out how the year went, where we went wrong and (hopefully) where we went right.

So, here's hoping you get some interesting reading and we get some useful writing done this season.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mr Wren's Day

Staff Writer: Mr Wren's Day

Rob is currently out standing in his field (still/again). Mr. Wren has agreed to contribute to this month's newsletter by outlining a typical day in his busy life. Reprinted from our August 2008 newsletter by popular request - AND in honor of Mr.Wren's return to the farm on the first of May.

4:45 AM - Get up

4:46 AM - Sing about the upcoming day. Remind the lazy/sleepy humans that they should get moving soon.

5:03 AM - eat a tasty gnat or two

5:04 AM - Sing about how gullible gnats can be

5:36 AM - Gather twigs for the nest, making sure to sing about each acquisition

5:57 AM - My, that was a tasty...what was that thing? It had six legs - whatever.

5:59 AM - sing about the tasty six-legged thing

6:13 AM - be amused by the sleepy looking human

6:14 AM - sing about morning, in an effort to wake the human further

6:15 AM - look industrious in an effort to provide a positive role model for the human

6:16 AM - sing about my good deed for the day

continued singing/eating/nest building

7:24 AM - Scold the cat

7:26 AM - sing about my bravery while flitting wildly from branch to branch in an effort to impress Mrs Wren

7:32 AM - take a break - Mrs Wren isn't buying it

7:44 AM - write a newsletter entry - then go about my business for the remainder of the day.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

First Market of Spring

We set up for our first farmers' market of Spring with the Waverly Farmers' Market on May 1st.

Unlike many first markets, the weather was beautiful. Mostly clear with bright sunshine. A bit more of a cool wind than was entirely comfortable for the vendors who had to stand in it for 4 hours, but hard to complain when you know what it COULD have been like.

The interesting difference for us this year is that the Waverly Farmers' Market was hosted by the Health Fair at the W this year. We set up outside the northeast doors and had the option of moving inside if the weather turned ugly. What a nice situation to have!

On the whole, we felt this was an excellent opportunity to remind members of the community that we do, indeed, have a farmers' market in town. And, yes, we like it when customers visit us!

The vendors were prepared for this market and had a very diverse set of wares available. The traffic at our tables was good and we all felt that the event was a success.

If you have not become a regular at the Waverly Farmers' Market, we encourage you to consider becoming one. The vendor pool is growing and the existing vendors are getting better at having good product available throughout the season. But, this increase in available product can only continue if the demand also continues to grow. There is nothing more demoralizing than working hard to raise quality foods and having a poor market for that product.

Keep coming - make suggestions - talk to the vendors about what you might like to see. There is energy to continue improving our market - keep fueling it with your enthusiasm for fresh, local products.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Dance of the Seedling Trays

During the months of April and May, we have a very large number of plants that are in trays or pots. And, as plants grow, they get moved around to harden the plants off and prepare them for their lives in the good earth.

Add to this the fact that we are working harder this season to implement better succession planting plans and you have...

the Dance of the Seedling Trays!

There are 10 newly planted trays for lettuce. Currently, they are in the middle of the lawn. They can't stay there - so they have to move. The oldest brassica trays number about 10 and they need to go in the ground during the next couple of days. At present, these reside in carts. The onion starts are in the cold frames, but they also need to go into the ground, so they must be removed from the cold frames. the tomato seedlings need to be transplanted into pots and then put into the coldframes. the peppers and eggplants are very small and will stay under lights with heat mats for a while before they, too, are transplanted. The flowers need to be tranplanted into pots or to the ground soon.

And, there is a lot more to plant in trays very soon.

If we had neighbors living closer to us, they might be a bit amused by the site of what must appear to be pointless tray carrying from one place to another on a nearly daily basis.

Ok, I suspect our neighbors are amused anyway.