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