Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Who Thinks This is Cool?

We do!

We consider this a great Christmas gift - a very rare sighting of a Snowy Owl in Iowa.  This was located on Highway 9, just east of Armstrong on the morning of December 24.  We have been told there are 63 snowy owls documented in Iowa of which this is one, so it is not a 'new' discover.  They have come further South due to food shortages in Canada. (Thank you Kip for the info!)  To give you an idea of the rarity, we lived in Duluth for a year and were told seeing snowy owls there was uncommon.

Snowy owls are diurnal, so it was not necessarily odd to see this one in broad daylight.  Descriptions of this bird also indicate that they may let spectators, such as ourselves, get relatively close.  Prior to the sighting, neither of us had those facts in our personal databases, so we were even more amazed by its presence.  Apparently it is perfectly normal that it should size us up in broad daylight.

Tammy was driving and saw the bird first.  She slowed and did a U-turn - not telling Rob why.  Her reason was that she didn't believe what she thought she saw and didn't want to say what it was until she could confirm it.  Rob's excuse is that she had asked him a question that involved looking at a map (otherwise he would also have seen it the first time...... HA!  Ok, who knows....but it sounds like a good excuse).

An additional bit of irony for the sighting:  We were listening to a book on tape at the time.  Harry Potter (book 1).  But, prior to Harry getting his Snowy Owl, Hedwig. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Promises of a New Year - Favorite Faux Phauxtos #3

Third in a series of photos we like with various and sundry attached musings.

This installment features some of the wildflowers on the farm.  The area pictured below isn't quite as big as it looks and its origins were not nearly as wild or wonderful as it is now.  But, the Rudebekia, Shasta Daisies, Coneflower, Blue Flax, Monarda and Gaillardia are enjoyable nonetheless.

Tammy and I were avid perennial flower gardeners in addition to our vegetable garden prior to our starting the Genuine Faux Farm.  In fact, we moved multiple truckloads of perennials down to the farm from our prior home when we moved.  We also had a penchant for buying seed for various perennials and trying to start them (both in pots and the ground).  The humble beginnings of this area on our farm was as a nursery area where we direct seeded a bunch of perennial flower seed just to see what would happen.

Many of the seed packets were old and we didn't expect much.  We set out neat rows, put in row markers and hand seeded into the soil our first Spring on the farm.  The initial intention was that any plants that started successfully would be integrated into our carefully laid out and cultivated perennial gardens nearby.  I guess we thought that any plant that survived in this area deserved graduation to our featured garden areas.

Sure enough, many of the seeds did nothing.  But, those that came from 'wilder' stock did better.  It was a good lesson in seed viability.  And, as you can likely surmise, we never did get around to transplanting those plants that got a start in this area.  Instead, it was one of those tasks we never quite got around to.  As a result, the plants that took produced their own seed.  Suddenly, we had a patch of wild flowers.  Every year it changes a bit.  Every year we think we might wade in there and yank the weeds that inevitably incorporate themselves into the mix.  But, despite our intentions, we do a little with it and then let it be what it is.

Our farm is, at many levels, alot like this perennial bed.  We went through the process of creating a business plan and working hard to prepare ourselves prior to our first year of running a CSA.  We had an elaborate set of documents.  We had big ideas.  We set about to make them happen to the best of our abilities.  We laid out the rows.  We set out markers.  We planted.

We had intentions that we never quite got to.  We had others that we did.  And, there are others that we still intend to get to.  Our initial plan called for us to stop at a 40 member CSA.  We had 100 members this year and have had as many as 120.  In the beginning, we didn't have a vision that had Rob working on the farm as his full-time job, we planned that he would work part time doing other things.  There were no thoughts of high tunnels, Ford 8n tractors, eight sandpoint shovels or summer workers beyond a few volunteers or periodically hired kids from the community.  Chickens, turkeys and ducks?  Are you kidding?  Why would we do that?  Ironically, some of the best things that have happened on the farm came from events, choices or plans that seemed most difficult, least clear and most risky to us at the time.

There are still vestiges of that first set of plans that are the underpinnings of what we do today.  And, much of those foundations are solid points from which we could begin our journey.  Like this wildflower bed, it became something more than we envisioned.  We still plan great things and we accomplish as much as we are able or are allowed each year.  Yet in the end, we still have to stand back and realize that our farm is what it is.

Every year, there is beauty, there is change, there is success and there is failure.  While our wild flower patch of a farm takes a rest this Winter, there are dreams of how next year will be.  There are new plans and new ambitions.  We will accomplish much, we will fail often (even as we strive to fail less often than we succeed).  Yet, there will still be something wonderful that comes of it.

May there be wildflowers for all of you in the new year!

White Christmas - Favorite Faux Phauxtos #2

Part 2 of a series where we feature photos we like. 

We just got a quarter to a half inch of snow on the 22nd of December. The likelihood that it will stay until Christmas this year is low.  So, here is one of our favorite snowy/frosty day pictures to help you get into the seasonal mood.

We've found a good hoar frost is a great opportunity for pictures on the farm.  And, this is one that has grown on me over time.  This picture was taken (we think) in 2010.

One of the best things about living on the farm is the requirement that we go outside frequently.  Of course, we spend much more time inside during the Winter months, but we still get out there.  And, because we do, we don't miss the wide variety of clothing nature gives our surroundings.  That is, we don't miss it as long as we take a moment to stop trudging to the barn or compost pile or wherever the poultry are right now and raise our heads for a good look around.  Yes, sometimes that means wiping the tears from our eyes that a strong North wind can cause in cold weather, but we still do it.

A hoar frost, like the one above, comes when there is an ice fog, which implies little to no wind.  While pictures of hoar frost in the sun can be amazing, this one reminds me of the feel of that day better than many.  The stillness, the silence and the beauty made it difficult to want to do more than turn in circles in a single spot.  Why would you want to infringe on the silence by taking a step?

This picture, and the day it was taken, reminds me to think about things I like.  Textures, sounds and colors that I find fascinating.  It also reminds me to be calm and remember people, places and things I am fond of. 

We hope everyone can find a moment of peace to reflect on what they love.

Again, Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hope for a New Day - Favorite Faux Phauxtos

Like many things we might like to do, this mini-project may end up being only one blog post long.  Or, it may become a small series if the mood strikes.  Every once in a while, the creative bone my body wants to do something.  In this case, we've recorded some nice pictures of the farm (and elsewhere) that we enjoy sharing.  And, many of those pictures make us think things that might also be worth sharing.

So, here is our first offering of what we consider to be excellent pictures.  Remember, we are not trained photographers, nor do we claim to know anything about composition, etc etc. 

If you want to get a better view, click on the picture and view it at a larger size.

This picture was taken in mid-July of 2010, in the evening after a rainy and stormy day.  We don't recall if we got more rain right after that or not.  But, the background story here is that we had been getting lots of rain at the time.  We were watching plants die as they drowned in standing water in our fields.  And, there wasn't a single thing we could do about it.

Normally, at this time of year, we're beginning to ramp up the quantity of vegetables in our shares.  We should have been looking forward to the increase in crop availability and diversity - and worrying about how we would pick and distribute it all.  But, instead, we were dreading having to tell people that we'd lost more crops.  We did not look forward to going to CSA distributions feeling like we had to apologize for less than stellar amounts of produce.  On top of it all, we'd just invested a huge chunk of money in putting up our high tunnel.  Doubt, fear, worry, stress and fatigue were all appropriate words to describe our state of being at the time.

You might figure a picture of a dark, stormy or brooding sky would be appropriate for how we felt at the time.  And, perhaps it would be.  Except I remember how we felt when we saw this evening sky and how beautiful it was.  It was the end of the day.  We were tired.  We were depressed.  And, we still ran to grab the camera in order to take a couple dozen shots.

Soon after that, things began to dry out and we started to shift our focus to growing lots of short season fall crops.  We fought through the adversity even though we were sorely tempted to tell everyone we were finished for the year.  And, best of all, we reminded ourselves of our blessings and the positive things in our lives - including the ability to recognize and enjoy nature's beauty.

Lest you think that the trials of 2010's growing season ended when July did, we can truly say that we are still fighting battles that began during that difficult time.  But, we can also point to dozens of innovations and alterations in what we do, how we do it and how we think about it that came as a result of the struggles we went through at that time.  And, we can also tell you how valuable these changes have been for us.

Perhaps this sky reminded us to hope.  And in doing so, it gave us something more.  A will to persevere and live life.  And...

It's just a darned good looking picture.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Rob & Tammy

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Meals on Wheels?

Wednesday is going to be an interesting day.  Please note, this is where you are supposed to say...

"Really?  What's so interesting about Wednesday?"

Why, thank you for asking.  We're ever so glad you did and we'll do our best to be polite and keep it brief and interesting.   After all, we are aware that we normally have trouble with the first and sometimes wonder if we can achieve the second.

Let me open by saying that we picked 89 eggs yesterday from our hens.  Granted, we picked a little later than usual, so this is going to be high for a daily output anyway.  But, suffice it to say that the hens are doing what we *knew* they would do.  They somehow realize when our CSA deliveries are done and when it becomes less convenient to get eggs to people.  So, they increase production.  We've already moved 16 dozen this week and intend to deliver another 18-19 dozen tomorrow.  Yeek!

On another front, the twice a year event of getting pork from the Berlage family has its Winter iteration.  The pork is ready to be picked up and we will be doing so tomorrow.  Normally we do two hogs with them, but they asked if we could help move a third hog this Winter.  We were, happily, able to help them do this by arranging a cooperative buy (we pool resources with other people since we can only eat so much pork ourselves).  There are fifteen families involved in this purchase and we intend on delivering tomorrow.

Then there is the matter of the last duck and one of the last few turkeys available for sale (hint hint, we still have 2-3 turks).  The duck will be delivered with a pork portion.  The turkey goes somewhere else.  But, you had to know there was more poultry involved somehow.

Then, there is the issue of an electronics purchase that didn't have all the parts, some brochures that need delivering and two humans that intend on riding *inside* the vehicle.

Do the math....

Two humans, three pigs, nineteen dozen eggs, a twenty-six pound turkey and a duck - all in one car.  Yes, we intend on putting all of this in the Honda.  Yes, we may change our minds and go in the truck too. 

I don't know if we've had this much fun putting alot of odd stuff in/on a subcompact vehicle since the day we put a buffet (piece of furniture) on the trunk of our Saturn.  That, as many might say, is another story....and maybe we'll tell it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Best Posts for 2011

A jury of one has selected what were thought to be some of the best posts of the Genuinely Faux blog for 2011.  You can help us select the posts from this year that go onto the left side bar of the blog (where we put our best posts all time).  Give us some feedback here or via our email address.  And, hey, if you think the jury of one missed a better post, tell us!

There's Snow Business Like...

Traveling for the Amused
Talking the Talk (more vocabu...)

Black and Blue Division
New Lyrics by A Man With a Hat
Mad Dash

One for the Record Books
The Day of "No Rain"
All We are Saying...

Bird Brains
Bird Brains II
Splish Splash

Not So Marigolds

Dusty Roads and Other Adventures
Bugga Boo!
The Fried Egg Fairy

Box of Maple

Irony and Other Cool Words
It Really Shouldn't Be This Hard

Thursday, December 8, 2011

It Really Shouldn't Be This Hard

There it is.  The hose reel.  Doesn't seem like a terribly complex contraption.  Also, it seems like a pretty good idea on our farm when we are often dealing with 300-400 feet of hose at a time.

Since I am also an academic (read in, thinks he has to know more then he should before he acts and believes such information is findable), I had to do some reading and researching to find the best made hose reels for 400+ feet of hose.  All this within, of course, normal monetary and time constraints.  We settled on a particular model with "no-flat" tires and heavier gauge steel construction.  It seemed pretty good on paper.  So, we made the order.

First thing of note - we made this order early in the growing season so we could put them together and get used to using them throughout the growing season.  Every tool has a learning curve, even something as simple as this.  For example, if all 400 feet are 'played out' and you want to roll it all up, you would do well to drag it back towards the reel *first*.  Why?  You're trying to pull *alot* of weight otherwise and the cart is not heavy/stable enough to stay still while you try to turn the wheel.

But, that's not really a part of the story.  The real story goes something like this:

Early May: We make the order with a company that shall remain nameless but will (in the future) be orderless from us.

Mid to Late May: Two boxes (with two reels) arrive two and a half weeks later.  Allow 10-14 days delivery.  Ok, we can forgive that.  Boxes look a little rough, but it is the contents that count.

early to mid June: We were ready to put these together  about a week prior to their arrival.  Now, other things are taking our time.  So, it is two+ weeks later when we have a rainy day and time to put these together.
Box #1 is opened.  Instructions are found.  I begin to lay parts out and compare to the parts list in the instructions.  I give up when I realize the small parts do not match the list.  But, it seems like the parts do match the instructions for assembly.
Assembly begins.  The base is assembled, wheels put on .  The hose reel drum is assembled.  The handle is assembled and put on the base.
Now, to put the reel drum onto the base you need the handle that serves as the crank.  The picture doesn't show it well, but it is on the right end of the pictured item.
Where is the crank?  What?  Really?  No crank?!?
Really.  And no way to put the drum on the base without it.
Box #2 is opened.  All parts removed and inspected.  No crank.

Next Day in June:

Phone call made.  We request cranks.  Two to be exact.
"Sorry, the cranks are on back order.  But, we will ship two more reel kits.  You can take out the cranks and then have the remainder shipped back to us. "
We suggest they just take the cranks out themselves, save on shipping and just send those cranks.
"No. We can't do that.  It's the whole box or nothing."
We suggest they OPEN the boxes before shipping to be sure there are cranks in each box.

Mid to late June: Ten days later.  Two boxes arrive.   Better timing.  Boxes still look pretty rough.
We open one box.    There is, in fact, a crank.  We finish the first cart.
We open the other box.  There is no crank.  But, the packing list *does* say "open boxes to make sure crank is in the box."  Before you say someone only opened one of the two, consider that this packing list with the instruction  to open boxes was INSIDE the box without a crank.

Next Day: Phone call #2.  We inform them of our case number and ask them to arrange to pick up two boxes.  We also inform them that we are still short one crank.  So, maybe they could either:
a. open a box and send us a crank
b. pick up three boxes and leave us alone with only one working hose reel and refund our money for one of the two reels.

They choose option c - pick up two boxes and send us another full box with the whole assembly.

Some point in July:
Two boxes go away and a new one appears.  It is immediately opened while the UPS guy watches.  It has a crank.  We suggest he can take the other crankless one too, but he cannot do so.  He only has an order to ship two.
Cart #2 gets put together at some point thereafter.

We also were good people and made a call to get the company to arrange another pickup for the 3rd box with a crankless reel.    We kept the box where we could get to it easily and, in fact, put it prominently in front of the garage when we went somewhere so UPS would see it if they came when we were not around.   I think I only tripped over it a few times.

It's December.  I moved that box into the granary for the Winter.   I suspect they have enough inventory on hand for the crankless hose reels already. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Irony and other Cool Words

Back in March of 2009, we used the title "Irony" and my brain had some memory of it.  So, I hunted it up and you can feel free to take the link if you are curious.

Tammy and I have one smallish television in the house.  We do not have satellite tv, we can't get cable, internet is too slow and the bandwidth isn't there and we don't have a converter box.  In short, the tv is there to watch dvd's.  That's all there is to it.

So, what should appear in our mailbox yesterday?  A large envelope from the Nielsen Ratings.  Yes, they want our household to tell them what we watch on television.  We realize they use a random sampling technique, so we should be just as likely as anyone else to be asked our opinions.  But - if they only *knew*!

We were just going to toss the envelope, but for some reason I opened it.  What should fall out but two crisp one dollar bills.  Fresh from the printer (hmmmm).  They also included a SASE.  So....why not?  How do we answer the "What are your three favorite TV shows?" question?  Or the one about our normal TV watching time?   What we probably should have done was select some of the long since terminated shows we have watched in the past, or bother to see on DVD.  Maybe I should have said "Sesame Street."  You can't go wrong with that show.

We haven't, according to my memory, focused on this word before - so you'll just have to deal without a link to another post!  And, if you are on limited internet time, that would be fortuitous for you.

For each of the past three seasons we have worked hard to figure out our field plans and our seed orders.  But, for some reason, we always seem to be ordering our seed in February - March.  This can be a bit late if you want to order the bulk amounts of certain seeds that our farm requires.  As a result, we find ourselves looking for substitutes in a few cases.  Not the end of the world, but a bit of a pain.

So, this year, we are looking to get our seed orders in earlier.  We received our Johnny's catalog at the end of last week and Rob has already gone through the whole thing from front to back.  Evidently in the mood for this sort of thing.  Now that we have an idea of what interests us in the Johnny's catalog, we need some of the others to arrive in our mailbox.

What should arrive today? The Seed Savers catalog.  Now, if we can get another one on Wednesday and the next on Friday, we'll be in great shape!  In fact, that would be fortuitous.  (note: Tuesday's mail brought us the Fedco catalog!)

Now, here's a word I've always liked.  But, I can't always get my voice to say it without messing it up.  So, I'll type it instead!

Every so often, it seems like one or both of us pick up on things much quicker than normal.  In other words, we exhibit a higher perspicacity at those times.  Last week was not likely one of those weeks for me.  So, if I came across as a bit thick....sorry.  I got better (I hope).  At least I'm trying to refine my vocabulary....whatever that is.

The word is, in itself, what it is.  So was that sentence.  But, other than enjoying writing big words in blogs, it is something neither Tammy nor myself wish to be.  But, because we run this farm business, we have to call attention to ourselves to make sales and promote what we do.  And we are finding there is a fine line between honorable self-promotion and being ostentatious.

Case in point #1 - we set up a trifold display with pictures and information about our CSA and our farm at the Harvest Market on Saturday.  We both agreed that it was probably a good thing to do, but part of me wondered if it would not go over well with the other vendors who were there.  There is always a fine line to walk between attracting customers and belittling others who are also trying to attract customers.  And, if we go too far over the top with our own self-promotion, we wonder if they might conclude that we *are* ostentatious.

Case in point #2 - Facebook.   If that web application doesn't invite one to try to call attention to oneself, I don't know what does.   For those who only have a personal page and no business page, they might not be aware of the 'metrics' Facebook tries to use to indicate your 'success' at reaching people.  We continue to do our best to use Facebook as a communications tool, but we're not always sure it is the right tool.  On the other hand, so many people we are trying to reach seem to be using it right now, it is hard to ignore.  So, forgive us as we attempt to integrate Facebook into our farm communications system.

We hope you had the perspicacity to enjoy this attempt at irony with respect to the ostentatious premise of this blog post.  We trust that its timing is fortuitous in that it will allow you to read it and....

Post your favorite big words as comments to this post!  Challenge us to try to use each word in a future (January) post.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Word Association

Somebody saw me today and said "Hey!"  I nodded in greeting out of habit, but my brain was thinking "Hay!"

Why was I thinking about hay?  Well, we had two large bales of hay in the field next to the garlic.  We'd spread about 100 row feet already, but still had alot more to go.  We're trying to not let ourselves hibernate and we forced ourselves to go out each day this weekend and do a little work (perhaps more on that later).  But, the effort today focused on spreading the two bales onto as much of the garlic rows as we could.  The good news is that we accomplished spreading the two bales.  The bad news - there is still about 400 feet of garlic to cover.  But, it just so happens a lot of hay was pushed down from the hayloft in the barn.

Oh, did you mention the barn?  Well, of course you did.  That reminds me of something else going on here at the farm.  The barn is on its way out.

The pictures are not quite up to date with the current situation, but it gives you a feeling for it.  While the demise of the barn is planned and necessary, we still feel sadness about it.  But, perhaps more important, it has added additional work for us on the farm.  Yes, someone else is taking the barn down but....  that barn did provide shelter for a number of things.  And, if we're going to salvage lumber and put our new tools under cover for Winter, we have to do alot of moving.

So, we've been trying to get things moved into the poultry pavilion (PP), the granary, truck barn, garage and house so they have shelter for the Winter.  And, we mentioned that we are trying to get some outdoor work done each day.  Well, we gamely went about doing outdoor work on Saturday.  In that nice cold rain (it certainly dampened our spirits - or at least we were dampened).  We managed to move some lumber and some of our cold frames into the PP, more old windows and hoses into the granary and some sundry other things into the truck barn.

Speaking of Saturday, the Waverly Harvest Market did occur Saturday morning in the Civic Center.  We were pleased to have a good turnout.  The good news?  Higher turnout means sales were fairly good for all vendors.  It also means the likelihood that we will try to continue to make the Harvest Markets continue in 2012 went up.  If this market were as dismal as November's market, we would have dropped the idea for a few years (at the least).  We are hoping that this turnout will encourage other vendors to take it more seriously next year and we can provide all you with even more variety and opportunity!  But more than that, we were impressed and humbled by the support shown to us by our friends, acquaintances and customers at this market.  We are fully aware that many of you made an effort to be there, even if you had much to do and, perhaps, no specific need of any of the items at the market.  You told us you liked having this option available to you.  And, so we will do what we can to keep it coming.

The support we have received over the last year gives us much to be thankful for.  I just realized that we had missed our traditional Thanksgiving post.  If anything on this blog can be said to be 'traditional.'   Our families and friends have been amazingly supportive to our endeavors.  There are many jobs and tasks that have been completed over the past year that could not have been done without their help.  If we find some time, we'll try to show some pictures that show the amazing transformations this farm has undertaken since we have been here.  But, left on our own, these changes would not be so dramatic.

And, speaking of change.... it is hard to comprehend the number of things we've been able to address in the last couple of months.  It also illustrates how things on the farm work (or fail to work).  We've been without a working dryer since some time this summer.  It's not a big deal when we hang our clothes on the line to dry.  Until one gets to the point where clothing freezes on the line.  This is now fixed.  We've also dealt with a kitchen faucet that, for lack of a better description, left much to be desired.  That has been replaced and is working well.  What do farmers do in Winter?  Everything they couldn't get to in Spring, Summer and Fall!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Veg Variety Quiz

At today's Harvest Market, we put out a quiz asking people to try to match vegetable variety names with the type of vegetable.  We grow all of these and they are all open-pollinated and most are heirloom/heritage varieties.

Our winner got 9 of the 12 correct!  Congratulations Sophie!  Sophie will get a 2012 GFF T-shirt once the order is made in January/February.

Napolean Sweet    d- Pepper
Grandpa Admires  h- Lettuce
Costata Romanesco l- Zucchini
St Valery's              j- Carrot
Marina di Chioggia  i- Winter Squash
Black Valentine    c- Green Bean
Pintung Long       b- Eggplant
Sweet Genovese   e- Basil
Helios                   k- Radish
Boothby's Blonde a- Cucumber
Gigante                 f- Kohlrabi
Nebraska Wedding  g- Tomato

The most common correct answer was Sweet Genovese Basil, most likely because it is still an industry standard variety.  Next most common correct answers were Napolean Sweet Pepper and Nebraska Wedding Tomato.  Also not a surprise since heirloom varieties are better known for these crops.

Somehow, Black Valentine Green Beans managed to evade everyone who participated.  We'll work to remedy that.  The great thing about Black Valentine is that the plants can be very productive with beans that are a little 'crisper' than other varieties.  But, what makes them standout is the dual nature of these beans.  You can eat them as snap (green) beans or you can let the pods dry and use them as a dry bean.  We like that because we can grow more of these and when the green beans overwhelm the amount of time we have to pick, we can let them go and still get a useful crop out of them.  With other green beans, you could save the pods for seed, so not a complete loss, but they are not so good if you want to eat them.

Thank you to all who attended today's harvest market - we appreciate the efforts you made to come visit us!

Rob & Tammy

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

December Harvest Market

There will be a harvest market in Waverly this Saturday morning from 8:30 - 11:30 am.  We will be indoors at the Civic Center at 200 1st Street NE. 

We have recruited Hansen's Dairy to join us (check out their cheese curds and milk).  The Vegan Baker will be there as well.

The Genuine Faux Farm will have eggs, winter squash, perhaps some potatoes, maybe some greens like arugula and lettuce, turkeys and ducks available for sale.  We will also have our organic cotton bags with our logo available for those who might like to give a gift for Christmas that is a bit different.  But - even better - consider giving a regular season CSA share to a loved one - or put it on your wish list!

For those who visit us at the market and sign up for 2012's CSA, we will give you one of our organic cotton bags as a thank you for placing a deposit with us.  Deposits are $25 and they hold your spot for the following year.

If you have already given us a deposit, our thanks!  We look forward to serving you again in 2012.  For those who have let us know that you are moving on, we wish you the best.  We will miss seeing you, but we know life brings about changes that require people to move away or make purchasing decisions that do not include our farm shares.  But, if you have been considering joining us for next year and have not done so yet, now is the time!  Anyone who reserves a spot for next year prior to December 31st will receive their share at 2011 prices.

We hope to see you or hear from you soon!

Our best wishes to all of you for a wonderful holiday season.  We count ourselves lucky for having met and interacted with so many fine individuals!

Rob & Tammy

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Unsquished Squash Part II

If you want to read more about our winter squash crop in general, you can go look at Part I.

Galeaux d'Eysines 
(we call it a Bumpkin)

The Bumpkin is one of those winter squash we've had a 'love-hate' relationship with.  They are ever so cool looking when they do their thing.  They are ever so frustrating when they do not.  This year, they did their thing.  We classify these as a pumpkin and consider them to have a great texture for pies, breads and soups.  Excellent taste and a smaller seed cavity.  We've found that these suffer terribly from cucumber beetle attacks if you direct seed them and very few plants tend to survive.  They don't care for cooler years either.  On the other hand, start them in trays and transplant them in a normal to warm year and you'll get a decent representation.  Vines can wander a bit.  Fruit size is anywhere from 5 to 15 pounds.  Averaging around 8. 

Musquee de Provence

Yet another French heirloom winter squash.  We grow these primarily for the fabulous taste these bring to pies, breads, muffins and any other baking we might want to throw pumpkin into.  You might find yourself putting in less nutmeg and other spices when you use this pumpkin because it does have a great taste.  Squash tend to be larger (the one above weighs 18 lbs).  Don't expect very many per vine.  They do seem to do something for us every year as long as the season is long enough.  In other words, don't miss your planting date!  The pumpkin above is pretty typical for what they look like when ripe.  Smallish seed cavity.  The biggest issue for us with these is weed control.  So, we recommend starting in trays and transplanting to get a good full season.  Then, some good mulch will go along ways to helping you get some trophy squash out of this variety.  We have noticed that a higher percentage of these will succumb to a rot issue around the stem.

Thelma Sanders

This is, in fact, a blond acorn squash.  We love the production levels and the consistency this variety gives us and were dismayed when the seed supply was not available this year.  We are hopeful it will rebound.  As it was, we grow what we had left from the year before.  Less grainy and stringy than a standard dark green acorn squash and often a bit bigger on average.  We think it has a slightly nutty taste as compared to the standard acorn squash and would pick one of these to eat first. 

Marina di Chioggia

And now, an Italian heirloom squash.  This has been one of our favorites since we started growing heirloom winter squash.  Rob was not a fan of squash until this one and Burgess Buttercup came along to our grow lists.  Dryer texture and bright orange flesh.  These can be anywhere from 5 to 18 lbs in size.  Pick them when the stems are "corky."  You won't get as many fruit on these as others, but the size and taste tend to make up for it.  Cook one of these up for dinner and then have good leftovers for several days.  Or cook it up and freeze it for later use.  Benefits from having companion flowers, so put some nasturiums and zinnias nearby.  If we had to pick ONE winter squash for ourselves, we would pick this one.  If we had to pick one for farm/CSA production, we'd probably have to be less creative and go with Waltham Butternut.

Waltham Butternut

Since I mentioned it.  Waltham Butternut is the most reliable producer we know.  Many people identify the butternut as winter squash and are unaware of other types of squash.  Flesh is orange and wetter than buttercup types (like Marina di Chioggia).   Stems are solid, so they are not susceptible to vine borers.  Even in a rough cucumber beetle year, a decent number of seedlings survive.  Resistant to most blights or diseases.  Stems are tough, squash store very well (we've had some last easily to April).  Pick them when they are a rich tan color and preferable without a green stripe running from the stem (though these will be fine if you are forced to bring them in, they just aren't quite as rich in taste we think).

Stay tuned for Unsquished Squash Part III

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Dull Roar

It is November, and things are quieter than they have been for some time.  Unless, of course, you count the windy days and combine that with plugged up ears from a head cold.   Then, things can seem pretty loud.

Probably the nicest thing that happens for us in the Fall is the reduction in daily chore work load as we take the various birds to the 'park.'  At this time, we only have our egg laying flock to care for on a daily basis.  It's amazing how easy that work seems when you compare to dealing with what was essentially six different flocks not all that long ago.

Some of those flocks are still with us, but they are pretty quiet at the moment.  Sitting in freezers, waiting for homes.

Hey!  We still have a few turkeys left, looking to join lucky families at Thanksgiving.  If you hear of someone looking, send them our way.

We now have two roosters in our laying flock.  Harold is the senior partner now and Fu (the Barred Rock) is our new "Junior Barnyard Manager."
At present, the flock is larger than desired and we need to retire some of the ladies.  So, if someone out there has an acreage and wanted a few laying hens to wander around their place, let us know.  These birds may not lay eggs regularly, but they should lay some once in a while.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Blog Newsletter #2

Welcome to our 2nd edition of the new format newsletter.  Thank you to everyone who gave us feedback on the last.  It was nice to hear from some of you and reconnect.  If something here gives you the urge to get back in touch with us, post a comment in the blog, send an email or otherwise reach us!

If you wish to simply read our blog posts from most recent to least recent, scroll down!  Otherwise, you can take links to the parts you want to read about.  We send this note out to people who have asked to be kept on an email list to be notified periodically about these newsletters.  Genuine Faux Farm is also on Facebook.  You can like/subscribe to us and get a Facebook notice when we post to the blog - we put a post out there most times when something new occurs.

October Starts with a Bang
We had an amazing start to the month of October.  Rather than give you the details here, you should go here and you'll get some idea as to many of the "bigger" things that we dealt with then and continue to influence us now.  We call it "Dusty Roads and Other Adventures".

Farm Reports
If you want to get the 'digest' version of events on the farm, you can check out our farm reports.  Rather than link each one separately, I'll link you to the topic and you can read through them until you feel caught up.  Farm Report Topic.

A Sighting of the Fried Egg Fairy!
Tammy was home during Fall Break and there was an appearance of the Fried Egg Fairy.  You're just going to have to read it to get more.

The season for reviewing our vegetable varieties is here. 
1. Winter Squash (part I) is out there now.
2. Peppers is a three part post!  Lots of good information there. 
    Part 1
    Part 2 
    Part 3

Durnik the Tractor
For those who are curious about why our auction trip in early October was a big deal.  Or for those who want to know what tools we're looking to use with Durnik - you might want to see the pictures on this post.

On the Philosophical Side
If you are interested in more serious musings, you can check out our thoughts on the dust in the country during harvest season.  Or, perhaps you can read about conflicting feelings once our flocks are taken to 'the park.'  Or, you can read about our feelings at the end of a good CSA regular season.

Want a Laugh or Two?
We've got a little bit of everything here.  Some featured cartoons, a reprint of a GFF Story and even a HALLOWEEN story (GFF style).

Unsquished Squash

We managed a few pictures of some of our winter squash this season.  While it was not our best winter squash year, we managed to get a reasonable crop.  Earlier in the year, we had a much higher population of cucumber beetles than we've seen in the past.  As a result, a significant percentage of the seedlings perished as the beetles girdled the plants.  If that isn't bad enough, these insects are a vector for bacterial wilt.  So, if the plants survived being munched on, others died from disease.

Hayrack with 2011 Winter Squash
An average year on the farm has us pulling in approximately 2000 winter squash of a range of varieties.  This year, we were happy to land around 900 squash.  Like many of our crops this season, it is enough to give our CSA members some decent squash, but it does not give us the excess we plan on in order to make additional sales.  It is hard to complain.  Last year we lost our entire field of winter squash in standing water (July 2010). 

A nice mix of winter squash
Experiments in 2011
We tried a few new approaches this year (some of which were tried last year, but heavy rains 'washed' them out).

1. Starting seedlings and transplanting
We've resisted this process for a few reasons.  The extra cost is actually the least of our worries here.  It has more to do with space and time.  If you direct seed, you plant once.  If you transplant, you plant twice.  If these are in trays, you have to water daily.  But, we found the transplants did significantly better because the plants were out in the field after the stage that cucumber beetles normally girdle the plant.  (Girdling essentially happens when a critter gnaws around the stem of the plant, cutting off the vascular system)  The result?  We'll be transplanting many more of the squash, with some exceptions.  Acorn and spaghetti squash are already shorter season and seem to make it through things well enough without the extra help.

2. Squash and flower spacing
We're working on optimizing our squash and flower spacing.  We have found that nasturtiums are great to repel vine borers and it seems like our vine crops do much better with zinnias, borage, bee's friend and marigolds nearby.  We are also trying out Four O'clocks as a companion.  No solid conclusions yet, but the ideas to fine tune are coming.

New experiments for 2012
1. Mulch trials
We have ideas about weeding in between rows.  And we know where we made mistakes on that this year.  However, keeping things weeded IN ROW can be pretty difficult.  The weed pressure is way up after our last few years of difficult weather.  We will be trying paper mulch to keep weeds down for the first several weeks of growing.

Similarly, we will be trying a green mulch (cover crop between rows).  Essentially, a green mulch is where we select our weed and cultivate it like another crop.  It is critical to select a cover crop that is a good companion for the cash crop.

And, of course, the old stand-by for mulching is straw.  But, the issue here is sourcing the straw.  We don't have land to grow our own.

2. Row Cover Trial?
This one makes our list every year and it never does get high enough on the priority list to get done.  The biggest issue?  Wind.  

3. Variety Simplification with a Twist
We like having a wide variety within a crop and winter squash is not an exception.  However, our diversity is causing issues with crop and time management.  Simply put, we can't do it all.  We'll still have diverse crops, but we'll stop working with a few varieties we might like to grow, but have not shown the resilience we need.  We're sure we *can* grow them.  But, we're going to drop them until we have an improved system that works for us.  Then, we'll consider reintroducing.  

So, what's the twist?  A couple of these seem to really attract those cucumber beetles.  We might consider using them as a catch crop.  The idea of "sacrificial plants" is not new.  But, you have to ask whether the catch crop draws more critters to the area *OR* if it attracts the critters that are already there.

In our next installment, we talk about some of our winter squash varieties.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Real Faux Farm News

November 4!  You know what it is time for?  No?  I was hoping YOU did. 

Since neither of us is sure, I'll just do some stuff about the farm.

Durnik Returns
Finally, the tractor is back in our possession - and it runs better than ever.  We were able to get the rotary cutter on and found that it works very well.  We'll finish up with the rotary cutter this weekend and move on to trying the other implements, including the potato digger.

90 Feet West
One of things that is different about our farm is the movable high tunnel.  Well, we managed to get the thing moved yesterday (Thus).  Our thanks to the superhero known as Band Saw Man (Jeff S) who served as the third person necessary to move the thing.  Also thanks to Josh D for being there earlier in the day to help with some of the prep work.   And to Denis D for helping get the weeds off the tracks earlier in the week.  We've learned a few new tricks and hope it gets easier as we go.

Harvest Market
Our first Waverly Harvest Market is this Saturday (Nov 5) from 8:30 to 11:30 at the Civic Center building in Waverly.  We are planning on having some poultry with us along with a little veg and some baked goods (courtesy of Tammy).  If you wish to talk to us about the 2012 CSA season and reserve a spot, we'd be happy to see you. 

Shutting the Barn Door...
The birds are now out of the barn, but we still need to finish the room in the poultry pavilion for them.  Most of the materials in the barn have been moved out, so it is time to say good-bye to that grand ol' structure.  I don't think we fully appreciate how much its disappearance will change things here.  But, choices are limited.

Fall Extended Season CSA
Hard to believe we've already had two distributions for the Fall CSA.  So far so good!

We do still have turkeys and ducks available.  If you want one, or know someone who does, pass the word on. 

Fall Scramble
The last several years have seen the ground freeze right around Thanksgiving.  That tells us we only have a few weeks to complete a long list of things that need to happen before that time.  We still need to get the garlic into the ground and we want to seed some spinach to overwinter.  There is shoring up to do on the high tunnel before snow flies.  We need to finish the chicken room, put an overhead door on the truck barn...etc etc.  If we didn't have alot to do, we'd be lost.  We'll get as far as we get.  Then we'll try to get further.

Goat Rodeo Sessions
YoYo Ma?  Yep.  Just good music, you should try it.

Biology Class Captured
Once again, Kimran B brought her class out to see what our farm is like.  The class was lured to a farm by a nickel tour and then captured for a little bit of work.  No students or faculty were harmed in this event.  But, some good things were accomplished. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

GFF Stories: A Box of Maple

GFF Stories: A Box of Maple
[Ed. At the risk of providing too much insight into the personality of at least one of your farmers: we bring you the compelling story about a boy, a tree, a box, and a mission.  Originally published in our Feb 2008 newsletter.]
Once upon a time there lived a family who had a backyard that was filled with one too many trees. The mighty pin oak and the sprawling locust had left very little sky for the maple tree to reach into with its sparsely leaved branches. While the tree had, in fact, grown to a respectible 20 feet in height and had a 3 inch diameter trunk, it was a bit sickly and was judged to be entirely too close to the humans' abode.

The decree came down from the parents of the household that the tree should be removed. And this task fell to their first child on a fine June day. Out he marched, with a saw and a branch pruner, determined to reward the trust placed in him to do the task efficiently and thoroughly.
Taking the tree down in manageable portions, it was soon reduced to a pile of brush. But, what should he do to prepare its transport to the city brushpile? The solution came in the form of one cardboard box that was slated for disposal. This box had once held an artificial Christmas tree. What better container to use for a downed maple?

In a careful and well thought out manner, the tree was cut into lengths that were very nearly a perfect fit for the length of the box. Any side branches were cut off of each limb. As a result, all of the larger branches and the trunk were placed lenghthwise in the box. And, happily, there was still plenty of room!

In went the small branches, covered with leaves. Anything that didn't fit well was trimmed down until it did. By mid-afternoon, there was no pile in the yard, just one box - complete with a lid that fit perfectly over the contents.

Upon the father's return from work, he went to the backyard and wondered out loud where the brush from the tree had gone. His son, of course, proudly pointed to the box.

"Son," he said evenly, "have you tried to move that box yet?"

To make a long story less long - it took a makeshift ramp and both of us to wrangle the box into the vehicle. Getting it out again was only a little less difficult. To this day, I wonder if Dad didn't force the transfer of brush to other boxes just to temper the disappointment I might have felt if we had done so.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Fried Egg Fairy and More...

The good news for us was that Tammy had Fall Break on Thursday and Friday of last week.  While she had plenty to do for her job...grading and prepping and etc   Oh my!  It also meant we could do some work on the farm together.

This is a good thing.  Why?

1. Carrying/moving certain things is *always* easier with *two* people

Things like that cabinet that was in the barn and is now in the poultry pavilion...  Yes, those sorts of things.  It's also easier to push buildings on wheels such as the Duck N Cover.  And, yes, moving square bales is much easier with a little help.  We just realized we may have moved as much as we've moved for some people's moving day... hmmmm.

2. It's much easier to celebrate.

Durnik (the tractor) returned to us on Saturday.  Yes, Rob would have been happy to see that anyway.  But, it's more fun when both of us can be there.

Ok, ok.  Most of you see no reason to celebrate the return of a tractor.  In order to reach a broader audience....  We celebrated the opportunity to spend more time together!  So there!

3. Motivation.

It doesn't always work this way.  But, it often helps to have someone other than yourself involved to keep you moving forward.  It worked for the extended weekend.  That's a good thing.  Besides, I don't want Tammy to see that I really don't do any work when she's away.  Just sit on my hands.  Yep, that's me.

4. Easier to watch the World Series.

If you don't like baseball, too bad.  We both enjoy it and we were able to listen to...and even watch... more of the World Series than we would have without break.  We consider this a very good thing, especially with an enjoyable set of games this year.

5. The Fried Egg Fairy visits us.

I am not sure how this works, but the Fried Egg Fairy visits us more often when we are both here all day long.   As far as I can tell, if you want the Fried Egg Fairy to visit, you have to wash the fry pan and say out loud, "It would be neat if I could have fried eggs in the morning."  It doesn't always work, of course.  But, the percentage of visits goes up with both of us here.  I suppose I could figure out the pattern somehow, but I'm pretty happy if it just keeps happening.

6.  Two cats, two laps.
If you have cats and you find yourself sitting down in the evening, you know what we're saying.

7. Chicken soup is... good.
Home made pizza with fresh tomato sauce that includes Black Krim tomatoes, Jimmy Nardello's Frying Peppers, Music garlic, Red Wing onions, oregano, marjoram, thyme....mmmmmm!   Ok, don't want that? How about chicken soup with chicken raised on the farm, Purple Viking potatoes, collards, chard, White Wing onions and whatever else?   Well, how about Galeux d'Eysines winter squash, pork steak (from the Berlage's), Rosa Bianca eggplant, zucchini and summer squash?  We even had green beans this weekend.  Cool.

8.  Being glad 'that' is done.

We all have things that are perpetually on our "To Do" list that never seem to get high enough on the list to get done.  Happily, we were motivated enough this weekend to get to some of those things.  And, it is a big relief when they finally do get done.  Some of them seem pretty small, but there always seems to be things that get in the way of doing them.  Things like, getting that storm window back on an upper story window.  Unfortunately, our "To Do" list tends to be unrealistic for any given day.  But, we made some serious dents in them.

9. Squawk Box

The chickens that resided in the barn at night and used an east pasture are now moved and have joined the other birds.  Ever tried to catch chickens before?  No?  Hint - it's easier with two people.

10. Did you see that?

When strange things happen, there is someone you can check with.  Just a variation of "Am I crazy?"  It helps to have someone answer.  Doesn't matter whether the answer is "yes" or "no."

11. This list goes to 11.

Because it is required under this label/topic.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Every once in a while, there  are cartoons that really hit the spot.

B.C. is a long time favorite.  Read it, let it sink in....

Pearls Before Swine occasionally gets me good.  The solution shown below isn't recommended, but sometimes....

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Late October Farm Doings

It's been a few weeks since our last farm report.  So, I've heard it is time to do another one.

There is a mistaken perception that we are not growing anything by the time we hit late October.  But, we do have lettuce, greens, turnips, radish, chard, kale and other crops going.  And, believe it or not, we still have green beans to pick in the high tunnel.  The dry weather has slowed growth, so we'll be doing a little watering the next few days to encourage it.  We may even do some low tunnels on some of the lettuce.

We're always a bit amazed by how quiet the farm gets and how much easier daily chores become once the ducks, broilers and turkeys all take their trips to the park.  It's true, we do have layers in two places right now - and there is still lots of work to do to get them ready for Winter.  But, it is nice to be able to get chores done in 15 minutes in the evening.  Mornings are a longer, of course.  On another front, there are still ducks and turkeys available for purchase.  Spread the word.

Fall CSA
Our extended season CSA filled up, and for that we are grateful.  The first distribution went reasonably well.  It was nice to surprise everyone with a some nice tomatoes, green beans and zucchini/summer squash.  A last taste of summer.

Regular Season CSA
The regular season CSA is done and we are now taking reservations for 2012.  Anyone who is interested may now reserve a spot.  Deposits are $25 to reserve a spot.  The website will be updated soon with the new application materials.  It's number 32 on my office list...so I can get to this within ten days.  But, if you are anxious, you can print the 2011 application, cross out 2011 and replace it with 2012.  ( I am sooo clever that way!)

Many of our fields need to be cleaned up.  Some need to be chisel plowed, some need late cover crops.  But, we're still awaiting the return of the tractor to do some of the work.

The tractor is still out of our hands.  We opted to put in an electric start to improve reliability on the farm.  Unfortunately, that decision has resulted in a longer period of time without the tractor.  If it's not one thing...

Our focus is beginning to move here.  We need to complete a room for the hens in the Poultry Pavilion.  This includes a permanent fence for their pasture.  The barn needs to have everything moved away and out of it so it can be taken down.  We need to put a door up on the truck barn.  The thing about the impending cold season is it does tend to help one focus.  Alot of things just cannot happen at this point.

We are entering the season for presentations.  It looks like Rob is scheduled for an online Farminar in December.  We'll try to figure out what else is on tap and let everyone know.

Other Things That May or May Not Be of Interest...
  • Tammy's research class is heating up.  Every Fall she teaches this class and it includes breaking students into groups to do actual research projects.  It is at this point in the semester when everyone figures out there is some real work involved.  
  • Rob was coerced into being captain of one of the two U.S. teams in the Ticket to Ride Nation's Cup event.  So far, the team is 4-1 in the round robin and is in danger of making it to the playoffs.
  • Bree and HobNob, the house management staff (aka our indoor cats) reached their 1 year anniversary with us.  And, so far, we all still like each other enough to get along.  They have decided that Tammy is HobNob's human and Rob is Bree's human.  I don't think we had a choice.
  • Cubby, the farm management feline (FMF for short), is doing well.  Hunting has been good, as it is most Fall seasons on the farm.
  • We have a new barnyard co-manager.  Our prior manager, Bob the rooster, did not survive the Spring.  We're not sure who he argued with, but it was not successful.  As a result, Harold was promoted late Spring.  Since then, our new batch of chicks grew up to reveal another rooster in the flock.  Please welcome Fu.  He is a Barred Rock.  Why Fu?  Because it is fun to say and fun to rhyme with...and he's a Barred Rock.

End of a Good CSA Season

October 20 was our final CSA distribution for the 2011 regular season CSA.  As a number of you remarked, it seemed as if the season had only just started.   How can twenty weeks go by so quickly?

We would like to thank all of the fine people who participated in our regular season CSA program this year.  It seemed as if members knew when we needed a good word, since someone always seemed to supply one at points when (and where) they were needed most.  There were many recipe and produce use ideas shared with us and with each other.   In fact, it seemed like interaction between members was more prevalent than in prior years.  Thank you for being a great group to work with and for.

We felt that our shares were reasonably well filled all season long, even if there were a few favorites that some were wanting more of and others that some were wanting less of.  We reached our value goals we set for ourselves (for share content) and succeeded in making a few adjustments that seemed to provide a better experience.   Tammy and I look forward to serving many of you again next year.  Welcome back!  We have identified some targets for improvement and hope to do even better in 2012.  For those of you who are not returning, you will be missed - and thank you for being with us this year.

Rob & Tammy
Genuine Faux Farm

Sunday, October 23, 2011


It's October and relatively close to Halloween.  So, we thought we'd show you some scary pictures.

The scene - our high tunnel.  Home of some beautiful tomatoes and green beans in October.  The tomatoes are on the left, the yellow box holds some green beans we were picking... in case you want to know.

This picture seems tranquil enough.  Harvest was going relatively well.  We decided we should scout the tomatoes and see what was going to be available to pick. 

We found this beautiful Black Krim tomato.  It tasted pretty darned good too.  All is right with the world.  The birds are chirping.  The sun is shining.  The farmers are happy.

Suddenly, a scream chases thoughts of pleasant work in a sun-enhanced enclosure on a mildly chilly day.  What could possibly be wrong?

Ok, now wait a minute.  You are ruining the mood with your questions.  We are not going to tell you who screamed or how they screamed.  Seriously... no, we aren't telling.

Look.. It's a metaphorical scream.  Just a symbol of the unhappiness felt by this discovery.  Ok?  No one actually screamed.  yeeesh.

NOOOOO!  The horror!  Defoliated leaves on the tomatoes.  It is awful.  Horrifying!  Whatever has done this?

And it gets worse!

========== SENSITIVE VIEWERS ALERT========= 

What you are about to see is uncensored.  Some viewers may find the following to be unsettling and, frankly, a bit gross.  Viewer discretion is advised.

The farmers' let out a collective gasp as the magnitude of the situation sinks in.  It is not just the loss of some leaves.  That loss, while disturbing and less than positive, is not the end of the world.  The plants are nearing the end of their life cycle as temperatures sink lower each night.  It is the loss of ripening fruit that hits home. 

Who is responsible for this reprehensible behavior?  Is it the butler?  The maid?  Professor Peacock in the solarium with a megaphone?
Aha!  The culprit.  A hornworm.  Evil little feller.  Actually, it was more like a few dozen of them throughout the tomato row.

An excellent summary resource about tomato hornworms (larva for hawkmoths) can be found here: http://www.vegedge.umn.edu/vegpest/hornworm.htm

How do we handle the hornworm on the farm?
We have had very little issue with hornworm damage in the past.  But, then again, we have not grown in the high tunnel all that long.  The high tunnel provides a beautiful location for a late hatching.  We look for hornworm damage and then look for the hornworms themselves.  Once found, we pull them off the plants.  If we are feeling ambitious, we take them to the turkeys.  If we are not, we find that they do not survive a quick compression with the sole of a shoe.  (step on it)

Green tomatoes damaged by hornworms should just be pulled off the plant - especially earlier in the year.  this allows the plant to focus on other fruit.

Note - you will find that hornworms can grip the plant or leaf in a way that it could be difficult to pull them off.  They may startle you a bit as they curl towards your fingers - and there is a bit of an 'ick' factor for many people.  They will pinch you a bit if you carry them any distance (as we do when we take them to the turkeys), but it is more startling than painful.  They cannot do any permanent damage to you.  And they certainly cannot do the damage you can do to them.

Parasitic wasps - If you find white growths on the worm, you probably should find a way to let the worm live by moving it somewhere you can tolerate it.  This will increase the parasitic wasp population.  Thus, building up a natural control.  thus far, we have not noticed any of this on hornworms we have found.  Sad.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Peppers Part III

Some Like it Hot

Prior posts on Pepper Variety Reviews are here:  Part 1 and Part 2

We've already mentioned Joe's Long Cayenne (top keeper) and Numex Big Jim (not returning) in Part 1.

We're not really going to rate these at this time except to say that we're pretty happy with this rotation of peppers.


Cool plants with variegated leaves.  They tend to be brittle (breaking easy when you pick, breaking easy in the wind) but seemed to do little better in the high tunnel, despite our thinking this might be the case.  Lots of small peppers that eventually turn completely red.  Great taste and quite warm.  Easily 50+ peppers per plant.  If you like a hot chowder type soup, I bet these would be perfect.  (picture courtesy of Seed Savers)

Wenk's Yellow Hot
Jalapeno shaped and sized peppers.  Moderate heat.  Very productive and seem to prefer being OUT of the high tunnel.  We suspect that, if you keep them picked clean, you could easily get 80-100 peppers per plant - especially if you're ok with smaller peppers.  We tend to like a little size on them and harvest around 40-50 per plant.  If we could convince everyone they were better than jalapenos, we'd quit growing jalapenos all together.  We've noticed heat levels can be variable dependent on the weather.

Hot Portugal and Maule's Red Hot
We still have not determined which of these we like better and keep running in perpetual trial mode.  Very good taste and  warm (4 out of 5 on hot scale).  Nice longish red peppers.  They even look hot.  One of these days, we'll be forced to choose.  But, probably one more head to head year since we have some "carry-over" seed in our possession.

Hungarian Wax vs Aji Crystal
Our first year trialing these two against each other.  We have grown Hungarian Wax in years prior to the CSA for our own garden, but have never grown Aji.  These can get quite hot and have a great taste.  Hungarian Wax are...well, waxy smooth.  Aji Crystal has similar shape and size, but they seem to have angular sides and are not so smooth.  Production so far is 32.7 to 32.8 per plant.  Plant health is similar.  Hungarian seems to want to keep trying late in the year a bit more than Aji, but not much more. 

Beaver Dam

A great pepper for taste.  Excellent for stuffing as it has good size for a hot pepper.  Heat is variable, even within the pepper.  We find that it gets hotter as you get towards the point of the pepper.  You can pick them at any time from their lime green stage to completely red.  Plants are small in size, but peppers are larger.  We have had as many as three flushes of fruit from these plants.  High tunnel friendly.  These do not like wet feet and are the first peppers (along with the small papricka pepper plants) that show stress if drainage is poor or rain is excessive.  (picture by RFaux)

Tam Jalapeno
A new introduction this year.  Our prior jalapenos were hybrids and we wanted to try to go with an open-pollinated variety.  Besides, seed was discontinued for one of those hybrids.  You can guess why we picked this one.  Seems like this variety will do best if you pick the fruit smaller.  Otherwise, they tend to exhibit dryness and cracking on the skin.  In any event, it gets a pass this year since we like to give varieties two years to prove themselves.

Alma Paprika and Feher Ozon Paprika
 Both of these peppers are smaller plants, with Alma being a bit bigger.  Both can be very prolific.  Feher, in particular can make you wonder how the little plant can support the volume of peppers it produces.  You can pick either at the point they are creamy yellow, but they may have their best taste as they turn towards red.  Not hot, just spicy - as in paprika spicy.  Great with cheese and poultry dishes.  We like these on nachos.  Feher holds carrot-shaped peppers 'upside down' (point up) in most cases.  Alma has smallish tomato shaped peppers.  Some people confuse them with tomatoes on first sight if picked full red.  We are tempted to increase production, but our heavy soil and the last few years of wet weather hold us back.  A trial in the high tunnel is coming in 2012.

Ancho Gigantea
This is a pablano type pepper.  Tends towards the smaller sized pablano, despite the name.  It's the only variety of its type that we have any success with in our area.  Others we have tried can get nice and green, but barely produce a thing.  We suspect they'd love a dry and hot year.  We also suspect they might like "poorer" soil than the rich loam we grow in.  Still, we grow a few so people who love them can get a taste.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

October Farm Report

What's happening on the farm?

End of Regular Season CSA
This is the last week of the regular season.  For many of us, it seems like we just started.  There are many mixed feelings at the end of the year.  We're both pleased and sad about the conclusion of the regular season CSA.  However, we can say, without any reservation, that this has been the best bunch of CSA subscribers we've had the honor to serve!  Thank you all!

Look at Me From the Side, Do I Look Fat To You?
Honest!  We didn't do anything measurably different for the turkeys this season.  Same feed supplier.  Same feed rates.  Actually 10 fewer days on the farm than last season.  Same breed of turkey.  Same chick supplier.  Yet, the birds are really big this year!  Only difference is the weather - it was much nicer for them.  In any event, to make these birds more accessible to you, we dropped the price to $3/lb.  They are now ready to be dinner guests.

Extended Season CSA
Cost for the extended season will be $200 this fall.  It covers 8 weeks of produce starting next week (Oct 25).  We will be sending details to all who gave us notice of their interest.  Rob just needs to get through Tuesday's CSA (among other things).  And, we have a limit on sending email.  So, we can't send that note out the same time we send the regular season CSA note.

Going to the Birds
The ducks went to the park, the broilers went to the park and now the turkeys went to the park.  Lots of lifting going on (over 1300lbs of turkey processed).  Many turks still available.  Many ducks.  A fair number of broilers.  We have dropped the price on the turks to $3/lb in part because the birds were so large.

Buildings and Equipment
The tractor is in for repairs.  Evidently it needs new points - which is a pain to do on this type of tractor.  As a result, we're going to upgrade to an electric start.  The barn will start coming down as soon as we move the hens and other materials out of it.  The high tunnel needs to be moved in the next week or two.  If anyone is interested in helping with this process, let us know.  We can't announce a date/time because it is dependent on the wind.

Harvest Progress
Nearly all of the winter squash are in.  Harvest levels were fair, but not great.  Everyone in the CSA should be getting a few squash during the last week.  Not a bounty, but nothing to sneeze at either.  Potatoes are trickling in.  We were planning on using the tractor to speed up the harvest.  But, if you've been reading, you know the tractor went off line about 2.5 weeks ago (right after testing the potato digger tool).  There are still dry beans, tomatoes and peppers to pull in.  Whatever we fail to bring in for tomatoes and peppers will likely freeze this week.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Peppers II

 Continued from Part I

Showing Potential

Quadrato asti Giallo

The picture above gives you a decent representation of what you get when you grow this pepper.  Variable size and shape fruit that turn yellow, but not uniformly so.  In 2009, we had fewer fruit, but the fruit were giants (and much rounder).  We suspect these plants would be stars in a personal garden, where every plant is in thick organic mulches (cut grass, etc) and the gardener gives them a certain amount of water every week.  They are 'tough enough' for our farm as well, but market quality fruit runs at 2 to 4 per plant.  That's not bad for a colored bell.  Fruits progress from large to smaller as the season continues.  Great taste, thick walled, four lobed fruit.  In some ways, Quadrato is on a curve similar to Wisconsin Lakes - next year could be fantastic.
Tried and True

Golden Treasure

Golden Treasure is one of our all-time favorite peppers.  This is one of the best sweet peppers we grow for use on sandwiches.  It adds a nice color and taste to salsa/pico.  Each plant tends to produce about 14 marketable fruit.  This year was an off year due to their location, but they still fought through circumstances to produce nearly 8 per plant.  Response to the high tunnel was favorable, but we're not sure the benefit is sufficient to use the space on this variety - they usually do nearly as well in the field.

Jimmy Nardello's Frying Pepper
Our 2007 Veg Variety of the Year.  Jimmy Nardello's looks alot like a hot pepper, so you'd better set them on a different part of your counter so you don't confuse them.  These are fabulous sweet peppers that get even better when cooked.  They freeze well, they dry well.  Plants produce twenty plus peppers per plant.  Fruit shapes can be curled and knotted.  Sizes later in the season are smaller when they turn red simply because there isn't time for them to grow bigger.  Harvest begins peaking mid-August and continues until the plant dies (usually October).  Excellent response to the high tunnel environment with increased uniformity in fruit size and shape.  Taste *may* be slightly better, but that's hard to measure.

Napolean Sweet

An excellent tasting green or red bell pepper.  Tends to be longer than many bells and can reach extraordinary sizes under certain conditions.  We expect about 6-7 marketable fruit per plant.  Tends to favor warmer summers more than King of the North.

King of the North
Decent taste, uniform shape (probably more like what most people envision for grocery store peppers in shape) and decent size.  Good eaten green or red.  Six to seven fruit per plant and tends to favor cooler temps more than Napolean Sweet.  Now you see one reason why we grow both.

Because They're Different

 Garden Sunshine

Garden Sunshine has a neat color and the peppers hold very well on the plant for a long time.  Our first bit of learning on these was that you want to pick them for best flavor when they have at least a little orangish/rust tinting to the pale yellow fruit.  If they are greenish-yellow, they'll be fine, but not that good for taste.  Plants are small.  Production numbers are low (4.1) in large part because they seem to be susceptible to fruit blights and rots.  They have a hint of paprika in their taste.  Our suspicion is that they would prefer a drier climate.

Purple Beauty
They're four-lobed, blocky bell peppers.  Purple on the outside, green inside.  Taste is passable.  Color is spectacular.  Smaller plants are very bushy, hiding the fruit deep inside the plant (most of the time) protects them from sunscald.  We're happy getting a few (about 100) of these every year to add color

Marconi Red
The shape of these is alot like a stretched out bell pepper since the ends of the fruit usually don't come to a point like Golden Treasure.  Yet, it occupies a space in our mind that puts it in a similar category to Golden Treasure.  Part of the reason is the superb taste.  They're pretty good green, but far better red.  The down-side is how long it takes to turn red.  They like longer growing season years.  It doesn't necessary mean they need super hot weather, they just need more days that are warmer than some of the other peppers we grow.  Plants can be somewhat sizeable (but not quite as big as Napolean Sweet).  We love what we get in a good year, but suspect those in southern Iowa and points south (zone 5 & 6) would get more consistent production.

Trial Balloon

Chervena Chushka
These landed in the same 'bad' patch of ground as the Golden Treasures this year.  Not entirely fair to this variety, so it will get another go.  We liked its 'fighting attitude'.  Looks like bigger plants with peppers similarly shaped to Tolli Sweet.