Tuesday, November 30, 2010

HI! Tunnel

The extended season CSA is well underway.  Actually, we are delivering week 5 produce today!

Our plan is to deliver for eight weeks.  But, since we have never done this before - we take each week as it comes.

One thing that is nice about it.  I picked produce in the tunnel for a few hours yesterday.  It was raining.  Temps were in the low 40's.  It was breezy.

And I was working in all of that.  But, I was dry and relatively warm.  What a nice benefit.

I could type much more on this - but instead, I will copy an email I sent out to the members of this extended season CSA:

Status of crops in the tunnel:
   We are learning a good deal as we go.  One moment, we are certain we'll get to eight weeks, the next we aren't so sure.  Last week's weather was a challenge to the whole system as temps made single digits on the farm and it did not go above freezing for several days.  The X-factor is the presence of sunshine.  One of those very cold days saw temps rise in the tunnel to 50 degrees with some sun.  Other days have easily reached 60.

We have noted that some of the quality of certain lettuce varieties, etc may not be as high as we would like because things DO freeze in the high tunnel.   And, when we say that, we are not indicating that the quality of taste is low.  We are largely referring to the way the produce looks. You'll find some singed edges and a few spots that clearly froze.  If we have a choice, we'd prefer to give you greens with minimal blemishes. But, we are also NOT going to waste perfectly good food.

So, if we get a long stretch with no sun and very cold weather, we will likely have very little left to give.  However, we have added an additional layer of remay (a white gauze cover) on the crops during this next cold, cloudy stretch.  This helps to insulate the crops and keep them warmer for longer.  When the sun comes back out, we'll remove the remay so the soil can serve as a solar collector.

We are noticing that things are growing *very* slowly at this point.  This was expected.  But, it does mean that some things may not continue to appear at the rate you have received them up to this week (week 5). Collards and kale are not growing new leaves at a speed that is conducive to cutting.

What to expect for the remaining three weeks:
   You will receive garlic every week.  We are fairly confident in the lettuce.  There may be one more cutting of collards and kale left in them.  Mustard and arugula probably will continue to be involved and we think another chard cutting can happen.  The broccoli will not set, so that experiment was only a success in that we learned better timing for them.  The kohlrabi *may* be big enough to cut, but they'll be on the smaller side.  The spinach is sneaky and seems to keep growing, so it
looks like a good option for continuing.  And, we have enough large pok choi for 2 of 3 weeks.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Favorite Holiday

Every year, I am reminded that Thanksgiving truly is my favorite holiday.  It's foci are friends, family, food and (because I can't think of another word to maintain the alliterative style) the blessings of living.

Once again, we had the big farm-raised turkey.  We happily consumed fresh rolls, fresh greens from the high tunnel and lots of other good stuff.  All of our parents and my sister joined us for the day.  And, the two little "nibsters" (the kittens) behaved and actually slept and looked cute through most of the celebration.  Good conversations were had and a game was played and everyone seemed content to be together for a time.  Even the laying hens were given special treats to eat! 

Thank you to our families for being supportive and loving throughout the year.  There are so many things that would not happen on this farm if you weren't involved in some way. 

Thank you to our friends, who are willing to wade through our comments about lettuce and wheel hoes only to find out we are actually serious about these things.  And, yet, you still let us hang out with you.

Thank you to all of our CSA members past and present.  The CSA model is a good thing.  The small, local farm is a good thing.  Neither could be more than nice concepts without the people who make the effort to do the work worthwhile.

Thank you to all who buy from our farmers' market.  Thank you to the buyers for institutions and organizations that support local farms such as our own.  We're all learning and getting better at this every year.

Thank you to our peers who also try to make small, local, organic, sustainable agriculture work.  We commiserated during some difficult growing seasons.  Let's remember to celebrate together when things go well.

Thank you to fine organizations that support the things we do.  The conferences, gatherings, learning, research and opportunities to connect with others in our field (no - not THAT field, the OTHER one) are of great value to us.

It's good to be alive.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

You know you've worked on the farm too long when ...

  • ...you see the words "harrowing experience" for a Halloween advertising and you immediately think of a using a farming implement.  
  • ...someone asks you how you are doing and you say, "the lettuce looks good."
  • ...you know there are cobwebs on your hat from the barn.  You've had people point it out to you.  And, you still haven't cleaned them off.
  • ...you'd like to CHUCK the wood at the woodchuck.
  • ... there is a small jolt of surprise when you meet someone who doesn't know what kale is...or kohlrabi, bok choi, etc (sorry, had to stick with k's).
  • ... there are six or more shovels in your possession and you wonder if you should buy a *few* more.
  • ... you strain your neck trying to look behind farm buildings and in the tall grasses by farmsteads for tools that might be useful to you.
  • ... someone asks you what you've been doing lately and you are tempted to say, "Lemme esplain...no, there is too much.  Lemme sum up."  (See Princess Bride)
  • ... you edit your comments regarding other peoples' response or opinions about the weather.
  • ... you editorialize about the weather to whomever will listen (or appears to listen)
  • ... all of your analogies seem to refer to farming, vegetables, poultry or the weather.
  • ... most of the catalogs on the end table have pictures of drip irrigation, greenhouse heaters, chickens, tractors or tomatoes on them.
  • ... the back entry has six or more pairs of shoes/boots for two people.  
  • ... every shoe on the back entry seems to have poo on the bottom of it when you need one that does not.
  • ... someone asks if you like tomatoes and you reply with a diatribe about heirloom versus hybrids, the relative merits of trellising techniques and the yield levels of three of your favorite varieties.
  • ... a picture promoting a cross country team makes you wonder if you could convince them to train on the farm by either fetching the needed tools, taking the harvested produce back to the packing are or (worse yet) you consider hitching them up to plows or cultivators.
  • ... you appreciate Winter for the physical break it gives.
  • ... your biggest gripe about Winter has less to do with cold, wind, snow or ice and MORE to do with the lack of daylight hours so you can do work outside.
  • ... the line between 'just enough farm talk' and 'too much farm talk' in casual conversation is too readily crossed.
  • ... your dreams include giant turkeys chasing you with a wheel hoe.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Late night stuff

In an effort to get farm news out there we throw out a late night set of blurbs in list format:

  • The turkeys are sold out at this time.  But, we have been able to link people up with some other sources.  Thank you to all who ordered birds this year and worked with us to get them delivered.  It is appreciated.
  • The kittens are growing and getting into more and more things.  The training of the humans is going forward despite some bumps in the road.
  • After the start of the season - especially June, we couldn't make ourselves believe we would be happy to see rain.  But, after many weeks with absolutely no rain - we're happy to get some.  But, it sure is hard to get used to working in cold, wet conditions.
  • Things in the high tunnel are nice and green.  It has been a pleasure working in there on cooler days.
  • The big maple tree that has been growing out of the foundation of one of our buildings is now down.  This is good.  But, now there is a big mess to clean up.
  • We are slowly, but surely, catching up with all of the paperwork that never seems to get done in late summer -early fall.  
  • We will be taking a trip to Ames on Nov 22 to present at the Iowa Organics Conference.  Should be fun.
  • We are taking deposits of $25 to hold a spot in next year's CSA.  We anticipate that next year's production will be very different from this year's.  Take that in whatever way you wish!  Suffice it to say,we are taking measures to improve production on the farm and become more resilient to adverse weather conditions.  

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    Busy Week/End

    Things have really been hopping on the farm the last several days.  Hopping and hindered - to be more precise.

    First - for those who are looking for email contact from us at the farm - there has been a bit of a problem.  It seems that I am too proficient with my group email typing and sending.  We went over a limit of emails to be sent in an hour and had a block put on us so we could not send out email.  We could receive them, but nothing was outgoing.  Webmail is painful with the rural connection. So.... for those of you who DO read the blog - this is why we haven't responded to emails in a timely fashion.  For those who don't - well - why aren't you reading this?  You'd know why we haven't responded to your emails now!

    On to funner things...

    CSA - the CSA ended last week with our last set of distributions.  While we remain disappointed with the absence of long season crops such as winter squash and potatoes, we are quite pleased with our effort at providing produce through a series of short season crops.  Some surprises from the summer high tunnel planting didn't hurt during the last couple of weeks either.

    Extended season - we are running an extended season CSA.  At present we have five subscribers and will make our first delivery on Tuesday.  We have space enough for 20.

    Winter Market - there will be a Winter Market on November 6 from 8:30 to 11:30 and the Waverly Community Center.  We will be there with high tunnel produce at the ready.  The first Saturday in December will see another harvest market in Waverly.  

    Kittens - Yes, Hobnob and Bree are good little kittens.  They find ways to force the humans to waste time.  This is why we waited until fall to get kittens.  Smart move, that.  At present, they are confined to the kitchen.  But, the problem with this is that the only exits from the house are through the kitchen.  I think you have ideas as to where this is going.

    Silver maple - The giant silver maple that has been growing right next to the foundation of the garage is now horizontal by design.  The skyline looks mighty strange with it down.  The yard area looks like a big clean up job now.  We really would have preferred to keep the tree.  But, when it is threatening to one of your few buildings that is in very good repair...  We did buy a sunburst locust tree that might find its way out there.

    High tunnel - The high tunnel was moved from the west position to its east position on Saturday.  Many thanks to Jeff, Ben and Sam for the help.  Five seems to be the perfect number of people to execute the move.  Two people pushing, two keeping roll bars up and one in the tunnel making sure nothing needs attention (wheels on track, tbars obstructing wheels, etc).  There were also some repairs made to minor damage from high winds during the week.  Just one more thing to repair and it's back to where it was (and better).

    Brrrrr - The weather got really cold on us Thursday night.  Of course, the high tunnel had not yet been moved over the crops in that patch, so we needed to get them covered.  The problem?  Lots and lots of high wind.  Can't cover things with that.  Oh, and the last Thursday CSA distribution required our attention first.  So, we were putting covers on plants that already had frost on them at about 10pm at night.  Plants actually handled the cold better than the wind.  Not too surprising.

    Freaky Friday - We got up very early to take turkeys to the processor.  Came back and did the things we have to do after that.  Got a surprise visit from the people who took our tree down.  Picked up turkeys, delivered some, took others to rented locker space until delivery - etc. 

    New computer - I am finally at a point where MOST of my work can be done on the new computer.  Transitions to a new computer can be a problem when your old machine is seven years old.  Little surprises - like no PCMCIA slot - can result in extra time spent trying to get things to go.  Guess I timed this one just right for the phase out of that technology.